Read verses 1-4
Q: What exactly does the biblical metaphor of “shepherd” represent?
A: “Shepherd” is the most common description of a spiritual leader, what the New Testament will come to call a pastor, and their sheep or flock corresponds to the people or congregation.
Q: Who do shepherds work for?
A: In this case, they do not own the flocks given into their care but tend them on behalf of God, their actual owner.
Observation: This is the exact condition of Israel as described at Christ’s First Coming, an example of living under false shepherds:
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
— Matthew 9:36
Q: Someone that doesn’t do their job is referred to as a “false shepherd”. What is the defining characteristic of a false shepherd?
A: “You...have not attended to them.” (v.2) They neither ensure proper care and feeding of the flock nor protection from outside attacks, both of which are biblical metaphors for not preaching the true Word of God nor protecting against infiltration of wrong doctrine/teaching.
Q: What is the double meaning of the word “attend” in v.2?
A: The false prophets’ duties went unattended and the flock suffered the consequences; therefore God’s attendance of them will constitute His judgment for their actions.
Q: Thus far there is application for both literal Israel and spiritual Israel (the church). But how do v.3-4 make it clear that there is a final, literal fulfillment of these words to come for the literal Israel alone?
- “the remnant of My flock out of all the countries” – It describes the complete and total return of all Jews to Israel, not just the partial returns that have historically occurred to date.
- “they will not be afraid any longer” – It describes a time when the situation on earth has changed completely (e.g., the Millennial Reign). Even during the best of times, anti-Semitism has followed the Jews everywhere, even to this day.
For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day
— Ezekiel 34:11-12
Q: God’s resolution is not limited to just restoring the flock. What is the other crucial action He will take?
A: “I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them”. God re-establishes His Word through faithful pastors.
Q: How do we know for sure that there is a greater teaching concerning the flock which applies to BOTH Israel and the church composed of both Jews and Gentiles?
“I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
— John 10:16
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.
— John 10:28
Point: The cure for a bad pastor or leader is not to go out on one’s own, but to seek out a good pastor or leader instead.