Sheep, Shepherd and God
Reading: Ezekiel 34:1-24
Additional reading: Matthew 25:31-46, Matthew 9:35-10:10
Today we have read a long text.
I have been reading this text a while because I sensed that God seemed to say something to me.
So I was trying to understand this.
And now I am letting you eavesdrop on what God seems to say to me.
It seems these words are a warning as well as a promise.
Let’s think about these words.
Before we do that, here is a a little bit of its historical background.
It was about 587 BC.
It was right after the Jewish temple was destroyed.
And the Southern Kingdom of Judah faced their end.
As you know, in the beginning of this nation, David and Solomon were also kings over this Southern kingdom.
And now that kingdom was gone after lasting about 400 years.
As you know King Solomon also built the temple in Jerusalem at the capital city of the nation.
But that was destroyed as well.
Then the prophet Ezekiel heard about this in Babylon.
Being a Jewish prophet in Babylon, he must have wondered about the reason of all these destruction.
Why did it happen?
So God explained a reason.
That is what we read today.
God was saying it was because his shepherds were not taking care of his sheep.
Who are these shepherds then?
They were kings, prophets, and priests.
God wanted them to help the poor in the land.
But they were not interested in taking care of them.
So in our text, God spoke against them.
God was like:
"I am against you the shepherds of Israel.
You were supposed to take care of God's flock.
But you only used my sheep for yourself.
You used their wool to make yourself comfortable.
You used their milk.
You kept the best for yourself to eat.
“But you did not take care of the flock.
You have ruled them harshly and brutally.
You have treated badly.
"So the sheep got scattered and separated.
It was God's sheep went away to different direction.
It was God's sheep wandered over the mountains and on high hill.
They went to different part of the earth.
They went to different gods.
Then the wild animals came and ate them and rob them.
“Why did it happen?
Because they had no shepherd who took care of these sheep.”
So God says to those shepherds:
“You are fired.
You were only taking care of yourself.
You were bad shepherds.
You misused and abused my sheep.
You don’t worry about my sheep.
You scatter my sheep.
“So I have come to rescue my sheep from you.
I have come to save them from you.”
Then God became the shepherd:
Then God searched for the lost.
Then God brought back the strays.
God looked after them.
God bound up the injured and strengthen the weak.
God rescued them from all the places where they were scattered.
God brings them out from the nations and gathers them from the countries.
Then God brings them into their own land.
There God fed them on growing grass.
(2) God fed them in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.
God guided to the ravines so that they could drink good water.
God guided them to settle down and lie down in a good land.
But then there were also injustice among the sheep.
So God brought justice:
That is, God judged between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.
Then God destroyed the fat, shiny and strong sheep.
This is why:
This is what those fat, shiny and strong sheep had done:
(2) When they drink water, they drink first.
Then they trampled and muddied the water with their feet.
Then the weak sheep drink from muddy and dirty water.
The fat sheep also pushed the weak sheep with their belly and shoulder, roughly and rudely.
They stroke the weak sheep with their head and horns.
So the weak sheep were all driven away.
So God came to protect God's lean sheep.
God came to protect their right to live in peace and prosperity.
God came to take care of them and save them.
Then God became their God.
God became their shepherd.
God fed them.
God created peace for them.
Then God placed over them one shepherd, the Messiah, the Christ who is the prince among them.
With the Christ, God made a covenant of peace with them.
Then God gets rid of fierce angry beasts (evil spirits) so that God’s sheep can live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety.
They will be secure in their land.
Like this God will bless God’s sheep:
God will send showers of blessing.
God will give them the land that produces many crops.
The land will yield its crops.
The trees will yield their fruits.
They will know that God is with them.
They will know that they are God's people.
The prophet Ezekiel spoke these words especially for Jewish people.
The prophet Ezekiel knew that God would be faithful to Israel, even though in the year of 587 BC, their temple was destroyed and their nation was gone.
But the prophet Ezekiel understood what God has promised to them.
God promised that God would be faithful to them.
God would not give up on them.
The same God will not give up on you!
In order to fulfill this prophecy, God sent the Son of God, Jesus.
