The Promise of God: I Will!
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
† In the Name of Jesus, our King †
May the comfort that comes from receiving the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as we wait for the joyful return of our King, Jesus the Messiah!
At Least 18 times…the work of a shepherd
One part of the Feast of Christ the King Sunday is the purest celebration, as we look forward to seeing God in all His glory, as we hear Him welcome us home.
Another part to consider, I think, is the relief, for the battle is over. Not the battle on the grand cosmic scale. That battle ended when the ladies found the tombstone rolled away. I was thinking the battles we face individually, the battles with life’s daily challenges, the people we interact with, who challenge us, and the inner battles we deal with, the anxiety, the pain, and yes, the sin.
Yet even as we celebrate Jesus as our King, as our Lord, we also celebrate His being the Shepherd King, the one who will guide us through every aspect of life, and frees us from the stuff that hinders us knowing God’s love and peace, the stuff that hinders us right now, right here.
We see that in the Old Testament reading today, as 18 times in English, and more in Hebrew we hear God making us a promise. He makes you and me, and everyone that hears His voice a single promise.
That promise is described in detail but it boils down to this. God promises, “I will!”
“I will be your shepherd”
So we are going to look at what that means, using the phrases said over and over…so that we would know His promise.
The first part of the shepherd’s work, described multiple times – is that God will search us out. Two words used here for searching.
The first describes the intensity and range of the search. To look for something with incredible diligence, without consideration of effort and range. To look in every place, under every stone, and under the stone under that. God searches for us far and wide, wherever we are, whatever trouble we’ve gotten ourselves into.
The second is more along the lines of a very thorough examination of our situation, to understand our brokenness in order to care for us. As we will hear about in our advent readings, the God who will care for us so tenderly that He will not break a damaged reed, but nourish it back to health, or a dying ember in a fire, that He will restore to a burning inferno. It says He will bandage us, those who are broken and strengthen us.
He will do this, He is doing it right now, as we dwell in His presence.
Bring them safely home
The next “I will” our Shepherd promises is to bring us safely home. For the Jewish people, the promise was to bring them back from where they were taken into exile, either by the Assyrians, or the Babylonians. For us, the captivity is no less severe, but we are more likely to willingly enter it. For sin not only tempts us, it drives and drags us away from God. It doesn’t matter the sin, whether murder, whether sexual sin, whether gossip or coveting what others have.
But Jesus will bring us home, as He searches us out, where ever we are, whatever mess we’ve gotten ourselves, He will rescue and provide for us, and cares for us.
Feed/provide pasture land
And on this journey, He cares for us, He doesn’t leave us alone.
Numerous times he talks of feeding us, of providing us safe pastures, providing us the nourishment we need. In verse 16, he defines that nourishment, what He feeds us is justice, righteousness,
And you could say because of Christ’s coming, we become what He feeds us, we are counted as righteous, that on judgment day, that is what the Father sees.
But that is what happens, as God nourishes us with His word, and with the word, the promise, that makes the Lord’s Supper more than just bread and wine.
He searches us out, rescues us, brings us home and nourishes us, with His word, His body and Blood!
I the Lord, will be their God!
Which brings us to the final I will, which is even more compelling, more incredible than Jesus being our shepherd, the one who searches and heals, rescues us and brings us home, nourishing us all the way.
verse 24 says it well, I, YHWH (the LORD will be their God, and Jesus will be the prince the ruler, the King of His People, for God HAS SPOKEN.
May we hear this clearly, for this Is the God who so dearly loves us. The God who made us His own.
May we rely and depend upon His work, to the day we are all found in His glory! AMEN!
Devotional Thought for our days:
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
Younger evangelical Craig Gilbert writes, “If we are to make disciples, then we are called to long-term care, feeding and education of the soul that we evangelize. To not integrate them into the body of Christ, the church, is to not fulfill the great commission. To fail to faithfully live the example in fellowship and study, prayer and worship, and thereby give the convert a tangible model to emulate, is to fail in our calling.” (Webber notes that this was from a private email conversation)
During the lifetime of Saint Francis of Assisi people experienced a deep yearning for a Church of the Spirit; they longed for a better, purer, more meaningful Christianity and anticipated that this new Church would bring about a change in the course of history as well. To many of those who suffered from the inadequacies of institutional Christianity, Saint Francis seemed to be a God-sent answer to their expectations, and, in fact, Christianity of the Spirit has seldom been so genuinely exemplified as it was in him.
Back in the day, the Irish Band U2 gave us a song that told us, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for”. According to many who forgot the angst they went through in the 80’s and 90’s, this could be the anthem for the millennial generation. (We all too soon forget the problems we had with the generation that went before us!)
The quote from Pope Benedict shows us another generation that went through this – some 800 years ago, during the time of St Francis of Assisi. One could say the same for Luther, or Wesley or Escriva, where they wanted a church that was more than a machine, more than a system, more than a programmed system.
They needed a church that would be there, that would provide a care that would last a lifetime, that would nourish them spiritually, that would continually remind them of the presence of God, just as Webber’s young friend notes we need today ( that was 15 years ago)
Those who complain about this generation being “snowflakes” forget their own tears, their own fragility, their own brokenness. They forget the need for Christ’s cleansing and healing of their lives, of the hope given by the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, of the true fellowship where we cried with those who cried and rejoiced with those who rejoice.
What St Paul tells the church is still true, we need to explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ. It is a love beyond comprehension, of love that we experience, a love that is without bounds.
A love that embraces millennials and baby-boomer, and even those lost folk in the middle, the GenX’ers like me. As it did the generations before us.
It is a reformation, like Luther’s, like that of St Francis, like even the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s, that will well up from desperate need.
The church has the option – to shepherd it, or to mock it. To provide the nurture and care we all truly need, or to ridicule those as weak, who simply are honest about it.
I pray we hear God’s voice and call on those who follow to imitate us, as we imitate Christ!
May we all learn, in our brokenness, to cry out,“Lord, have mercy!” As we cry it out, together, I pray we all here His answer… “I am with you always, even until the end of time.” Amen!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.