Today’s reading from Ezekiel is all about good and bad shepherds. It is Ezekiel’s pronouncement of doom on Israel’s bad shepherds, those leaders who lead for their own personal gain. And it is his promise that God will be their shepherd, protecting and caring for them. In fact, it was this reading that was read every Hanukkah, the celebration of the Maccabees as good leaders of God’s people. And it was this reading that was going on in the temple when Jesus interrupted by standing up in the crowd and proclaiming “I AM the Good Shepherd”.
Are these words specific to Ezekiel and his day or are they commands for us today? This question is deeply important for us and much more than a theological exercise. For if they are for us today, then we are in terrible trouble. If they are commands for us and not just for Ezekiel, then we are called to be watchmen for God’s people just like Ezekiel was. We are called to warn people of the consequences of a life without God, a very unpopular and even dangerous calling indeed. And what’s more, if we fail to warn them, then their consequences will be theirs, but we will also be held accountable! Their damnation, the result of a life without Christ, will be on our heads as bad shepherds, people who know the perils but do not tell them.
These are not questions we can ignore. And they are not questions we can answer based on our own desires. These are questions we have to approach with scripture, prayer, and meditation, or we risk pretty severe consequences ourselves.