By Jamin Roller
In Israel, there is a narrow road several miles long that cuts through the mountains and runs from Jericho to Jerusalem. I’ve had the privilege of going to Israel a few times, and one of my favorite things to do is walk this road. Much of Israel is very different now compared to the time of the Old and New Testaments, but this particular area feels a bit frozen in time. It’s largely undisturbed and free of the noise of the city. The last time I was there, shepherds were leading grazing sheep along the side of the mountain. The sheep remained close to the shepherds, and the shepherds watched carefully to make sure the sheep stayed far from any danger. It looked like someone had staged a scene from the Bible just for us.
Ezekiel is not an easy one to read. God’s just response to sin fills every page, and while it is good and right, it can feel a bit daunting at times. These chapters we just read remind us of the shepherd nature of God’s heart. It tells us what kind of shepherd He is not. He is not like the leaders who took advantage of the people and neglected the needy (Ezekiel 34:3-4). That kind of cruelty draws out God’s justice towards the oppressors and care for His people, like a shepherd rescuing his sheep from a predator.
It tells us what kind of shepherd He is.
He pursues His sheep. “For this is what the Lord GOD says: See, I myself will search for my flock and look for them” (v.11).
He protects His sheep. “I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and total darkness” (v.12).
He brings peace to His sheep. “I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate dangerous creatures from the land, so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the forest” (v.25).
It would be true to say the book of Ezekiel describes the consequences of persistent sin. It would also be true to say the book of Ezekiel tells of the persistence of the shepherd heart of God. He loves the “human flock of [His] pasture” (v.31) and promises to pursue, protect, and bring peace to a remnant of His people.
We know the ultimate fulfillment of this came in Jesus Christ. He does not take advantage of people. He does not neglect the needy. The season of Lent reminds us that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep that He might pursue, protect, and bring peace to all who follow Him.