I came across this passage in the book of Ezekial this past week and have to admit wasn’t sure what I should do with it at first… but knew that it bothered me and was probably something we (the Church) need to pay attention to. We, of course, have to get over having people get put into the category of being sheep. But this is a comparison that we see in different places in God’s word. It does seem to have some important comparisons for us. Another important comparison in this passage that needs to be dealt with is that of the shepherd. Ezekial is addressing the leaders of Israel… and allow me in that category to address those of us in the Church assuming the role of shepherd – leaders (and yes I will include myself).
God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherd-leaders of Israel. Yes, prophesy! Tell those shepherds, ‘God, the Master, says: Doom to you shepherds of Israel, feeding your own mouths! Aren’t shepherds supposed to feed sheep? You drink the milk, you make clothes from the wool, you roast the lambs, but you don’t feed the sheep. You don’t build up the weak ones, don’t heal the sick, don’t doctor the injured, don’t go after the strays, don’t look for the lost. You bully and badger them. And now they’re scattered every which way because there was no shepherd—scattered and easy pickings for wolves and coyotes. Scattered—my sheep!—exposed and vulnerable across mountains and hills. My sheep scattered all over the world, and no one out looking for them! Ezekial 34: 1 – 6
In my last post I put before you that picture of that river that has moved… which I put there as a reminder that the church has to realize that culturally things have changed and we are called to be culturally relevant. The question is how are we doing with that? As things have changed the church has struggled to grow, and in fact the church for a while now has been in a downward trend in America. Much of the response to that, however, has felt too much like protecting what we have… stopping the movement out and not having our main moves coming from our gospel initiative. That gospel initiative is other centered. Which if we look at our passage today is those sheep on the margins, or the vulnerable (those straying or lost sheep).
It seems as if for both the Israelite shepherd-leaders and those of today this passage is a call back to get to the work that it has always been. Take care of those sheep!! Having eyes for the marginalized. Bringing healing and hope in the process of that!! Bridge the gap to address the river that has moved!! Looking outward as the gospel calls us to do (Go!!).
Then we read in this passage what happens when that situation of the shepherd-leaders is corrected or when that thing with the bridge is corrected.
“‘They’ll know, beyond doubting, that I, God, am their God, that I’m with them and that they, the people Israel, are my people. Decree of God, the Master:
You are my dear flock,
the flock of my pasture, my human flock,
And I am your God.
Decree of God, the Master.’” Ezekial 34: 30 – 31