Now that we have looked at a good example of shepherding, we need to look at some of the bad examples.
And the Bible is full of them.
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.
I’m just going to jump right into the meat of these verses. Hopefully you know who Ezekiel was and that he was prophesying to the leaders of Israel.
- vs 2b Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
Jesus asked Peter a question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And when Peter had answered humbly, Jesus commanded him, “Feed my sheep!” (John 21:17)
- vs 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.
If you look at the list of items here, they are all from the sheep themselves. The shepherds were taking fat and wool and even slaughtering the sheep. They were misusing their power for self gain.
- vs 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.
In verse 4 we have a list of needs that were not being met. The shepherds job was to take care of the sheep; to keep them from danger and make sure they were content. Instead, these shepherds were neglecting the herd.
They left sheep to hurt and grieve and starve.
The strayed you have not brought back. –That phrase right there speaks to the gentle correction of those who have gone off track or the restoration of those who were previously cast out.
The lost you have not sought. -We need to seek the lost, or “desire those who are perishing.”
and with force and harshness you have ruled them -There is that word again (but this time in Hebrew). A more literal translation reads: but with force and harshness you have ruled over them.
- force: chozqah- might, violence, vehemence
- harsh rule: radah- to rule, dominate, tread down, reign, make to, subjigate
Are you seeing the difference between the motives and methods of the good vs bad shepherds?
The next example of bad shepherds that I want to look at comes from the New Testament.
Jesus himself equates the Pharisees and teachers of the law with bad shepherds when he pronounces seven woes in Matthew 23 that expose their hypocrisy.
I won’t post the entire text here but I will go over the main points.
- vs 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
The teachers were quick to make rules and precepts for their followers, yet they themselves did not keep them nor help the people keep them either.
They made sure that all their good deeds were seen and that they had an outward appearance of holiness (vs 5-6). Everything was a show in order to make them appear and feel important and “right with God.”
They probably insisted on being called teacher or rabbi since Jesus is adamant that we have only one teacher (vs 8-11). The idea that we should humble ourselves and serve one another was not even in the Pharisees vocabulary (vs 11-12).
And we haven’t even gotten to the woes yet!
- They made the kingdom of God inaccessible to themselves and those who followed them.
- They preached a form of godliness, but denied the power behind their religion. (2 Timothy 3:5)
- They placed an emphasis on swearing by gifts and gold rather on the temple which was the sacred place of God. This reminds me of people who put more godliness in money than in having a right spirit in the giving.
- They focused on the small details of the law but forgot the important aspects of the inward spirit- faithfulness, justice, and mercy. How many times to we put so much emphasis on controversial passages when we can’t even follow the basic commandments of “Love God” and “Love your neighbor”?
- Colossians 2:21 anyone? Outwardly, they looked like they had it all together. They didn’t smoke or drink or fraternize with those that do. But they hid behind that facade because inwardly they were as sinful as the people they snubbed.
- They were self-righteous but they lacked Christ’ righteousness. Outwardly religious, inwardly condemned.
- They claimed that they would not have killed the prophets if they were alive in those days, and yet they were plotting to kill the Son of God! Instead of looking to God for their answers and messages, they instead were blinded to the very thing that could save them.
Okay- so let’s look at the bad shepherd specs here:
Motive– Bringing Christ glory? No, their motives were selfish gain, power, profit, and reputation.
Method– It is pretty clear that their methods were making rules to appear holy and relying on self control rather than the Spirit’s power.
Mannerisms– Harsh, burdensome authority that didn’t allow for extenuating circumstances. Religiously intolerable. Neglectful of the lost, hurt, sick, and suffering. Misuse of power and authority.
We have a clear contrast here to what Christ offered in his own earthly ministry as well as what he offers to us now. We have to be wary that we don’t immediately dismiss these warnings because of their harshness. Jesus made it a point to pronounce these tough words so that we would be careful not to abuse authority or power among the believers.
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. -Matthew 23:8-12