Old Testament Summary Lesson 43: “The Shepherds of Israel”
- Flock with Bells: One day on the Mount of Beatitiudes, we were surrounded by a flock of sheep. There were about a dozen older sheep, the “lead sheep” and they were fastened with bells. After about ten minutes of the flock spreading out and milling around us, I noticed that almost everyone had tears in their eyes. We were in the midst of experiencing a Biblical metaphor. The shepherd began speaking. The older lead sheep immediately responded by running toward the shepherd, their bells ringing, an alert to the rest of the flock because a moment later, they began to file behind the lead sheep who were following the shepherd.
- Signals of Readiness: In ancient times, when the Temple was functioning, the High Priest would signal his readiness for another sacrifice by burning the fire and throwing incense in it. (This would offset the odor of parts of the animal that needed to be consumed by the fire.) The plume of smoke would signal the twelve lead priests to ready themselves. When they were ready, they rang bells that alerted the multitude to gather close to participate in the sacrifice. The imagery is obvious, the shepherd, the lead sheep and the flock.
- Ezekiel’s “Double” Vision: Latter-day Saints usually start at verse fifteen of Ezekiel 37, a reference to the “two sticks.” However, an even greater meaning comes by combining the account of “dry bones” (verses 1-14) with the “sticks.” Three elements are identified in Ezekiel’s first vision in this chapter, bones, flesh/skin and the breath. The bones are brought back together, they are covered with flesh and skin and then the breath of life brings them alive. The imagery is likened to the gathering of Israel, recognizing “I AM” who opens graves and then it leads into the “two sticks” vision. The second vision is a double emphasis of the first.
- Like the Body, True Religion is Resurrected: The Hebrew word for breath, wind and spirit are the same (Ruach). The Hebrew word for sticks or wood is “ETZ.” The word for bones, “ETZEMOT” could be considered the plural of “ETZ,” or in other words, the sticks of the body. It is likely that Ezekiel wants you to consider the ancient body of true religion as having died, leaving a skeleton – the stick of Judah. The old covenant was true and yet it died. In latter-days the skeleton is clothed with a new body, the Book of Mormon, and breath (the Spirit of the Lord) is given so that the true religion is resurrected. As the body becomes alive again, never to die, the old covenant is restored anew, never to die again, “The New and Everlasting Covenant!”