What does it say?
In Middle Eastern culture at this time king, prophets and priests are often called shepherds. This second prophetic oracle (Eze 34) opens with a condemnation of both shepherds and sheep of Israel. The condemnation quickly turns to promise and hope. God promises to be their Shepherd and bring them back to the land from all the countries where they have been dispersed. This passage should be read closely with Psalm 23 and John 10.
The third prophetic message (Eze 35) is against mount Seir (Edom). At first glance it would appear that this message is out of place since the focus of these six oracles (33:23 – 39:29) is God’s promise to restore Israel to the land. The probable explanation is that God will eliminate all other claimants to the land in order to fulfill the promise of restoration given in Ezekiel 34. Edom probably represents the other nations of the region, and referring to Edom as mount Seir (35:2) contrasts with the mountains of Israel that are the focus of Ezekiel 36. The message of Ezekiel 36 (the fourth) is one of the most complete and majestic promises of God’s restoration of Israel.
What does it mean?
These chapters contain important information. Ezekiel 35:5 speaks of the perpetual hatred between Israel and her neighbors, reminding us that the Arab/Israeli conflict that we have witnessed all our lives ultimately has connection with God’s mission. This doesn’t make every decision by the contemporary Israeli government right and those by her neighbors to be bad. For centuries Israel’s monarchy was established in the land and they were often guilty of horrendous sin. The conflict will continue until the Messiah is in place at this Second Coming.
The emphasis upon Israel’s return to the land is another key point. Those of us who are not of Jewish ethnicity yet followers of Jesus Christ are spiritual children of Abraham (Romans 11; Galatians 3 and Ephesians 2:11-20). Our being blessed in Abraham does not negate the real and literal promises that God has given to Israel. This passage is a poignant reminder of God’s faithfulness to what he has promised to do, no matter how dark things may seem.
How will I respond?
Abraham was blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-3). In him peoples of all the nations of the world are to be blessed, redeemed and restored as they place their faith in the true God and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. As a spiritual descendant of Abraham, I, too, am blessed to be a blessing. How will that play out in my life today?