Summary: “I the LORD their God with them" (Ezekiel 34:30).
THE INCARNATION IN EZEKIEL
“I the LORD their God am with them”
The word “am” is provided in italics in some of our English translations, to indicate that it is not in the original. ‘What is this but “God with us”?’ asked C. H. Spurgeon in his 19th century sermon on Ezekiel 34:30-31.
Reading back over the chapter, we find an unfolding picture which points back to the history of the kings of Judah, points forward (from Ezekiel’s perspective in exile) to the restoration, and points beyond that through the incarnation to the end of the age. Now that’s what I call Prophecy!
(Ezekiel 34:1-10). Under the metaphor of God the great Shepherd (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-4), God removes the lazy under-shepherds: bad kings, false prophets, gluttonous priests; careless overseers, and sham ministers.
(Ezekiel 34:11). Then He sets Himself to search out His scattered flock. Note the emphasis, over against the failures of the under-shepherds: “I, I Myself”. Is this not also pointing to the Incarnation? ‘For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Luke 19:10).
(Ezekiel 34:12-15). They have been ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ (cf. Matthew 9:36), but He finds them and saves them. The LORD brings them out from the peoples, brings them home, feeds them, and lays them down in a good grazing land (cf. Psalms 23:2).
(Ezekiel 34:16). Then He reiterates what He is going to do, drawing emphasis on the repeated “I will” in contradistinction to the bad shepherds’ failure in these areas. “The lost I will seek, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the weak I will strengthen, but the fat and the strong I will destroy.” What a description of the work of Jesus!
(Ezekiel 34:17-22). The separation between sheep and goats will appear again in the last days (Matthew 25:31-32). Men are still men (cf. Ezekiel 34:31), and within God’s flock there were always those who could not see, and those who thought they could (cf. John 9:39). Jesus came, partly, to turn that on its head: ‘He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away’ (Luke 1:53).
(Ezekiel 34:23-24). We are brought at last to the re-establishment of the rule of God through the incarnation. Jesus is the new David, both God and man, and of David’s royal line. He is the “one shepherd” over all the people. He is the Servant of Isaiah’s songs (here, “My servant David”). He is “a prince among them.”
(Ezekiel 34:25-29). Then there is the “covenant of Shalom”: peace, and much more than peace. He is, after all, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). The people will live in safety, showers of blessings are promised, and they shall be secure: no more threat from without, and no more wild beasts within. This seems to anticipate new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:25).
(Ezekiel 34:30). “Thus shall they know,” says the LORD God in our text. By all these things. “I the LORD their God with them, and they, the house of Israel, My people.” Through the incarnation, the covenant is renewed: indeed, we call it a ‘new’ covenant.
(Ezekiel 34:31). And in true covenant language, He repeats: “You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God.”
Remember Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep (John 10:11). He is also Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). If we belong to Jesus, then He is “the LORD our God with us, and we are His people” (Ezekiel 34:30).
May He feed us in His pastures as we celebrate His coming. Amen.