For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord . I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. “ ‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? – Ezekiel 34:11-19
What an amazing and intimate picture of God buried here in the book of Ezekiel. God is both Sovereign Lord and a personal Shepard searching and caring for lost sheep. I am continually amazed at the references to the good Shepard in verses not traditionally considered to be prophetic here in the old testament, truly reflections of Him.
God as Shepard promises to look after us sheep and rescue us “from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness”. God has our backs and will keep us safe from dangers. I am not sure what is meant here by the day of clouds and darkness. I suppose it could be a reference to one of the invasions of Jerusalem or Egypt described previously. Certainly these were dark days in the eyes of some of the people on the receiving end of the invasions. It could also be interpreted more broadly to mean all the dark places in our lives as well that God is prepared to rescue us from.
The end result is a gathering of God’s people back to the “mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land”. God is allowing what appears to be very dark and bad things to bring about something good, namely the return of His people to their own land. This is another glimpse into the sometimes confusing “spiritual cycle” which allows what appear to be bad things to happen to good people.
God is taking personal responsibility for leading and tending the people of Israel at this point in time, and in the future through Jesus, the good Shepard for all of us God-followers. God says “I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down..I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak”. The language here is so similar to the language of the Gospels when Jesus showed up in Galilee to heal the lame and find the lost. God is promising to lead us beside quiet waters and quench the thirst of our very souls.
The God being described here is not something intangible, but a living, loving, and involved parent of His children – a resting place for lost sheep. Our response to God’s sheparding is also crucial. Are we rams or goats? How do we treat each other and the blessings God provides? Are we taking advantage of our pasture to grow and thrive, or are we mucking it up for others?
As a modern-day God follower I take this to mean either diluting the gospel or polluting it with our own, culture, commotion and clumsiness. I am reminded of the epic failure of some Christian leaders and the damage they caused for other believers just trying to hear and obey the Shepard. Don’t get me wrong, we are all flawed followers when it comes to being God’s sheep. We just need to humbly and carefully partake of the living water God provides without mucking it up for others.
Prayer: God thank You for this amazing picture of your intimate love and care for us. Help me to be a sheep able to partake of your living water without mucking it up for others.