Ezekiel 34:11
For this is what the Lord GOD says: 'Behold, I Myself will search for My flock and seek them out.
Sermons
God's Verdict Upon Self-Serving RulersJ.D. Davies Ezekiel 34:1-16
God's Interest in MenW. Clarkson Ezekiel 34:11, 12
The Divine Shepherd of the FlockJ.R. Thomson Ezekiel 34:11-16
Shadows of Religious LifeL. B. Brown.Ezekiel 34:11-19
The Divine ShepherdT. B. Baker.Ezekiel 34:11-19
The Flock Sought and FoundJ. R. Macduff, D. D.Ezekiel 34:11-19
The Shepherd Seeking the Flock in the Cloudy and Dark DayJ. R. Macduff, D. D.Ezekiel 34:11-19


What a marvelous contrast is here presented between the hireling and unfaithful shepherds who have presumptuously undertaken the care of God's people, and the Lord God, who in his condescension assumes the pastoral office, and fulfils it with Divine qualifications and completeness! According to the beautiful and touching representation of this passage -

I. THE LORD SEEKS HIS SHEEP WHEN LOST. They have gone astray, through willfulness on their part and through negligence on the part of the pretended shepherds. Bat the Divine Shepherd seeks and saves that which was lost, and, distant though they be, and in dangerous places, finds them out and lays his gracious hand upon them.

II. THE LORD DELIVERS HIS SHEEP FROM THE POWER OF THEIR ENEMIES. They have their enemies, and they have fallen into their enemies' hands. From such peril One only can save; and the Lord rescues them and, in the exercise of his pity and his power, sets them free from bondage and oppression.

III. THE LORD RESTORES THEM TO THE FOLD OF SAFETY AND OF PEACE. Even as Jehovah brought back the exiles from the East into the land of their fathers, so does the good Shepherd and Bishop of souls ever restore the penitent and believing to the welcome of his gracious heart, and to the fellowship of his rejoicing Church, to go no more out.

IV. THE LORD FEEDS THEM IN THE PASTURES OF HIS GRACE. The language of this passage is upon this point very full, rich, and reassuring. The good Shepherd declares, "I will feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the water-courses; I will feed them upon good pasture, and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel." We may understand by this all the provision which the wisdom and loving-kindness of God have made for the wants and the welfare of his redeemed - the truth of his Word, the blessings of his sacraments, the fellowship of his saints.

V. THE LORD HEALS THEM FROM ALL THEIR WEAKNESSES AND SUFFERINGS. "I will bind up that which was broken, and strengthen that which was sick." He healeth all our diseases. His hand applies the remedy, administers the medicine, restores the broken health of the soul. No necessity is uncared for; no ill fails to meet his sympathy; no weakly, tender lamb of his flock shall perish through neglect. "He shall gather the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that give suck."

APPLICATION. These representations of Divine pity and tenderness are amply fulfilled in the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In his own discourses he set forth his mission under the similitude of the faithful, devoted shepherd. He laid down his life for the sheep. The apostles felt the justice and the beauty of the similitude. And upon the early Christians generally it made a profound impression; in their works of art they delighted to picture Jesus as the good shepherd. - T.









