"The weak you have not strengthened, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them."
What a sad picture of the extent of where things got to in Israel, among the Lord's people. The scripture goes on to say, "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth and no one was seeking or searching for them" (Ezekiel 34: 5-8).
What is the spiritual work of a shepherd, also known as an overseer, or spiritual leader in the local church/assembly? The spiritual work of a shepherd is to feed the flock, strengthen the weak, bind up the wounds of the broken and to go after the sheep who have wandered away.
There were shepherds in Israel who failed to do this. These shepherds were acting as though the sheep personally belonged to them. They were neglectful of the flock. The sheep belong to God. 1 Peter 5:2-3 says, "Shepherd the flock of God, which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." These shepherds were unfaithful and lacked concern for the flock.
In Israel some of these shepherds used coercion, forms of manipulating the sheep, threatening them which is cruelty at best. As a result, God pronounced punishment as a judgement against them via the mouth of the prophet, Ezekiel (during the Babylonian captivity).
What does that look like in our time? We have some of the same failings among the people of God where the sheep are concerned. There are shepherds who are ungodly shepherds. They neither risk nor sacrifice themselves for the sheep. They may even act as though the sheep belong to them and they can respond to them or not respond to them as they please. Some shepherds feed themselves and not the flock and for this God says He will hold them responsible for such actions.
But here is a most blessed word from God himself. He says, "I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. I will feed them in good pasture, I will feed them and make them lie down. I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick;" (Ezekiel 34:11-16). Praise the Lord God for this!! Yes, this right here!!
How many instances have sheep among the flock been neglected.? Their bleating's gone unheard, and their brokenness ignored broke the heart of God. And what about the sheep that went astray? Sometimes sheep are fickle and silly like that, they get separated from the flock and wander off. They become distracted. Who goes after them? Who tries to find them? And beloved, what about the ones who were driven away? Who even cared to bear their concerns or to hear them out? Who tried to sit down with them for God's sake? Is God disturbed by this? Yes, He is! The sheep belong to God, and He expects the shepherds, the overseers, the leaders to care for His sheep. So, what happens when there is failure in this matter? What does God do about it?
God goes after the sheep and rescues them from whatever situations they're in! This is so precious to me because I have firsthand experience with The Good Shepherd, The Good Shepherd who didn't rest at just giving His life for me. He continued to shepherd me. Praise The Lord! For He, He alone, not only came after me as a wandering sheep, He, on another occasion bound up my wounds and provided good pasture for me to feed in.
Let all who assume positions in the church as shepherds, leaders, and overseers take this very seriously; sheep belong to God, and He expects you to risk and sacrifice for them when need becomes evident. God expects that none of His sheep will be abandoned, ignored, or neglected for any reason. God loves and cherishes His flock of sheep, and He expects that you will do the same. God's sheep are priceless and hold much value in His eyes. No sheep are insignificant, useless, or not needed. There is no respect of persons when it comes to God and His sheep.
May God help us to love and value what He loves and values, and remember, we must give an account of how we handle the Lord's people!