Wednesday, August 17, 2016

“One of the most effective things you will ever do in life, whether you care to or not, is set an example.”

Scripture Text: (EZ 34:1-11)
The word of the Lord came to me:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel,
in these words prophesy to them to the shepherds:
Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who have been pasturing themselves!
Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?
You have fed off their milk, worn their wool,
and slaughtered the fatlings,
but the sheep you have not pastured.
You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick
nor bind up the injured.
You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost,
but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.
So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd,
and became food for all the wild beasts.
My sheep were scattered
and wandered over all the mountains and high hills;
my sheep were scattered over the whole earth,
with no one to look after them or to search for them.

Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
As I live, says the Lord GOD,
because my sheep have been given over to pillage,
and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast,
for lack of a shepherd;
because my shepherds did not look after my sheep,
but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep;
because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
Thus says the Lord GOD:
I swear I am coming against these shepherds.
I will claim my sheep from them
and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep
so that they may no longer pasture themselves.
I will save my sheep,
that they may no longer be food for their mouths.

For thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.

How do we use our power and authority in relation to others? Do we use them to care for and help others? Or do we use them only for our own benefit, even if that means treating others unjustly? Those questions come to the forefront in today’s reading from the Book of Ezekiel. The prophet announces a word of anger and judgment against the “shepherds of Israel” because instead of watching over and protecting the “sheep” that are entrusted to them, they use their position to exploit and ravage them. They should be looking for ways to strengthen and heal the sheep, but instead are “pasturing themselves,” a phrase that captures perfectly how perverted their leadership had become. Nothing expresses more dramatically the wickedness of these false shepherds than the prophet’s closing judgment that the sheep are being devoured by the very ones who should be looking after them.

What might Ezekiel’s words mean for us? The sheep is anyone who is poor, needy, exploited or victimized. The sheep is anyone who is lonely, confused, hopeless, loveless, or lost. The sheep is anyone who suffers and is in need. We are called to be shepherds because each of us has the responsibility to live on the lookout for all who are in need of help, healing, and hope. Like Jesus, the good shepherd, each day we must look for ways to bless, to build up, and to do good in any way we can.

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