I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out.
Is the Great Shepherd to leave the stray sheep to wander and perish? or is He to pity and reclaim them? In the Crimean War there were two ways, very different from each other, in which heroic deed manifested itself. One was, by our soldiers' indomitable courage in the field, — when brave men stood manfully to their guns, and poured the iron hail against fearful odds. That was the stern glory of carnage and destruction. The other unfolds a picture in strange and startling contrast with this. At midnight, in stiffed hospital wards, amid the light of dim lamps and moans of sufferers, a gentle form of pity flitted from couch to couch, with words and looks and deeds of mercy; — pale lips kissing the shadow on their pillows as it passed. On which of the two does the mind love most to dwell? On that field of stern desperate valour; or on these hushed corridors, away from the roar of battle, with the one hero-heart moving like a ministering angel amid the congregated crowd of wounded and dying? God's way regarding man (with reverence we say it) was the latter. We may look to this truth, first, in its simplest aspect. The soul, as we have already noted, is ever and anon manifesting some undefined longing after its lost portion in God. But it has in itself a hopeless moral inability to return. It cannot retrace its lost way. Alas! often there is rather the plunging deeper and deeper amid the pathless wilds of ruin, till, in addition to inability, there is added disinclination to be restored to the long lost fold. The sheep, rather than return to the Shepherd, will go roaming in search of other pastures — increasing its mournful distance from the fold, and bringing it only into more perilous vicinity to the lions' dens and the mountains of the leopards. How, then, can the sinner be reclaimed? It is manifest that by no self-originated effort can he return. If saved, it must be by another. Himself he cannot, — himself he will not save. Omnipotence alone can bring it back. It is easy enough to take the tiara of priceless diamonds, or the necklace of gold, and plunge it down in mid ocean; but it is not so easy to descend through that untraversed barrier, that liquid rampart which rolls defiant between, and get them up again. The soul, the true casket of lost treasures, by reason of its own sad principle of moral gravitation, sinks easily downward. But it is He alone who "taketh up the waters in the hollow of His hand" that cart rescue it from the depths of ruin and despair. Here, then, is the Gospel's glorious history of the restoration of the wanderers. Marvellous condescension — unspeakable grace! He speaks in one of the verses which precede this chapter as if it were something wondrous, — something well-nigh incredible: "Behold I, even I." The spot is still pointed out with pride, amid the rocky wilds of Dauphine, where nil eagle bore in its talons the infant which had been left smiling in fearless innocence in its cradle by the cottage door. One stalwart form after another tried to climb that giddy height for the rescue, but had to abandon it in despair. At last a fleet and nimble foot spurns all difficulties. Up she climbs, from crag to crag, until, reaching the dizzy eminence, she buries the yet living child in her bosom, saying, as a mother's tongue in such an hour alone could say, "This my child was dead, and is alive again — was lost, and is found!" But that was a mother's speechless affection for her offspring. As she brought her "loved and lost" back to her cottage home, and replaced it in the empty cradle, we would think it strange to hear her saying, "Behold I, even I, have done this." Who could have done it but she? But what does the Infinite Jehovah see in us? — What claim have these sheep on this Shepherd of the universe — these sinners on their God? — None! The natural heart is a den of pollution, a haunt of evil, the nurturing home of rebellion. Not only, however, are we called to note and admire God's grace and condescension; but to admire the sovereignty of that grace as shown in the selection of its objects. Mankind were not the only fallen family in the universe. Other sheep, not of the earthly fold, had also strayed from the Shepherd. Might we not have expected that, in resolving on the ransom and recovery of any lost ones, he would have made choice rather of a different race of wanderers? Fallen angels (the aborigines of heaven) were greater than man. Well may we pause and ponder this wondrous manifestation of sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners of the dust! Truly, indeed, this salvation of man is a story of grace. Turn the moral kaleidoscope as we may, the gleaming words still stand radiant before our eyes, "By the grace of God we are what we are." Once more. God's grace and compassion are further manifested in His untiring love and patience in the pursuit of the lost, till restoration and safety be ensured. In other words, we have to admire, not only His free grace and His sovereign grace, but what the old writers call His irresistible grace. "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I, even I, will both search My sheep and seek them out." He will not only search for them, but He will search till He discover them. "He goeth after that which was lost until He find it." The Saviour's love is bounded by no distance, is cooled by no difficulties, is repulsed by no obstacles. One of the noblest records of true heroism in England's annals is of comparatively recent date; when a gallant vessel, manned with gallant hearts, vent forth amid the frowning icebergs of the Northern Seas, to search for a band of missing explorers. They sailed thither, buoyed with the faint, feeble hope that the object of their search might still be found, battling bravely with eternal winter. Alas! they went after the lost "until they found them"; but they found them with the stiffened snow and ice as their winding sheet! They brought not back the living, but only some sad mementoes and memorials of the dead. Not so is the journey, not so the pursuit, of the Great Shepherd of the sheep. His omniscient eye follows every wanderer. Those whom He has marked for His own He will, without fail, bring home. Not one can elude His pursuit, nor evade His loving scrutiny.

(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

I. THE SIMILE OF CHRIST TO A SHEPHERD.

1. His character: "a shepherd" (John 10:14).

2. His employment: "seeketh out" (Ezekiel 34:11).

3. The objects of His care: "His flock" (Isaiah 40:11).

4. Their condition: "scattered" (John 11:52).

5. Then the time of gathering: "the day" (Zechariah 13:1).

6. His situation: "among them" (Psalm 132:13, 14).

II. THE IMPORTANT DECLARATION. "I will seek out."

1. By the word written (2 Timothy 3:15).

2. The word preached (1 Corinthians 1:23, 24).

3. But always by the Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).

III. WHY THEY ARE CALLED "HIS SHEEP."

IV. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE SHEEP.

1. This implies determination: "I will" (Ezekiel 13:21).

2. It denotes contest: "deliver" (Isaiah 49:25).

3. It signifies power: "I will deliver them" (Isaiah 40:29). "All places."

(1)From all parts of the world.

(2)From all sinful practices.

(3)From all opposing powers (Revelation 7:9).

4. It also denotes great wisdom in searching and distinguishing them; simply because —

(1)They are separated one from another.

(2)They mingle with the wicked.

(T. B. Baker.)

