33 The word of the Eternal came to me.
Eternal One: 2 Son of man, talk with your fellow exiles, and tell them, “If I wage war against a country and the people appoint one of their own to be a lookout, 3 and if the lookout sees an army advancing toward the land and blows a trumpet to warn the people, 4-5 and if someone hears the alarm and ignores it, allowing that army to come and capture him; then it is his own fault for not taking appropriate action. His blood will be on his own hands. If he had done something, he could have saved his life and the lives of others. 6 But if the lookout sees an army advancing and does not sound the alarm to warn the people and if some are captured or killed, then their blood will be on the hands of the lookout.”
7 Son of man, I have appointed you as a lookout for the nation of Israel. You must listen to what I have to say, then go and pass My warning on to your countrymen. 8 If I have a message for the wicked such as, “Wicked one, you are going to die,” and you don’t warn him to change his ways, then he will surely die because of his wickedness; but I will hold you responsible for his death. 9 If you do warn him to change his ways and he doesn’t do anything about it, then he will die because of his wickedness; but you will have saved your own life.
10 Son of man, you must tell the people of Israel, “You keep saying, ‘Our crimes and sins are weighing us down! We are rotting away! How can we live?’” 11 Tell them, “As I live,” says the Eternal Lord, “I don’t enjoy watching the wicked die; I want the wicked to stop doing what they’re doing and live! Repent! Turn from your wicked ways. Why would you choose to die instead of live, people of Israel?”
12 Son of man, tell your people, “The righteousness of the righteous won’t save him on the day he breaks My law, and the wickedness of the wicked won’t cause him to stumble and fall if he turns away from his wickedness. The righteous is not able to depend on his former right actions to save him when he decides to sin. 13 If I assure life to the one who does what is right, but he depends on his reputation for doing right and ends up sinning, then none of his former right actions will be remembered or tallied in his favor. He will surely die because of his sins. 14 If I tell the wicked, ‘You are certainly going to die,’ but he turns from his wicked path and chooses to be honest and do what is right, 15 if he gives back a debtor’s collateral, if he returns what he has stolen, if he lives by the laws that offer true life and abandons his evil ways; then he will certainly live. He will escape death. 16 Not one of his former sins will be remembered and tallied against him. He has lived by what is right and true, and he will certainly live.”
17 Still your own people say, “The Lord’s way is not fair at all.” But they are the ones with perverted ways. 18 If a good person turns from the good path he is on and chooses to act wickedly, he will die for it. 19 If a wicked man turns from the wicked path he is on and chooses to live by what is right and true, he will save his life. 20 But you, people of Israel, continue to complain, “The Lord’s way is not fair at all.” I will judge each of you according to what you have done.
21 During the twelfth year of our exile, on the fifth day of the tenth month, someone who had survived the Babylonian attack on Jerusalem brought me news as God said he would:[a] “The city has been captured!” 22 The evening before the Judean refugee came to me, the Eternal took hold of me; and by the time the refugee arrived the next morning, He had opened my mouth, renewed my voice, and broken my silence.
23 Then the word of the Eternal came to me with a message for the survivors.
Eternal One: 24 Son of man, the survivors dwelling in the rubble in the land of Israel are speaking nonsense, saying, “Abraham was but one man, yet he took possession of the land. We are many; surely the land has been given to us to own.” 25 Because they continue in their false hope, go give them this message from the Eternal Lord: “You eat raw meat with blood still in it, you worship idols, and you shed innocent blood. Do you really think you are worthy of owning the land of Israel? 26 You rely on your own strength in battle, you do shocking things, and you all partake in adulterous sex with your neighbors’ wives. Do you really think you are worthy of owning the land?” 27 Tell them the Eternal Lord says, “As surely as I, the Eternal live, those dwelling in the rubble will be killed in battle, those who live out in the open will be fed to wild beasts, and those hiding in fortresses or caves will die of disease. 28 I will turn this land into a wasteland, and no one will step foot there. Her pride in her power will be knocked out from under her, and Israel’s mountains will become so desolate that no one will dare to pass through them. 29 When I have made the land nothing more than a wasteland of rubble because of their shocking actions, they will know that I am the Eternal One.”
