Chapter 12: Laodicean Ministers
The most shattering condemnations in the Bible are aimed at the ministry. Ezekiel is as condemning toward the ministry as any Bible prophet. God makes it very clear in the Bible that the ministers are going to be judged more harshly because of their position.
You must know your Bible and your pastor. Because it is through the ministerial office that most people are deceived!
Ezekiel 34 is about Laodicean ministers who have rebelled against God. It has some bad news and some exceedingly good news about God’s ministers.
This chapter is introduced by the last four verses of Ezekiel 33, which, as we saw earlier, discuss people who are lukewarm and uncommitted about God’s message. Ezekiel 33:33 concludes the thought: “And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.” So this is an end-time setting—just before the Great Tribulation. These people will hear the watchman message but won’t act on it until the Tribulation comes to pass—if they act on it at all!
Then God points out who the real cause of the problem is—the shepherds, or ministers, of Israel. The ministers of Israel are the biggest cause of this problem described in Ezekiel 33:30-33!
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?” (Ezekiel 34:1-2). These pastors are simply self-centered. They are not deeply concerned about God’s Work or His people.
Satan is always working to get to God’s ministers. He can deceive many sheep by first deceiving the pastor.
“Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock” (verse 3). How did Satan get to these ministers? Through self-centeredness. “The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them” (verse 4). Many of God’s own people have been “driven away.” Driven away from what? From God—by their own pastors! You can’t be driven away from God if you never really knew Him! These people knew God and were driven away from Him!
Gesenius’ Lexicon says the word driven means “to thrust forth, expel, scatter, an outcast, driven to darkness” (emphasis mine throughout). If they were “driven to darkness,” that means they were in the light! Do we really grasp what this means? These are God’s own people, who were in the light, but are now driven into darkness by ministers who at one time served God! This is a monstrous sin!
How did they drive God’s people away? They have not sought that which was lost. That means spiritually lost, of course, but there is a much more specific meaning. Ezekiel is a book to the lost tribes, or nations, of Israel. God revealed Israel’s modern identity to Herbert Armstrong, and that opened up one third of the Bible to his understanding—that third of the Bible which is prophecy.
Without an understanding of Bible prophecy, any church is lost concerning God’s master plan for man—and these people are lost when it comes to understanding Bible prophecy.
The United States and Britain in Prophecy was the most requested book in the wcg. That means it probably did more to build the wcg than any other book it has ever published! Over 5 million copies were mailed.
Read what Mr. Armstrong said about the knowledge contained in this book: “[T]he one central master key to prophecy as a whole is the identity of the United States and the British nations in these prophecies for today!” (The United States and Britain in Prophecy).
Mr. Armstrong wrote that “the all-important master key has been found!
“That key is knowledge of the astonishing identity of the American and British peoples—as well as the German—in biblical prophecies. This very eye-opening, astounding identity is the strongest proof of the inspiration and authority of the Holy Bible! It is, at the same time, the strongest proof of the very active existence of the living God!” (ibid).
As shocking as it may sound, the church that Herbert Armstrong founded has discontinued that book and rejected his understanding of prophecy!
The expression “neither have ye sought that which was lost” deeply concerns that book. The wcg stopped printing The United States and Britain in Prophecy. It is no longer fulfilling its commission to reveal to the nations of Israel who they are in Bible prophecy. God revealed this book to Mr. Armstrong so he could seek the lost nations of Israel! It was by far the main tool he used. But the wcg removed this book from print in wicked defiance of God. Without The United States and Britain in Prophecy, everyone is in the dark about the third of the Bible that is prophecy! That is how serious the wcg sin is.
But this Ezekiel 34:4 prophecy is directly aimed at all the Laodiceans. They also fall into this category: “neither have ye sought that which was lost.” A version of The United States and Britain in Prophecy written in 1945 had no copyright, and was therefore free to reprint. Yet the pcg was the only church that did so. The Laodiceans don’t even want that booklet! We also stood alone in our fight for the 1980 edition, which we have since acquired. This edition contains far greater detail and proof on the identity of the modern nations of Israel (request your own free copy of the 1980 edition, if you don’t already have one).
This means that none of the Laodiceans are doing God’s Work of warning. The whole book of Ezekiel is about warning Israel of a coming nuclear attack and enslavement! But if you don’t know who the nations of Israel are, how can you warn them? God says in Ezekiel 2, 3 and 33 that if the people of Israel aren’t warned of the coming Tribulation, then their blood will be on the head of the watchman! That is a direct warning to all of the Laodiceans and the pcg!
When God’s people get their minds off the Work of warning, then they become consumed by the sin of selfishness! They don’t even know what the Work of God is—they too are lost! This prophecy is being fulfilled right now!
