For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them… I will shepherd the flock… – Ezekiel 34:11, 16
Not too many years ago we used to drop our grandchildren at a Sunday School class. Only one door to the Sunday School class would be left opened so that every child was properly accounted for. On top of that, we would have to register ourselves, leaving our identity card number with the shepherd or the teacher-in-charge. The data would be stored in a computer. We would then rush to attend the evening service at that same church.
Guardians were not allowed to take their child out after Sunday School without checking with the teacher-shepherd stationed at the only door to the Sunday School class. We would have to stand in the queue with other parents while waiting for our turn. Although we could see our grandchildren in the room, there was no way that our grandchildren could get through that door to us – – not until we had our identity cards scanned, and our grandchildren called by name to the door. Was this a cumbersome process? But not for us! For us, this was a caring church, a church that shepherded the flock under its care, fully accountable. No stranger could get his hands on the children in their care. The children were safe!
The apostle Peter encourages the shepherd to diligently and responsibly, care for his sheep. He says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing… eager to serve.” The language here is straightforward, easy to understand except that here in Singapore we have no sheep farms and no shepherds! So our appreciation of that relationship between the shepherd and sheep, well . . . lots of gaps possibly! Sheep flock together. They follow their shepherd. They are obedient – compliant if you will. Now these are rare qualities. They are not found in other animals. The general tendency for most other animals is that, they would have their own minds, a bit rebellious even! I often take morning walks with my wife. We often meet people taking their dogs for a walk in the cool of the morning. In some cases, it seems to us, that the dog is taking his owner for a walk, pulling away in a different direction.
Sheep and lambs may follow you, but they do go astray. Lambs that go astray may be preyed by wolves. That’s where the shepherd comes in. He needs to make sure that his sheep are gathered together and they do not go astray. Peter tells us that there is a reward for the conscientious shepherd: “4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” Note how quickly he shifts from the sheep metaphor to us, people (God’s sheep). “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”” – 1 Peter 5:5 NIV. The exhortation “you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders” is meaningful to me. It is important that new or young Christians look up to older Christians. Here, Peter establishes a two-way interaction. Inasmuch as your shepherd-pastor has a responsibility to care for you the sheep, it is clear we need to respond to our shepherds. Peter expresses it as,” you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.” Is this possible? Of course, if “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” I remember a fellow pastor–elder (shepherd) telling me that when we live closely to our sheep we smell like one. He is right. It needs humility to be a shepherd. You must be willing to leave the luxurious comforts of your homes to be among your sheep. This is the reason for God to ask his prophet Ezekiel to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.
Sheep are all important to God. Leaders are God’s under-shepherds. They are charged with the responsibility to care for the sheep. It is important that the sheep submit to their shepherds. In the Old Testament God portrays Himself as a Shepherd. This shows how much God cares for his sheep, Israel. The Bible also portrays Jesus as the Lamb of God that has come from heaven to redeem us. Jesus (our Shepherd) has to suffer the indignity of being exposed to the stench of sin among His sheep, Israel. The Word of the Lord came through Ezekiel showing God’s concern over His sheep, “6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.”– Ezekiel 34:6, NIV.
Applying this to our times, we are God’s sheep too, lost in sin. God sends Jesus to look for us. Those among us who are pastors and elders have to make sure that our sheep (our church members) are not scattered and left wandering over all the mountains. So, what happens when the leader or under–shepherds of Israel fail?
God lovingly steps in. For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.
I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered…
I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and
I will bring them into their own land.
I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel…
I will tend them in a good pasture,…
I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak,
I will shepherd the flock with justice. – Ezekiel 34:11.
You will find no less than ten “I will…” statements above. Note the emphasis and determination in verse 6, “I myself will search…” Not “I shall” but the emphatic future tense “I will…”
When God says, “I myself will…” it is even more emphatic.
It denotes that it is a personal matter with God. It is all-important to God. Now we find another string of I will… that God has promised. You see our Shepherd is faithful. God loves His sheep. God will search, rescue, bring them into their own land where they belong, pasture them, tend them and shepherd them. So the list of God’s good shepherding continues:
I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered.
I will judge between one sheep and another.
I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.
I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them…
I will make a covenant of peace with them…
I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing.
I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. – Ezekiel 34:22 – 26 NIV.
In verse 16 God says, “I will shepherd the flock.” Not only that, in verse 23 God promises to place over them one shepherd the son of David on the throne. God will send them a Good Shepherd. Shepherds are pivotal to God’s plan. With this as background why don’t you read John 10? It’s a great exposition by Jesus himself concerning the Good Shepherd. That’s our topic for our next exhortation too.
Meanwhile, “28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. – Acts 20:28 – 31 NIV.