Ezekiel 34:11-24 • Psalm 95:1-7a • Ephesians 1:15-23 • Matthew 25:31-46
Ezekiel is another of the prophets who prophesied just before and during the exile, specifically in the Southern Kingdom – Judah. He was in the first wave the exile and taken to slavery in Babylon where he continued to prophesy. Ezekiel’s message, in exile, continues to be a ‘return to God’ message, but then as we have seen with other prophets in exile, the message eventually turns to hope and deliverance.
His message immediately before and after Judah and Jerusalem is conquered is a condemnation of the religious leaders and the King and politicians who have failed to ‘shepherd’ the people, they have failed to take care of the weakest among them. In the ancient Middle East, the term ‘shepherd’ is always a metaphor for King (except, of course, when it is obviously talking about an actual shepherd).
In verse 24 we hear God saying that he is finished with earthly Kings, he is taking the throne back, he will be the King, the Shepherd. Verse 23 is a Messianic prophesy referring to Jesus.
This Ezekiel passage is basically his finale of Hope – think of the final moments of a fireworks show where the presentation ends with all the remaining fireworks flooding the skies at the same time.
Psalm 95 is is called an ‘Enthronement’ Psalm. This is one of the Psalms that proclaim that Yahweh is King. The Psalm proclaims what we see in our Matthew passage, a contrast between the Kingdoms we live in and the truth of the Kingdom of God. Verse 7a is the climax of this, a actually our passages this week ‘God is OUR God and we are the Sheep!’
Much like we saw with Paul’s initial and final greeting to the church at Thessalonica, in Ephesus we see a similar joy on Paul’s part because of what he has heard about the Ephesians. They are living out their faith, their lives and works are a testimony of the priorities of living in the Kingdom of God even while living in the reality of our earthly existence. Paul reinforces the ‘how’ of their lives by reminding them that, even though it does not seem like it, they are living in God’s Kingdom which is done on earth.
Probably the simplest context ever – given by Jesus immediately following this passage! He is saying what he says in order to prepare them for what is about to take place in the coming days.
- When Jesus had finished saying all these things (the things said in this week’s reading plus everything he has said in the past weeks), he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matthew 26:1-2)
- Jesus gives the Kingdom contrast between the Kingdom of Heaven that he has just described (in passage for this week) and what they are about to see in the Kingdom of the Roman Empire and the Religious Establishment. Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. (Matthew 26:3-4)