Ezek. 33:1-20; 34:1-31
The people were exiled into a foreign country and in danger of losing their identity. God, through the prophets continued to encourage them to faithfulness. When one becomes ill, he looks forward to recovery from his sickness. God’s people were “ill” in their exile. The prophets became “doctors” to help them to recover and return to God.
Ezekiel had received his commission to warn Israel/Judah before Jerusalem had been destroyed, but that did not turn them away from their wickedness. Sometime after they were exiled, God renewed that mission for the prophet. He was again made a watchman to speak God’s warning. If he failed to obey and warn the people, they would die in their sins and he would be held accountable. However, if he did warn them and they failed to obey, they would die in their sins, but he would be free of their blood. The message from God was one of encouragement. “…I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”
God’s fair judgment was in their own hands. The righteous would live if they continued in their righteousness, but they would die if they turned away. Likewise, the unrighteous would die, but if they turned from their sins, they would live.
The first words from God through Ezekiel were to the shepherds of Israel. Those were the kings and other leaders who had neglected the welfare of the people and had heaped riches upon themselves. As a result, God’s people had been scattered in many directions and ultimately into Babylonian exile. That prophecy was both physical and spiritual in meaning. They would, in time be brought back to their own land. God’s people would eventually have a new shepherd—a descendant of David, the Good Shepherd, Jesus the Christ. They would enjoy a new covenant of peace and would be brought together as one from all nations into the church of Christ. “Thus they shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them.”