Friday, February 01, 2008

The Great Shepherd

Let me be the first to wish you a Happy Friday, as it is now officially Friday. After a near-perfect evening spent at Bucks how could I possibly be expected to go to bed on time? Exactly, I can’t.

As I was walking towards the best Starbucks ever, a longtime friend from GCC recognized me and ended up chilling with me inside for a little bit. He has been a missionary in Turkey for a few years and will be heading back in February. Earlier in the day I was reading in Acts and was reminded of the newly converted Apostle Paul 9:22, “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (NASB). Here is my friend and brother in the faith, faithfully preaching the gospel in a hostile land filled with turmoil. Yet he is doing the Lord’s work, and I was excited for him! In the few moments we had together I asked how I might pray for him. He wanted me to pray for their pastor’s wife who is ill. He also mentioned that their church is experiencing regular persecution – including a failed attempt to burn down the church building – thanks be to God! As he left, I was left thinking about the marvelous kingdom of God scattered throughout the nations, and how thankful I am to be part of it.

Eventually, I made my way to one of my regular tables and began journaling, thinking, reading and praying. Very shortly thereafter, I was joined by my good buddy, James. We sat and chatted for a little bit, and encouraged one another. Once he joined up with his girl, I was left to continue on where I left off.

I read through a few chapters in Ezekiel, and though I don’t have much time to spend on Ezekiel 33:11-17, I will say that it is abundantly rich in truth. A man who trusts in his righteous deeds when he sins will be found guilty. But a wicked man who turns from his sin toward righteousness will not have his sins remembered. Indeed, the gospel is proclaimed throughout the Scriptures!

What my mind was really wrapped around was Ezekiel 34:11-16,

“11 For thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 "As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. 13 "I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. 14 "I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 "I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest," declares the Lord GOD. 16 "I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy I will feed them with judgment” (NASB).

Up to this point in our text, the Lord is rebuking the shepherds of Israel who are not shepherding the people of God, but are letting them go astray. God’s harshness towards these failing shepherds plus His earnest desire to search and restore His people blew me away. God, Himself will search for His sheep and seek them out, even when scattered He will care for the sheep. He will deliver them from where they have been scattered! I think of my own life and how often I have strayed, even having the blessing of faithful pastors. Yet the Lord has never given up on me. He has always gathered me back to where I should be.

Verse 15 is of particular comfort to me: “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest.” As Christians we have been given ultimate rest in Christ: “For we who have believed enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:3a, NASB). We rest from our own works and rest in the work of a perfect Savior who has delivered us from the consequences and power of sin.

Last night at church I had the privilege of teaching our junior high class. My plan was to get through Romans 8, but we ended up going over vs 26-31 which was a challenge in and of itself. One of the things I emphasized was how marvelous it is that God chose any among the vast number of sinners to demonstrate His saving grace! He intervened in our lives and allowed us to enter His rest. We were working, but He caused us to trust in Jesus Christ to save us. My hope was to leave my class with a glimpse of God’s infinite mercy towards ungodly sinners.

Truly our God is a God of mercy.

The Lord spoke to me tonight through His living Word. It is incredible how the inspired Word of God is used by the Holy Spirit in our day and in our culture to encourage and build up the people of God. God continues to prove His wisdom to me.

Dba dba dba dba dba, that’s all folks!