30 But you, son of man, your own people are talking about you everywhere—in the streets and at doorsteps—saying to their kinsmen, “Come listen to what Ezekiel is saying. He has a word from the Eternal.” 31 They come to you, just as people flock to see someone famous. My people sit at your feet and seem to hang on your every word, but they never apply those sacred instructions to their own lives. For they act as they speak—with lustful desire—and think only of how they’ll make a profit. 32 To them you are nothing more than a gifted singer of lustful songs, a teller of tales, a master of instruments! They hear what you say but fail to put any of it into practice. 33 But when the messages you’ve given them actually come true—and I assure you, everything you tell them is going to come true—they will realize a true prophet has been among them.
The fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. must confound Ezekiel. While he is, of course, devastated by the destruction of his homeland and the deaths of his countrymen, their defeat vindicates him and his life’s work. Everyone now knows that Ezekiel is a true prophet of God, and his years of suffering to bring his fellow exiles God’s message are rewarded by the people fawning over him. Unfortunately, the people’s sudden attention to Ezekiel’s words is akin to a person’s adoration of his favorite entertainer. They love to be in his presence, but they take him no more seriously than they ever have. Ezekiel’s popularity will be short-lived.
34 The word of the Eternal came to me with a message for Israel’s leaders.
Eternal One: 2 Son of man, preach against Israel’s shepherds! Speak directly to the shepherds and tell them this is what the Eternal Lord has to say: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel whose only concern is to protect and nourish themselves! Isn’t a shepherd’s job to look after the sheep? 3 Yet you exploit them in every way. You devour their fat, make soft clothes and blankets out of their wool, and slaughter the best sheep for your table. Meanwhile you don’t take care of the sheep at all. 4 You have not sought to nurse the weak. You have not gone out to tend to the sick. You have not bandaged the injured. You don’t bring back the strays or look for the lost. You have led them with neglect, ruled them with harshness, shepherded them with cruelty! 5 They had no real shepherd, so they have scattered; the entire flock was prey for wild beasts. 6 My sheep drifted aimlessly through all the mountains and up and down every hill. My flock was scattered all over the world, scattered like the stars in the night sky, and not a single shepherd went looking for them.”
God condemns the shepherd-rulers of Israel for neglecting their duties and exploiting their human flock. Heaven will not remain silent at this injustice. A change is coming.
7 Now pay attention, shepherds, to My word: 8 As surely as I, the Eternal Lord, live, because My sheep are without a shepherd, because they have become prey for all the wild beasts to feed upon, because my shepherds have not gone in search of My sheep but have only looked out for themselves and not watched after and cared for My flock; 9 I encourage you, shepherds, to listen to the word of the Eternal.
10-11 Those self-centered shepherds are My enemies! As far as I am concerned, they are no longer shepherds. They will not help themselves to My sheep any longer. I will recover My flock from those corrupt shepherds. I will snatch My sheep from their mouths! My sheep will no longer provide milk, clothing, or meat to them. I will personally go out searching for My sheep. I will find them wherever they are, and I will look after them. 12 In the same way one shepherd seeks after, cares for, and watches over his scattered flock, so will I be the guardian of My sheep. I will be their Rescuer! No matter where they have scattered, I will go to find them. I will bring them back from the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. 13-14 I will call them out from the nations, gather them from the countries, and bring them into their own land. I will feed them in the high mountain pastures and meadows of Israel. I will feed them on good pastures; they will graze on the mountain heights of Israel. They will lie down to rest on this good ground, and they will feed on succulent grasses in bountiful pastures on the slopes of Israel’s sanctuary mountains. 15 I Myself will watch over My sheep and feed My flock. Whenever they are tired, I will lead them to rest on the cool mountain grass. 16 When they are lost, I will seek them and bring back every last stray. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. However, I will destroy the fat and powerful. I will feed them a healthy portion of judgment.
