“You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people, and I am your God. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” (Ezekiel 34:31)
In the prophet Ezekiel’s day, the nation of Israel was in a bad spot. As a result of years of spiritual and cultural compromise, God had allowed judgment to fall on His people. Jerusalem, the Holy City that had served as a source of pride for the Jewish people, had fallen to the Babylonian conquerors. The best and the brightest of Israel had been carried away from their homeland to be resettled in Babylon.
God spoke through the prophet, Ezekiel, specifically to the religious leaders of Israel. Using the illustration of shepherds caring for their flocks, the prophet condemned those leaders as bad shepherds. Instead of caring for those they had been called to lead, they were instead taking advantage of those under their care. “You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd and no one has gone to search for them.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Again, through the voice of the prophet, God says, “I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak.” That promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus said that He came to give abundant life to His sheep; to bring Good News to the poor, to set the captive free, open the eyes of the blind, lift up the oppressed and proclaim that the time of the Lord’s favor had come. Now that’s Good News!