In the cloudy and dark day
I. "THE LOST." We may regard the figure as descriptive of those who (by imperceptible degrees) have erred and strayed from the Shepherd's fold and presence. Once their landscape was bathed in sunshine; — the mountain tops of God's faithfulness were clear; — the summits of the heavenly hills sparkled gloriously; — theirs were the green pastures and still waters, — the Shepherd's voice to cheer them, and the Shepherd's steps to guide them. But all is gloomy now; — the storm clouds have gathered in their once serene sky. It may arise from their own sluggish unconcern; — a drowsy, sleepy, callous frame, — the result of a gradual, but ever-deepening insensibility to Divine things; — a trifling with their spiritual interests; — languor in prayer — conformity with the world — tampering with sins of omission — venturing on forbidden or debatable ground.

II. Those who are "DRIVEN AWAY." Some overt act has been the cause of their scattering. Look at David as an illustration. His own iniquities separated between him and his God. He never after was the joyous believer he once was. He was indeed restored, pardoned, loved; — but the memory of that sad day followed him to the grave, and mantled Iris whole moral landscape with clouds, even to the very entrance of the dark valley. And how many among the true flock of the Shepherd have to tell a similar mournful tale! Some one guilty deed has laid the foundation of weeks and months — ay, years, of spiritual alienation and distance from the fold.

III. "THE BROKEN." How numerous are these! Some are "broken" by calamity; — penury scattering them in its cloudy and dark day. Some are "broken" by bitter disappointment; an aching heart wound too sacred to be revealed has left them bleeding and desolate, refusing to be comforted. Some are "broken" by bereavement.

IV. THE SICK. We might take this in a figurative sense; as descriptive of those who are sick at heart, — sad and disconsolate with the trials and sins and sorrows of death, and with the corruptions of their own natures. But why not regard it literally, an applied to those laid on beds of sickness? Many among us who inadequately appreciate the talent of health are apt also to forget and overlook this large section in God's world; — the "poor afflicted ones," the maimed members of the flock.

V. TO ONE AND ALL OF THESE "SCATTERED ONES" THE GREAT SHEPHERD COMES. He has a special word of comfort for each separate case.

1. "Lost!" He "seeks" you. Though you have forgotten Him, He has not forgotten you.

2. Ye who have been "driven away," He will "bring you again." Ye who, like the Psalmist of Israel, have unwarily left the pastures of peace and security, and entangled yourselves in the midnight forest of danger and sin; the grace of Him who first brought you to the fold is able to bring you back again, and restore to you the joys of His salvation.

3. Broken ones! Ye who are crushed and mutilated by the thousand ills of suffering and sorrow: rejoice! That Shepherd came to "bind up" breaking hearts; His name is "The Healer of the broken hearted."

4. "Sick!" Ye pining sufferers in earth's great hospital! Ye bleating sheep, lying languid and helpless in the fold — He, the Great Shepherd, comes to "strengthen you." A sick bed — where the noisy world is shut out — where its cares and anxieties and aspirations and ambitions are no longer present to hamper and harass — what a blessed season for converse with the Infinite.

VI. THE GRACIOUS ADAPTATION OF CHRIST'S DEALINGS TO THE DIFFERENT WANTS AND TRIALS AND NECESSITIES OF HIS PEOPLE.

1. He "seeks" the lost; and on finding them a look of love suffices to bring the conscience-stricken wanderers back.

2. He "brings again" the driven away. Those cowering in terror at their own wilful blindness and apostasy, their deep ingratitude and heinous guilt, need help, encouragement, guidance; — they need being carried in the Shepherd's arms.

3. He "binds up" the broken; He stanches the bleeding wound with the application of tender restoratives — the balm words of His own exceeding great and precious promises. He, the Brother born for adversity, teaches the wounded spirit, and He alone can, how to "bear" in this "dark and cloudy day"; He turns the shadow of death into the morning.

4. He "strengthens" the sick — those who for years on years have been laid on couches of languishing — secluded from the gladsome light of day, on whose ears the tones of the Sabbath bell fall only to tell of forfeited privileges. They can best bear attestation how a mysterious, sustaining strength, not their own, is imparted to them, which makes them wonders to themselves.Let us close with two practical reflections.

1. The all-sufficiency of the Shepherd's power and love. There is no case He cannot meet. Lost ones, driven ones, broken ones, sick ones. It seems to exhaust the circle of human wants and necessities. He seems to anticipate every supposable case, so that none dare say "that Shepherd-love does not include me."

2. This precious passage, so full of tenderness and love to the erring, the backsliding, the suffering, ends with a brief but most solemn utterance of "judgment" on the impenitent, the self-righteous, and unbelieving. "He that has rest for disquieted saints," says Matthew Henry, "has terror to speak to presumptuous sinners."

