Ezekiel 34:11 For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 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. 13 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. 14 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. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. 16 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...
Eze 34:20 Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, 22 I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.
Fat sheep and lean sheep? Ezekiel refers to sheep that have “pushed with flank and shoulder”. These are the sheep that, using their horns, “butted at all the weak animals” so that they scattered while the strong ate their fill. Some get fat because they have more than they need, while other starve and weaken because they never get access to nourishment.
Some call this the “survival of the fittest”....some survive, and some do not.
This image is especially relevant to me today - because the citizens of my country are voting in our 5th democratic election. I am acutely aware of our Apartheid history where ‘fat’ white sheep pushed ‘thin’ black sheep aside in the pursuit of power and wealth. And I am grateful to now live in a country where all the citizens of our nation now have an equal opportunity to vote for their political representatives.
That said - there are clearly still some who dominate others with impunity – because they have fattened themselves enough to push the weak aside. There are big, powerful political parties who use every trick in the book (dirty or otherwise) to silence the smaller voices. There are “fat” multinational corporations that crush those who cannot compete. And there are big individuals who trample all over smaller individuals in order to get ahead. In the process human beings starve, and shrivel, and generally struggle for life.
I am convinced that there are enough resources for all of us on this planet – if only the fat were prepared to share with the thin. Ezekiel reminds us that this will change: “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..”.
This one question remains: where do we stand? Are we part of the herd that pushes and shoves the weaker aside … or are we willing to stand up to the bullies of this world by supporting the injured and protecting the weak?
God’s spirit is in my heart;
He has called me and set me apart.
This is what I have to do
What I have to do:
He sent me to give the good news to the poor,
Tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more,
Tell blind people that they can see,
And set the downtrodden free,
And go tell ev’ryone
The news that the kingdom of God has come;
And go tell ev’ryone
The news that God’s kingdom has come.
Alan T Dale (1902-79)
Based on Luke 4:18 and Matthew 10:9, 10, 19, 20
Fourth Sunday of Easter
The Good Shepherd
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 160.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.