17 As for you, My flock, this is what the Eternal Lord has to say: “Watch carefully! I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and male goats.” 18 Are you not satisfied grazing in blooming pastures, feasting off rich mountain lands? Do you have to trample all of the pastures with your feet? Are you not satisfied drinking out of clear mountain streams? Do you have to muddy all of the mountain streams with your feet? 19 Why should the rest of My flock have to graze on trampled pastures and drink from muddied streams because of your careless feet?
20 So this is what the Eternal Lord has to say to them: “Watch carefully! I will personally judge between the fat sheep and the skinny sheep.” 21 Because you fat sheep bully the weak, push them around, and threaten them with your horns until you scatter them to distant mountains, 22 I will step in and save them. I will rescue them, and they will no longer be hunted and hassled. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will designate one shepherd over the entire flock: My faithful servant, David. He will watch over them and care for them. He will be their shepherd. 24 I, the Eternal, will be their God; and My faithful servant, David, will be their prince.
I, the Eternal One, have spoken.
25 I will establish a covenant of peace with them and drive away all the dangerous wild animals from the land. Then they will be able to live safely in the wilderness and sleep soundly in the forests. 26 I will make them and the area around My holy hill a blessing. At My direction, there will be plenty of rainfall when it is needed. There will be showers of blessing! 27 The trees of the fields and orchards will bear abundant fruit, the soil of the fields will produce ample crops, and My people will rest securely within their land. They will know that I am the Eternal when I destroy the dominion of their oppressors and liberate them from those who made them slaves. 28 Foreign powers won’t ravage them anymore, and wild beasts will no longer feast on their flesh. They’ll be safe and free and fearless. 29 I will make their land famous for its beauty and productivity. Never again will famine strike their land. Never again will other nations sneer at them. 30 They will know that I, the Eternal One their God, am on their side and that they, the people of Israel, are My people.
After God declares His opposition to the shepherd-rulers who neglected and exploited their human flock, God pledges to get involved personally. He will search for the lost sheep, return the strays, and care for them tenderly back in the beautiful land of Israel, the land of promise.
But in God’s human flock are trouble and competition. Even as God lovingly supplies His flock with plenty of good food, clear water, and pleasant pastures, some trample what they can’t control and foul what they can’t consume. Some bully and push their weight around, while others move aside or run for the hills. Again God sees the problem and promises to step in, personally, to rescue His hassled people and put an end to injustice. So God promises to send another shepherd-ruler, in the spirit of King David, who will love and care for the flock as God Himself does. This Davidic shepherd will be unlike the wicked, neglectful shepherd-rulers in Israel’s past; this son of David will rule as their prince in submission to Israel’s one True God.
But there is more. In the final movement of this oracle, God announces a new covenant—a covenant of peace. Its scope is beyond human community and politics. It is a renewal of life in the land of Israel and, by extension, in the rest of creation.
The Eternal said this, 31 then added,
Eternal One: As for you, you are My sheep, the human flock of My pasture, and I am your God.
13 Let love continue among you. 2 Don’t forget to extend your hospitality to all—even to strangers—for as you know, some have unknowingly shown kindness to heavenly messengers in this way. 3 Remember those imprisoned for their beliefs as if you were their cellmate; and care for any who suffer harsh treatment, as you are all one body.
4 Hold marriage in high esteem, all of you, and keep the marriage bed pure because God will judge those who commit sexual sins.
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have because He has said, “I will never leave you; I will always be by your side.”[a] 6 Because of this promise, we may boldly say,
The Lord is my help—
I won’t be afraid of anything.
