And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,…
The disasters that overtook the land and the people of Israel were largely due to the misdeeds of their rulers. The people in olden time were more easily led by their sovereign than they are now. The ability to read, combined with the free use of printed literature, has stimulated the power to think, and this has led to self-reliance, independence, and freedom. But in Ezekiel's day a dearth of literature made the people largely dependent on priests and rulers. The self-will of Rehoboam was the initial downward step to civic strife and national ruin. Rehoboam and his successors never learned the lesson that a ruler is a shepherd, that he is entrusted with the welfare of a nation, that he is appointed to live for the people, and not to expect that the people shall live for him. This is a wholesome lesson for all kings and magistrates. They are expected to care for every interest in the commonwealth.
I. GOD'S ESTIMATE OF A RULER'S DUTY. A ruler, whether supreme or subordinate, is required by God to act as a shepherd. He is ordained to this office (at least theoretically) on the ground of superior knowledge, skill, and fitness to govern. God's intention is that the personal endowments of one shall be employed for the welfare of the many. The design in erecting the kingly office is not that everything in the state shall contribute to the pomp and magnificence of the king, but contrariwise, that the king shall devote his talents and energies to the well-being of his weakest subjects. The public health must be his care. Measures for alleviating and uprooting disease must originate at the palace. The education of the young, the development of mental. resources, the dissemination of all useful knowledge, form part of the monarch's duty. The sanitation of the people's dwellings is a more royal service than leading battalions on the battle-field. Whatever increases mutual concord, industry, virtue, wealth, morality, and religion demands the king's attention. And what is true respecting a king is true (in its measure) respecting every meaner magistrate and officer of state. Every man who fills an office of rule is a shepherd, under obligation to safeguard the interests of the people. Such is the doctrine taught by God.
II. GOD'S RECOGNITION OF A RULER'S SELF-AGGRANDIZEMENT. Every occupant of a throne acts in the stead of God. He is a delegate of the Most High. Therefore it is his duty to imitate the rule of God - to act as God acts. Inasmuch as God cares equally for all the members in his family, for the obscure and the weak, as well as for the rich and the strong, it becomes earthly monarchs to do likewise. Every neglect of the well-being of subjects is noted down by God. The cry of the oppressed toilers enters the ears of the Lord of hosts. In God's esteem kingly condescension is a nobler quality than animal courage. It is better every way to enlarge a people's virtue than to enlarge the boundaries of empire. God notes down carefully each royal delinquency.
III. GOD'S MODES OF CHASTISING A RULER'S CONTUMACY.
1. Removal from office. "I will cause them to cease from feeding the fleck." Defeat upon the battle-field, dethronement, loss of regal power, early death, - these are among the modes of chastisement God employs. So many are the plans for vindicating himself which are available to him, that he seldom employs the same mode of chastisement in two separate instances. What are often deemed common disasters are forthputtings of the chastising rod.
2. Arraignment at the bar of God. "I will require my flock at their hand." Kings, as well as private persons, must give a faithful account of life. Kings are usually here the objects of envy; but when we include in our survey the eternal future, envy may well cease. Every place of honor is a place of responsibility. Kings may recognize on earth no superior authority, yet they too are under law, and must in due time "give an account of their stewardship." The day of audit draws on apace.
IV. GOD'S INTERPOSITION FOR THE NEGLECTED FLOCK. "I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out." The political and imperial events of Asia in Ezekiel's day were dominated by the superior will of Jehovah, and the political events of every empire are under the same jurisdiction. All valuable reward comes from the favor of God; all real punishment is from his hand.
1. Return from exile is promised. They shall dwell in their own land. Every man has naturally an attachment to the land of his fathers, and removal means weakness and loss to the social fabric. Under God's rule this banishment shall be reversed.
2. Prosperity is pledged. "I will feed them in a good pasture." Agriculture shall again prosper under the aegis of righteous government. Security of person and property is the vital breath of industry. Fields and gardens shall smile with beauty under the sunshine of Divine favor.
3. Perfect protection is assured. "I will cause them to lie down." No harsh noise of invasion shall disturb them. They shall be far removed from all disquietude beneath Jehovah's wing. Their munitions of granite are the words of the Omnipotent. The power that supports the heavens is their defense.
4. Gracious care of the suffering is announced. This was a new thing in Ezekiel's day. In such stormy times the weak and diseased were counted a burden. This conduct is emphatically God-like. For God takes a special pleasure in conveying sympathy and succor to his suffering ones. "In all their affliction he is afflicted."
5. Here is intimation also of moral recovery for the lost and the guilty. "I will seek that which was lost." He who cares for men's temporal interests cares infinitely more for their soul's health and joy. The gladness that rolls through heaven when a sinner turns is gladness that originates with God. He delights to reclaim a wayward lamb. His patience and tenderness are most of all conspicuous in dealing with rebels. His greatness hath made many great. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,