That is why when Jesus came, Jesus looked after the lost sheep of Israel.
These sheep were lost like that, because there were no shepherds.
So Jesus focused on serving them.
Jesus took care of the sheep.
Jesus strengthened the weak.
Jesus bound up the injured.
Jesus healed the sick.
Jesus searched for the lost.
Jesus looked for them and brought back the strays.
But when Jesus served them, bad shepherds appeared and refused to welcome the good Shepherd.
These bad shepherds continually wanted to take advantage of the sheep.
So they didn't want Jesus to work among them telling the truth.
So they killed John the Baptist who came to make the way of the Lord Jesus straight.
And then they wanted to kill Jesus as well.
They refused to welcome him.
In this situation, some people may say something like this:
“Jesus, use your power to make bad shepherds to submit to your rule.
You have the power.
In this way, protect your sheep from these bad shepherds.”
But Jesus said something strange: John 10: 11
He was like:
“I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.”
Then some people were like:
That is not what we want.”
But Jesus was like:
“I have chosen to die in order to protect my sheep.
I am not going to use my power now in my first visit to earth.
I will give them another chance.
“So I will die for the bad shepherds and for bad sheep as well.
As the good shepherd, I will die for all.
I will die to protect them from their sins.
In this way, I will show how a good shepherd should live.
I will show them how a good shepherd loves his sheep more than his life.
Then I will see what will happen.”
Then in order to encourage people even more, Jesus also had a greater card in his hand, if you will.
Jesus had the Resurrection card in his hand.
So God raised him from the death so that all the people may have hope for eternal life.
God has also done this so that all those who follow Jesus may know that there is more than what they can see.
There is the unseen eternal world waiting for them.
Showing this glorious future, Jesus is asking his students to live boldly for him.
Jesus asks them to pray that the kingdom of God may happen on earth.
Then for this ministry, Jesus chooses his new shepherds.
Then he gives them the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then Jesus asks his new shepherds to be ready to die for God’s sheep as well.
That is what Jesus said to Peter, right? John 21: 15-19
After Jesus asked Peter to feed and take care of God’s sheep, three times, Jesus said that Peter would also died like him.
If you want to take care of God’s sheep, you may also sometimes die for them.
Jesus is still calling some people to be shepherds, pastors, elders and so on.
Jesus asks them to take care of God’s sheep whom Jesus saved through his death and resurrection.
This Jesus may ask his shepherds to lay down their life for God’s sheep.
Jesus may be saying:
"You have seen how I died for my sheep.
You have seen how I rose again and live forever for my sheep.
Now I am calling you to lose yourself in order to take care of my sheep.
Take care of the flock.
And meet me in the other side.
"Since they are my sheep, if you love them, you love me, too.
So talk with them.
Listen to them.
Seek to understand them.
Be their counselor.
Eat with them.
Pray with them.
Heal them in my name.
Strengthen the weak and sick in my name.
“Go out and search for the lost.
Call on them and go where they are.
And gather them and protect them.
Do not abandon even one.
Don't lose even one.
Take good care of them.
“Deal with them most gently.
Deal with them thoughtfully
Say things kindly to them.
Give them your best.
Provide what they need for their wellness.
Help them live in peace.
Then you will be my shepherd."
You may think that these words are only for ministers, elders and deacons.
But I think God is saying to everyone.
Because Christ Jesus is empowering everyone, we are all priests and ministers.
Because of Jesus, everyone is called. (The Priesthood of all Believers, 1 Peter 2:5)
Everyone is a minister in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, everyone is minister as God is empowering all of us to serve.
So we may say to each other:
"I am here to serve as God empowers me to do so.
I am here to listen and serve you.
That is the will of God for us.
God asks us to take good care of each other using our gifts and talents that God has given us."
May you serve each other in prayer and so on.
May all of us be healed and fed spiritually here and flourished here.
May God heal people here.
May the lost is found here.
May every person live equally here, enjoying what God provides.
May God’s blessing overflow with us.
Jesus, thank you for your kindness toward us.
Thank you for coming to help us and save us.
Help us to take good care of your people.
Help all of us in this.
In Jesus name, we pray.