How can anyone harm me?[b]
7 Listen to your leaders, who have spoken God’s word to you. Notice the fruits of their lives and mirror their faith.
8 Jesus the Anointed One is always the same: yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not be carried away by diverse and strange ways of believing or worshiping. It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about what you can eat (which do no good even for those who observe them). 10 We approach an altar from which those who stand before the altar in the tent have no right to eat. 11 In the past, the bodies of those animals whose blood was carried into the sanctuary by the high priest to take away sin were all burned outside the camp. 12 (In the same way, Jesus suffered and bled outside the city walls of Jerusalem to sanctify the people.)
If we are honest, we have to admit that coming to Jesus and entering into His church ruins us—at least as far as this world is concerned. If we identify with Him in His suffering and rejection, we become a reproachful irritation to the powers that rule this culture. If we ever felt at home in this world—if we ever sensed that we belonged—then we would wake up one day to discover that we will never be at home again until we enter the city of God. By entering through Jesus, we become citizens of another city, subjects of another king. As long as we are here, we should live as resident aliens longing to go home.
13 Let’s then go out to Him and resolve to bear the insult and abuse that He endured. 14 For as long as we are here, we do not live in any permanent city, but are looking for the city that is to come.
15 Through Jesus, then, let us keep offering to God our own sacrifice, the praise of lips that confess His name without ceasing. 16 Let’s not neglect what is good and share what we have, for these sacrifices also please God.
17 Listen to your leaders and submit to their authority over the community, for they are on constant watch to protect your souls and someday they must give account. Give them reason to be joyful and not to regret their duty, for that will be of no good to you.
18-19 Pray for us, for we have no doubt that our consciences are clean and that we seek to live honestly in all things. But please pray for me that I may be restored to you even more quickly.
20 Now may the God of peace, who brought the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus, back from the dead through the blood of the new everlasting covenant, 21 perfect you in every good work as you work God’s will. May God do in you only those things that are pleasing in His sight through Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, to whom we give glory always and forever. Amen.
22 Please, brothers and sisters, pay attention to this word of exhortation, for I have written only a few words to you.
23 I want to tell you that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he arrives soon, he will come with me when I see you next.
24 Give my greetings to your leaders and to all of God’s people. Those of Italy greet you.
25 May grace always be with you.
1 Not for us, O Eternal One; this glory is not for us—but for Your name
because of Your loyal love and truth.
2 Why should the nations ask,
“Where is their God now?”
3 Our God is in heaven
doing whatever He chooses.
4 Those nations worship idols of silver and gold,
crafted by human hands:
5 They have given their gods mouths, but they cannot speak;
eyes, but they cannot see.
6 They have provided their idols with ears, but they cannot hear;
noses, but they cannot smell.
7 They have fashioned hands, but the idols cannot reach out and touch;
feet, but they cannot walk.
Their idols cannot make a sound in their finely crafted throats.
8 The people who make idols will become useless like them,
like all who trust in idols.
9 O Israel, put your trust in the Eternal.
He is their helper and defender.
10 O family of Aaron, put your trust in the Eternal.
He is their helper and defender.
11 All who fear and know the Eternal, put your trust in Him.
He is their helper and defender.
12 The Eternal has remembered us, and He will bless us.
He will bless the people of Israel.
He will bless the priestly family of Aaron.
13 The Eternal will bless those who worship and stand in awe of Him,
from the least to the greatest.
14 May the Eternal prosper your family,
growing both you and your descendants.
15 May the blessings of the Eternal,
maker of heaven and earth, be on you.
16 The heavens above belong to the Eternal,
and yet earth in all of its beauty has been given to humanity by Him.
17 The dead do not praise the Eternal,
nor do any who descend into the silent grave.
18 But we will praise and bless You—our Eternal One—
today and forever.
Praise the Eternal!
21 The crucible is used for refining silver, the furnace for gold,
but praise is what tests a person’s mettle.
22 Though you grind a fool like grain
in a mortar with a pestle,
still his foolishness will not be separated from him.