This week’s reading, from Ezekiel 34:11-24, pictures God as the one who goes to seek his people. It also pictures God’s people as sheep who have been suffering from neglect and abuse. Let’s look briefly at a few of the important details.
First, God’s work is clearly described as “rescue.” His people are in trouble. They are like scattered sheep. They lack all the benefits of living in community with one another and their shepherd. They don’t have defense. They aren’t able to identify the best food to eat. They go without the grooming needed to remain healthy. This is a bad situation. When God’s people are separated from God’s care, they endure dangerous conditions. They need to assemble together. They need to receive the food of God’s Word. They need the care of prayer, both together and individually. They need the Sacraments to strengthen their faith. In this passage, God promises to search for his sheep and to care for them.
Second, in verses 16 and following, God separates those who have been distressed from those who have been ruining the pasture and pushing the other sheep away. Some members of God’s flock have acted selfishly. They are nourished and protected, but they don’t allow others to receive God’s loving care. The Lord will not endure this. He will chastise those selfish members of the flock. He goes so far as to say that he will “destroy” them (v. 16). When God’s people despise and reject other members of His body it is sin against God’s character and desires. He is the one who cares for the flock. Far be it from us to reject God’s care for others and steal it for ourselves.
Finally, in his work of restoration, God promises to set up a true shepherd. He calls this individual “my servant David” (v. 23, ESV). Interestingly enough, Ezekiel, writing after the time of David, apparently looks to the prophecy that David’s kingdom would be eternal. The shepherd, David, will care for all God’s people. This activity does not appear to have an end. It lasts forever. In Jesus, God has raised up his servant, the David of the eternal throne, who will gather, nourish, and care for God’s people forever.
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