Thursday, December 18, 2014

“I will rescue them”

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.

Ezekiel was a Jewish prophet who was carried off into exile by the Babylonians and settled in Tel Abib , probably not far from the city of Nippur. He addressed the recurring question of the Jewish people: did Yahweh’s authority extend beyond the borders of Palestine and over the official Babylonian god Marduk?  

‘Indeed so’ says Ezekiel. Yahweh will gather the scattered sheep “from all the places to which they have been scattered”.  Their God is like a protective shepherd who will seek out those who were lost or injured by their exile and bring them back to their home pasture.

This was a difficult thing to say - because there was nothing on which to base these words. Many were losing their faith in Yahweh: some lost their faith as they struggled with desperate poverty in their ancestral homeland, while others lost their faith as they discovered prosperity and security in their exilic environment.[1] But Ezekiel chose to express his faith in a God who overarched the nations. And in this he has become an example to successive generations of people of faith, as we claim the presence of God – even when circumstances tempt us to lose hope.   

This then is the joy of Christmas: no matter how tough the difficulties we face this Christmas, the Good Shepherd will seek the lost... bring back the strayed... bind up the injured, and  strengthen the weak (Isaiah 34:16).    

For Thought
Shepherd of my soul, I give you full control
Wherever you may lead, I will follow
I have made a choice to listen to your voice
wherever you may lead I will go

Be it in a quite pasture or by a gentle stream
The shepherd of my soul is by my side
Should I face a mighty mountain or a valley dark and deep
Shepherd of my soul will be my guide

Fourth Sunday in Advent
4.  God is with us
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 32.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

[1] In fact the displaced people flourished so much that many refused to return to their homeland when given the opportunity.

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