I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. (Ezekiel 34:23-24)
There Is One Shepherd
When Ezekiel is writing his prophecy in the land of captivity by the River Chebar, David had been dead for more than four hundred years. The days of the once regal nation of Israel were far removed in history when after the death of Solomon, Israel deteriorated into civil war leading to the final destruction of the ten northern tribes and the captivity of Judah and Benjamin by the Babylonians. The prophet Ezekiel was among those taken to the land of the captives and warned the people of the impending destruction of Jerusalem. After the city was razed by the Babylonians, his message centered on the hopes of Israel through the coming Messiah. The group that was largely responsible for the demise of Israel was the shepherds of the land who failed to watch over the people and protect them from idolatry. In a scathing rebuke of the leaders of the nation, Ezekiel shows how self-centered the leaders were neglecting the people and allowing them to follow after the nations around them. As the Chief-Shepherd, the Lord promised to restore His people as a shepherd brings back his lost sheep. Jerusalem has been destroyed along with the Temple and the only hope of Israel comes from the Messiah who will bring a new covenant to the people as spoken by the prophet Jeremiah. In the language of the parable of shepherds, God shows the coming Christ will be the one shepherd that will have authority over the new Israel and unlike the shepherds of Ezekiel’s day; this shepherd will feed and care for his sheep. God will be the God of this new nation and His servant David a prince among them. The reference of Ezekiel is fulfilled in Jesus Christ as the one who will give His life for the flock of His Father. Jesus will call Himself the Good Shepherd because He dies for the sheep. The apostle Peter preaches on the Day of Pentecost that Jesus of Nazareth is the image of the promised Messiah through the lineage of David as the Christ who would sit on the throne of David. Among the many Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, Jesus fulfills the promise made through Ezekiel of the one shepherd who will reign over the house of God.
Paul writes to the church at Ephesus and describes the body of Christ as the church of Christ. He further explains there is one body signifying there is only one church and that church belongs to Christ. Paul twice in the Ephesian letter declares Jesus as the head of the church and writes in his letter to Colosse that Jesus is the head of the church, which is his body the church. As the one shepherd, Jesus is supreme over all who rise from the dead. This is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy of Jesus being the one shepherd of the flock of God. The plan of God for the establishment of the church was determined before time began and through men like Ezekiel unfolded the eternal mystery until the coming of His Son to be revealed in the fullness of time as the one shepherd. As there is one church there is one shepherd. His word is law and His rule is supreme. There can be no other head of the church. Ezekiel says the one shepherd will be His servant David. God never said anything about Peter being the one shepherd or any other man. When Ezekiel wrote the prophecy, David had been dead for a very long time and as Peter would tell those gathered in Jerusalem six hundred years later; his tomb was still in the city of David. The Lord was not speaking of the son of Jesse but His only begotten Son that would come in the flesh and die on the cross. Jesus is the one shepherd and the Prince of God among His people. Jesus was given all authority by the Father as the one shepherd. There is only one head of the church and He is Jesus Christ.
The apostle Peter served as an elder of the church (shepherd) and he exhorted his fellow elders to shepherd the flock of God which was among them and when the Chief Shepherd appears, they will receive a crown of glory that does not fade away. In the organization of the church of Christ, men serve as elders, bishops or shepherds leading the flock of God and protecting them from the wolves of apostasy. They exercise authority only under the will of the Father as servants of the gospel to feed, protect and guide the flock of God in a certain place. While these men serve as shepherds of the local flock, there remains one shepherd and one Prince over the church. The word of Christ is the law of the church and His word is final as the word of God. No man can take that role from Jesus Christ. There are men today who believe they are the head of the church and exercise sole authority over the church. In principle, they are correct in being the head over the church but that is not the church of Christ but an apostate organization that calls itself a church of the Lord. They serve with authority over a body of people that God does not recognize because there is only one shepherd and one Prince and His Son Jesus Christ is that shepherd and Prince. Ezekiel is very clear in how many shepherds there are. I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David.