Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 34-36, Psalm 23
“You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people and I am your God. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken” (Ez. 34:31).
I find great comfort in the imagery that God is my shepherd, caring for me and watching over me each day. God uses the comparison of the sheep and their Shepherd over and over again in the Bible and Jesus used the same description more than once. Of course, we could be a little insulted by being called sheep because of their lack of intelligence, yet we find ourselves agreeing with the fact that alone we are lost and unprotected and most definitely in need of a Shepherd.
In Ezekiel, the Lord expressed anger with the leaders of Israel who were supposed to be “shepherding” the flock. “You abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve” (Ez.34:8).
Jesus expressed this same frustration with the leaders of Israel during His time on earth: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep” (John 10:11-15).
This is what the Good Shepherd has to say about how He will care for his sheep after their time of exile in Babylon: “I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ez.34:11-16).
Oh, how our Heavenly Father loves all of His sheep! He takes care of His flock, individually caring for each and every lamb. He doesn’t give up on the lost but actively draws them to Himself and heals them from their time away from the flock. This is what Jesus had to say about our Good Shepherd:
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way, your Father in heaven in not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matt. 18:12-14).
What?!! He cares more about the one who has wandered off into sin than for the one who has remained with the flock. We should be hurt by that, shouldn’t we? Oh, the sin of self-righteousness that trips us up over and over again. The prophet Isaiah clears this one right up for us: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Let’s join the psalmist David in this prayer, recognizing that God is OUR Shepherd:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.
Even though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
For you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Ps.23).
As we talk about how the Lord is our shepherd, I can’t help but think of how the shepherds were invited to the birth of Jesus. They could relate to the Good Shepherd coming to care for His flock.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. – Luke 2:8-20
We have so many reasons to praise and worship our Heavenly Father today. Let us go into the house of the Lord with thankful hearts for our Good Shepherd, recognizing that we were once lost and now we are found!