(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

Night and morning are familiar types of human life in its alternation of shadow and sunshine, its chequered history of grief and joy. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." It is the law of nature and of humanity. Is it not also the law of the higher spiritual life? No doubt there are moments of rare enjoyment in the experience of a godly man; moments of special communion with the Unseen. But there are seasons, too, of a widely different complexion, when the firmament above him darkens into a hemisphere without a star, and the heart within him grows sick of the weary struggle, and he is sorely tempted, like Elijah, to fold his head in his mantle, and lie down in despair to die.

1. These shadows of religious life sometimes originate in physical disease. Very wonderful is the sympathy between body and soul. Many a life might be comparatively blithesome, but that chronic dyspepsia fills it with morbid fears and feelings. Trifling with the delicate mechanism of the human frame has brought upon many excellent people a settled melancholy, an impression that they have committed some unpardonable sin, and are absolute outcasts from God's covenant of mercy. Let the organ be out of tune, and Handel himself could not bring good music out of it; and when the nervous organism is unstrung, it is not surprising if the secret harmonies of the soul be turned into jars and discord. Temperance, chastity, and godliness, — the "mens sana in corpore sano," — are a wellspring of perennial cheerfulness; but without them, the fountains of real pleasure are poisoned, life loses its zest and buoyancy, and becomes little better than a funeral march to death and judgment.

2. These shadows of religious life sometimes originate in personal wrong-doing. Misconduct is the ruin of tranquillity, and may cast a pall and blight over life's fairest prospects. He who can do a deliberate wrong without a pang of regret is more demon than man. Peter's backsliding cost him bitter tears. David's double crime made his children a scourge and his conscience an accusing hell. Saul's transgression caused "an evil spirit" to enter into him, so that he sat in his palace, javelin in hand, silent, moody, and downcast. And the sin of God's people, in like manner, may still rob them of solid peace, and make them acquainted, otherwise than by book, with Bunyan's Slough of Despond, Doubting Castle, and Giant Despair.

3. These shadows of religious life sometimes originate in providential trials. Saint or sinner, if you are pricked you bleed; with this difference, that in the one case you possess a balm for the wound, in the other not. Insensibility would render Divine discipline a nullity. It is right to feel appropriately towards all things as they really are; nay more, such inflexion of feeling is a necessary condition of human amendment; Christianity is a nobler science of life than stoicism, for it teaches how sable and gold may both be woven into a robe of immortal radiance — how adversity, even more than prosperity, may come laden with the richest blessings.

4. These shadows of religious life sometimes originate in spiritual conflicts. No fortress on earth is so often beleaguered as the citadel of the human heart. No din of contending hosts is there — no anxious nations look on in breathless suspense — no change of temporal dynasty or statecraft or dominion is imminent; but the doom of an immortal soul is involved, and heaven and hell hang upon the final issue. The stake is tremendous, and all trifling is simply insane. The ground has to be won inch by inch, and, maybe, lost and won again. Shield of faith, helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, girdle of truth, sword of the Spirit, greaves of love and peace, all bear marks of the severity of the strife. Protracted to the end of life, the battle is as arduous as it is honourable, and its wavering fortunes not unfrequently make one pensive, careworn, and disheartened. Thank God! "though he fall, he shall rise again — he shall not be utterly cast down." An invincible Captain leads us on.

5. These shadows of religious life sometimes originate in doctrinal perplexities. It has been said that "the Bible has shallows in which a lamb may wade, and deeps in which an elephant may swim." Unhappily, some who are not elephants venture to leave the terra firma of revealed truth, and to plunge into the bottomless sea of metaphysical divinity; and, as they cannot swim, they sink in deep waters, or flounder about like a log in a tempest, and the waves and billows go over them. Without putting a veto on legitimate inquiry, it is well to remember that "secret things belong unto the Lord" — that His eternal wisdom and kindness will manage them without human meddling — that no prying curiosity of ours can ever modify them in the least degree; and that for us the only possible solution of them is the testimony of individual character and life.

6. These shadows of religious life sometimes originate in the enigmas of Divine government. God in history, subordinating everything to His supreme will, and accomplishing through secondary agencies or otherwise His own sovereign purposes, is the basis of a good man's creed, and the sole pledge of humanity's regeneration. But, to man's thinking, how often do the ways of God seem a mystery, an anomaly, or even a contradiction! Everywhere the old Titanic forces of good and evil wrestle with each other in mortal combat, and the wonder is how the strife will end. And, standing face to face with facts like these, after some six thousand years of credible history, and some nineteen centuries of Christian teaching, many a heart cries out in fearfulness and pain: "How long, O Lord, how long? Why tarry the wheels of Thy chariot? Oh, when shall the wickedness of the wicked come to a perpetual end?" Pilgrims of the night! amid all this darkness, turmoil, and misery, "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him."

(L. B. Brown.)

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