The Prophet Ezekiel speaks of a royal shepherd

The Prophet Ezekiel speaks of a royal shepherd

17th December

My servant David will be their king, and they all will have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be scrupulous in obeying my statutes.” (Ezekiel 37:24)

Ezekiel was the third of the Four Major Prophets. He was forcibly exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar, after the siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC. His mission began when he had a vision of God and his angels while living in Babylon. Ezekiel then spent his life calling his fellow-Jews to repentance. Many of his prophecies, parables and sermons are recorded in the book named after him.

Ezekiel wrote about the end of the existing monarchy, the forthcoming ruin of Jerusalem and the arrival of a future king. Speaking of King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, he wrote: “Thus says the Lord: Remove your diadem; take off your crown; everything is destined to be changed. The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low. A ruin! A ruin! I will make it all a ruin until the rightful ruler comes.” (Ezekiel 21:27)

The prophet later spoke in more detail about the coming of this rightful king, following the return of the Jews to Israel. One of the images he used was the Messiah as a shepherd – and the people as God’s flock. Through Ezekiel, God said: “I will raise up one shepherd, my servant David, to care for them. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince in their midst. I, the Lord, have spoken.” (Ezekiel 34:23-24)

Ezekiel went on: “My servant David will be their king, and they all will have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be scrupulous in obeying my statutes… my servant David will be their prince forever.” (Ezekiel 37:24-25). This reference to a specific individual, who would be descended from David and would reign forever, set the scene for the coming of Christ as the Good Shepherd.

This modern stained glass image of Ezekiel forms part of a larger window within Our Ladye Star of the Sea, in Greenwich. Dating to 1945 and by the artist John Trinick, it combines the Jesse Tree theme with symbols of the Virgin Mary from the Litany of Loreto. Ezekiel is pictured here with a closed gate.

This refers to Ezekiel 44:1-3, which describes a sanctuary gate that only the prophesied prince may go through. This was traditionally understood as a symbol of the Virgin Mary, as the gate through which Christ came from heaven to earth. Ezekiel, pictured with this symbol of Our Lady, is pointing towards the Madonna and Child.

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