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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, November 27, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Ezekiel 34:11–16, 20–24

For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. (NRSV)

The prophet Ezekiel does not mince words. Verses before our text, Ezekiel issues a proclamation against the “shepherds of Israel.” The shepherds, of course, serve as a metaphor for political leaders. On behalf of God, Ezekiel condemns the shepherds for taking care of themselves, fattening themselves while the sheep starve. The prophet rehearses a list of grievances against the leaders of Israel. He claims that God’s sheep (God’s people) have been scattered over the whole earth and not one of the shepherds searched for those that were lost. Ezekiel goes even further and claims, “God is against the shepherds.” Yikes. Then the prophet declares the good news: God will seek out God’s sheep. God will find, heal, and protect the lost sheep. God will nourish the sheep with justice. God is our shepherd; we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture. Good news, indeed. But Ezekiel leaves us with a warning: God will not only judge the shepherds, but judge sheep from sheep—namely those sheep who push their way to the front, but the weak animals, and left them behind.

The prophet Ezekiel is part of a long tradition of ancient prophets who sing the song of God’s justice and love. The prophet’s role is to call out God’s people when we fall short and to turn our attention back to the promises of God’s reign. Ezekiel is reminding us that if we care for ourselves alone while others are lost and starving, we miss the mark. Our call as God’s people is to tend to the poor and oppressed, seek the lost and the least. Shepherd or sheep, we all have been given a responsibility to enact God’s justice here and now.

O Lord, you are my shepherd. You seek me when I am lost, tend to me when I am hurt, nourish me with your love and justice. Grant me strength to care for all of your sheep, to speak for those who are voiceless, defend those who are oppressed, make peace for those who live in fear. For by these actions, I will see your reign among us. Amen.

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Worship and Adult Education Coordinator

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