She lost her sheep,
And couldn’t tell where to find them.
“Let them alone
And they’ll come home,
Wagging their tails behind them.”
Whenever I think of shepherds, I have two images come to mind. The first is the young, petite, woman in a hoop skirt and bonnet personified by Miss Bo Peep. With her whimsy and girlish charm, she probably loved her flock, but did not tend them well. The other image that comes to mind is David; a man willing to risk his life for his flock. Wild and ruddy, he would gladly lay his life down for his job.
A few years ago, I spent a lot of time pouring over Old Testament prophets. Ezekiel was called to hold different leaders of Israel accountable for their negligence or abuse. Ezekiel 34 brought to mind the images of the shepherds I have as God chastises the shepherds of Israel.
4 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.5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
When I first read this chapter, I was wondering why God would care to address the misconduct of such a lowly position in this culture. Shepherds were dirty, lonely, nomads who dedicated their lives to animals that aren’t too bright. But when I step back to look at Israel’s history, I see an establishment of their identity as lost sheep. They were exiled and enslaved and scattered throughout the world. The prophets spoke of a Messiah, a savior who would gather the dispersed flock, and lead them like a gentle shepherd gathers sheep. The Lord promises to be a good and perfect shepherd for His beloved people.
11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.12 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.13 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. 14 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. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 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.
God watches all the ins and outs of His people. He not only cares about the “big” happenings, but he cares about the lowly shepherds and the stupid sheep. He weeps over their mistreatment and scolds the shepherds for their lack of attention. I LOVE reflecting on His tender care, His steadfast attention, His unwavering pursuit.
Can you hear how He is swooping in and coming low to his beloved?
Can you hear how the care will be entrusted to Him and He cannot fail?
It’s the take-charge attitude of the Almighty that is comforting and booms like thunder to set us free. Our God is a God of action (look at the verbs): search, rescue, bring, tend, bind, strengthen, shepherd.
He is moving on our behalf, He works for those He loves.
31 You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Good news for sheep: He will never leave you. He will bind up your wounds, He will provide for you. He will rescue you. He is the Good Shepherd and I’m praying that you will RUN into His arms so that He will can lead you to good pastures. Rest easy friends, your real shepherd will never fail.