Go Ezekiel!

June 29th marks the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul and the appointed text from the Hebrew Scriptures is Ezekiel 34:11-16. I love Ezekiel! He makes you work hard, he gets you mad, and he doesn't give in or give up. He has a message to speak and by gosh and by golly, he's going to get the Word out!

Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. . . . I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
Do you know how amazing this is?! First of all sheep are flighty, particularly when they are scared (which is often). Second, they can see 270 degrees around without turning their head* so it is tricky to "sneak-up" on a sheep. Even if you think you are walking in their blind spot, their keen sense of smell will alert them to your presence (hmmm. . . to ponder, does God have an odor ). Moreover, when you approach a sheep, it's natural instinct is to walk away from you (logical enough).

So, let's see if we understand this correctly. God is not only going to gather all these sheep, but God's going to do this on a dark and dreary day. Then, once they are all together, God's going to make them lie down! Wow, I know people who can't do this with highly trainable dogs! And, what's more --- once God has gone to all this trouble, instead of being exhausted and cranky, God's going to take care of the sheep. They will get not just adequate care; no they are going to get the best pastureland available.

Uh-oh, and then there's that last part: "the fat and the strong I will destroy." On the one hand this could be a plug for Slim for Him and other trendy Christian diets; on the other hand, this could be Ezekiel at Ezekiel's best - the message remains strong: If you are fat and strong (compared to the other sheep) it is likely because you aren't playing by a fair set of rules. God's rule is about justice (and, mercy - again see what love the shepherd shows to the sheep) and, hmmmm, is Ezekiel suggesting our rule ought to be that way too? Just a thought.

1I wonder if Lewis Carroll noted the irony when he put these words in the mouth of the Sheep in Through The Looking-Glass: And What Alice Found There, "You may look in front of you, and on both sides, if you like . . . but you can't look all round you - unless you've got eyes at the back of your head." I suspect he did know this - he was a pretty smart cookie!