Ezekiel 34:4 says, “The diseased [or spiritually weak] have ye not strengthened ….” So many have come to the pcg from the lukewarm Laodicean churches and said, “I was starving spiritually.” The ministers can no longer detect and help cure spiritual disease! The people are perishing spiritually (see 2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Ezekiel 34:4 continues, “… neither have ye healed that which was sick ….” The Laodiceans are not being healed because of a watered-down healing doctrine. Ministers have gotten the people’s minds off faith. The wcg discontinued Mr. Armstrong’s healing booklet and replaced it with a very deceitful booklet with no focus on faith. The new booklet destroyed the faith of wcg members!
It takes faith to be healed! (Request Mr. Armstrong’s edition of The Plain Truth About Healing.)
Verse 4 says the leaders have ruled with force and cruelty. Why? They didn’t just lead people away from God, they drove them away from God with doctrinal changes! Those who honestly disagreed were dealt with unmercifully. One minister was demoted to a layman because he wouldn’t preach the new healing doctrine. Other ministers and members were intimidated into supporting the healing change and other doctrinal changes.
“And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:5). The sheep were scattered, so they must have been unified at one time. You can’t scatter something that is already scattered! This is an end-time prophecy! Do you know when this happened? It is all explained in Malachi’s Message.
These people of God were scattered because they had no shepherd. That means they did have a shepherd, then lost him—and the sheep were scattered. If they were scattered because they had no shepherd, then logic tells you they had a shepherd before they were scattered! God is talking about an event that occurred primarily in the end time—right now!
“And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd” (verse 23). This is how God will correct this problem. He will resurrect David and appoint him the leading shepherd of all Israel under Christ.
So if God corrects the problem by the shepherd David, then there must have been a shepherd similar to David over God’s sheep before they were scattered in the end time!
This prophecy is referring to an end-time shepherd—a man who led God’s people as a shepherd. His name was Herbert W. Armstrong. He was taken from the scene, and then God’s sheep were scattered! The leader who replaced Mr. Armstrong did not serve the wcg as a shepherd. He drove God’s people away from God—the opposite of what a godly shepherd would do!
“My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them” (verse 6). God says, “My flock was scattered”! Yes, this happened anciently to Israel, but it happened to God’s spiritual Israel, or Church, today—just before the Great Tribulation and the return of Christ. This is the primary meaning.
“Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock” (verses 7-8). God condemns the shepherds for failing to search for or feed His flock! These ministers allowed God’s people to become “prey” to Satan and his demons. Without an understanding of Bible prophecy, God’s flock will be scattered quickly by Satan!
“Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them” (verses 9-10). These shepherds are about to lose their jobs because they feed themselves, not the sheep. And they feed themselves because they don’t have a strong shepherd like Mr. Armstrong over them.
“For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country” (Ezekiel 34:11-13). God will gather His people from the countries where they were taken as slaves. The people of Israel are about to be driven out of their land! But after they experience that nightmare, God Himself will bring them back to their own land and personally see that they are fed.
This same prophecy is repeated over a hundred times in your Bible as happening at Christ’s return. “I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel” (verse 14). This is terrific news! No more fear of being attacked by enemies. Peace and abundance at last!
“I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment” (verses 15-16). God will seek the lost nations of Israel. He will also bring back those from spiritual Israel who were driven away but then repented.
“And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?” (verses 17-18). God asks some very hard questions of His ministers. Is it a small thing to have the “good pasture” and the “deep waters” and then turn from them? God is saying this is a monumental sin! It’s not a small thing. We ministers must take note!
Which people in this end time have had the “good pasture,” or good spiritual food, and then polluted it? If you have “good pasture” by God’s own standard, then you must be in God’s true Church. He gave His people “good pasture,” which the ministers polluted in this end time. This could only refer to the Laodiceans.
God also gave His people “deep waters”—a type of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2 talks about using the Holy Spirit to search out the deep things of God. This is God talking, and He says they have drunk of the deep waters—that is, deep waters by God’s standard! That means primarily the Holy Spirit, which is made available to God’s Church in the end time. But the ministers have poisoned the “deep waters.”
Satan wants to get us away from strong Bible study and deep spiritual understanding. Then he can use ministers to deceive us! The whole Laodicean Church has experienced this tragic ordeal.
God is not talking about worldly religions here. They have never had deep spiritual waters! Even when the ancient Israelites were led by God, they didn’t have God’s Holy Spirit! Spiritually, the nations of Israel have never had “deep waters.”
“And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet” (verse 19). They drink water that was “fouled” by the ministry! God puts the blame squarely on the ministers! So there must have been a time when the food and water were not polluted—until the ministers made it that way! That means there also had to be a time when the ministers fed the flock—and then turned away from God and polluted the spiritual bread!
“Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle” (verse 22). God’s people will no more be a prey! This end-time scattering of God’s people is the last time it will happen. How wonderfully majestic!
“And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd” (verse 23). This is all happening just before David is resurrected. The suffering is about over! Thank God.
“And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods” (verse 25). We are all about to have peace with God and peace among all mankind. What could be more noble and inspiring?
“And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them” (verses 26-27). When God brings His people Israel out of slavery, then everybody will know and follow Him! God’s millennial reign will then be a reality.
“And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more. Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God” (verses 28-31). What a God-inspired ending!