This Christmas season, I find myself reading through Ezekiel. It's been going on for weeks now, but I am slowly picking my through. The bigger the book, the slower I seem to go! I've read through Ezekiel before, but each time is like the first time and every season in my life opens my eyes to see more than it did before.
This morning, I read Chapter 34 and became excited at the beautiful message therein, particularly in the light of the Christmas season. I highly encourage you to read the full chapter, but for now, I will highlight just a few verses:
The word of the Lord came to me; "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of their flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.' (Verse 1-4)
Continue to verse 11-16.
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.........I will pasture them.....I will tend them......I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak....I will shepherd the flock with justice." (emphasis mine)
What an amazing truth! God was so unhappy with the spiritual leaders of that day, that He essentially fired them and took over their jobs. Not only were they neglectful of their duties, but they were also wicked; harsh and brutal.
I understand shepherding was not a glorious career choice in Biblical times, but it certainly seems to be an important one. Without a good shepherd, the flock is destroyed. Sheep don't seem to be very self-reliant or independent; by all accounts, they seem rather needy and pathetic, and in desperate need of good leadership. I can appreciate the ungrateful and tireless job that shepherding would have been; by the time you've rescued one silly sheep, the next is already hanging off a cliff!
But God doesn't seem to mind silly and pathetic sheep/people; rather He has immense compassion and love for them. He is so concerned for their well-being, that He STEPS into the role of Shepherd; to do what could not or would not be done by anyone else. He takes personal responsibility for the role: notice how many times He states, "I will.....I will....I will...." What beautiful, life-changing promises!
I can't help but think of the shepherds the night that Jesus was born. Is that why He chose them? As a reminder to His people that He is still the Good Shepherd, and this baby, Jesus, would be the physical manifestation of the one who would 'pasture ....search for the lost....bring back the strays....bind up the injured....strengthen the weak.' Many years later, Jesus would go on to say in John 10:11: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
And ultimately, He would.
I'm left again in awe of the way Scripture weaves effortlessly between the Old Testament and New; revealing the beauty of God's plan, His timing, and ultimately, His Glory.