Lawrence Boadt has this to say about this section of Ezekiel….
Ezekiel’s actual words of hope to the people are not uttered until the city has fallen. When word reached Ezekiel in Babylon that all was lost (chapter 33) he immediately turned to the future to find God’s promise still alive. He foresaw a twofold plan of God. The first was to bring the exiles back from captivity and purify their sense of the covenant. For this reason, chapters 33-39 concentrate on conversion and change. There will be a new David to shepherd the people; God will abolish idols and abominations; old hearts will be removed so that new hearts and a new obedience can be given to the people, and God will drive all the arrogant pagans from the land and make his people secure in peace. Of all of these, the passage about the new heart in Ezekiel 36:22-32 is the most important. It takes up the work of Jeremiah and extends it to all areas of life. Where Jeremiah foresaw a new covenant written on the heart (Jer 31:31), Ezekiel adds that it will also result in total purity under the law, holiness, and even abundance in crops and flocks.
The chapters I found most striking today were 33 and 34, speaking to the shepherds and the sheep. These chapters raised certain questions for me: Are we shepherds warning the sheep appropriately? Are we feeding and caring for the sheep as the Lord would have us to do, or are we simply performing a job? As sheep, do we muddy the waters in the church, make a mess of things, cause problems, or are we helping the under-shepherds of the Lord, supporting them, following their lead, and trying to make their life easier?
Thankfully, the Messiah, the Son of David, is our perfect shepherd. Pastors/shepherds need to trust Jesus to be the perfect shepherd for them, in them, and through them. Parishioners/sheep need to trust Jesus to be their perfect shepherd, something that no mere human being can ever be for them.
When we fail as shepherds and when we fail as sheep, thankfully we have a recourse to our perfect Shepherd, the one who promises to give us a new heart and a new spirit. (See Ezekiel 36:24-28.)
Here is what C. S. Lewis has to say about the demand for perfection, in Mere Christianity….
On the one hand, God’s demand for perfection need not discourage you in the least in your present attempts to be good, or even in your present failures. Each time you fall He will pick you up again. And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection. On the other hand, you must realise from the outset that the goal towards which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realise that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point.
Thankfully, every time we do resist the Lord, the Holy Spirit will nudge us to confess and repent. The key, as Corrie ten Boom used to say, is: “Don’t wrestle, just nestle” in the Father’s arms.