S (Scripture): Ezekiel 34:11 “‘For this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a cloudy, dark day. 13 I will bring them out from among the peoples and gather them from foreign countries; I will bring them to their own land. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams and all the inhabited places of the land. 14 In a good pasture I will feed them; the mountain heights of Israel will be their pasture. There they will lie down in a lush pasture, and they will feed on rich grass on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will feed my sheep and I myself will make them lie down, declares the sovereign Lord. 16 I will seek the lost and bring back the strays; I will bandage the injured and strengthen the sick, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them – with judgment!’ ”
O (Observation): Jerusalem has been overrun. This is actually happening for Ezekiel and the rest of God’s people who have been scattered now to surrounding countries.
God declares words of hope to the people of Israel, and judgment against the priests of these days. In this passage, God is challenging the priests who have ignored God’s people in this extremely difficult time. God calls them out for taking the spoils for themselves, and ignoring the spiritual needs of God’s people.
God says, “I’ll take it from here, thanks. You have done enough damage for now.” God promises to gather the scattered flock and bring hope to those who have very little hope. And for those prophets and priests who lived only for themselves, they will be harshly judged.
A (Application): As a pastor and a husband and a father, I realize that my heart is always in several places at once: at school or home or sports or music with my kids; with my wife as she cares for other people’s children or doing her Zumba or leading choir or sitting on the couch with me after the kids go to bed. Not to mention what might be going on in the lives of individual members of the congregation I serve, or for the congregation as a whole.
With the many blessings in my life, I can easily drift into that which is most comfortable for me, my wife, and my children. I can even do the same thing with the church I serve. I can choose to just be around for the good things, and ignore the difficult stuff.
This passage reminds me that I am to be dedicated, but that I also fail at times. I’m both the priest who serves diligently (as husband, father, and pastor), AND the selfish priest living for myself only.
This makes me (I hope) humble. This text makes me want to abide by Martin Luther’s explanations to the commandments: “We are to fear and love the Lord, so that…” The fear comes with a healthy dose of knowing my place in the world as a pastor / shepherd / servant of my family and congregation. The love comes from knowing that as I fail, God will care for my family and my congregation.
How does this work for you? When do you feel like your really doing what you’re supposed to be doing? When have you failed? Either way, we are the Lord’s…
P (Prayer): Lord, we are sinners, and yet you make us saints. Be with us in our struggles. Amen.