Two mistakes are made when reading Old Testament passages.
The first is thinking all death or judgment in the Bible refers to spiritual death or spiritual separation from God. Often judgment is temporal. God has
“no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”
Sin will cause premature death; of an individual or a nation. The man who becomes and alcoholic, Christian or not, may eventually suffer and die before his time. Nations that lose their moorings will break apart. When death is spoken of, often it is temporal death being described.
The second mistake is that the warning to the “shepherds” in chapter 34 is to be applied to pastors today. The text states clearly that this prophecy is directed to the “shepherds of Israel.” Israel is not the Church and the Church is not Israel.
Rather, a warning/instruction for Christian pastors is found in 1 Peter 5:2-4 (among others):
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
Ezekiel 34 describes the false shepherds of Israel, and the faithful shepherd. Jesus is the faithful Shepherd (John 10:11),
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
The Old Testament is about God’s chosen people, Israel. There are many passages which generally speaking, may apply to all people, but ultimately God is dealing with Israel and His covenant with them. When we read Scripture in that light, it begins to make more sense.