Nov. 23: Restoring our guidance
SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
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The theme for this week of advent is “Restore us.” But whom do we really need to restore? Ezekiel 34 speaks from the tradition of those held captive in a foreign land. The Hebrew people had been forcibly brought to Babylon following the destruction of their holy city and temple at the hands of their captors.
The verses leading up to it condemn Israel’s leaders for failing to act appropriately as shepherds of their people. They did not care for the weak and they allowed the flock to be scattered. In light of the failings of Israel’s leaders, God makes a commitment to fill the vacant role of guidance and protection, as shepherd to the flock.
Many people today are disenchanted with their leaders. One does not need to be a misanthrope or believe in an approaching apocalypse to appreciate that there is a crisis of corruption, inequality, and environmental degradation in our world.
The hope that Ezekiel brings to us is that despite the failures of humankind, there is a shepherd to tend the flock. But there is a warning to accompany that hope. The shepherd brings care for the sick and the hungry, but brings condemnation on the fat and the strong. God sympathizes with those who have been excluded from the table of prosperity.
I cannot say that I as an individual or we as a civilization have lived up to the calling of Ezekiel 34. However, the inadequacy of those in power is not justification for apathy or pessimism. In times of moral vacancy, God calls us to personal accountability to our fellow sheep.
In the season of advent, ask God to help restore our guidance.
11 ” ‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 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 on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 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, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
20 ” ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.