Ezekiel 34:11-12 “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on the day of clouds and gloom.”
Ezekiel was writing to people who already knew the sting of God’s discipline. Many of them were sitting in exile in Babylon because they had rebelled against God. The Assyrians had taken others away a hundred years earlier. Still others would run away to Egypt before God’s chastising work was done. The nation of Israel had become a scattered flock.
They weren’t scattered primarily because they were living all around the Middle East. Long before the Lord had done any of this, they had already become a scattered flock. They scattered away from the Lord to serve gods like Baal, Molech, and Ashtoreth. They scattered away as they served gods like money, sex, and the easy life.
And yet, God promised to rescue them, to gather them, to bring them home. “I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land” (vs.13). He didn’t just bring them back to the land of Israel. He brought them home to himself, brought them back in faith. When they came home, they were a humble, a thankful people. They rebuilt the temple and worshiped God again. They had not been gathered back together with just each other. They Lord rescued them for himself. He brought them back as his own children by faith.
Why? Why should the Lord want them? What did he find desire-able about these people? Nothing but his own love, his own grace, led him to rescue them and bring them home. That is the striking thing about our Good Shepherd’s care. He rescues his people for no good reason other than his own love.
Doesn’t that touch the heart? Doesn’t it fill us with thanks for such tender care? It’s no different with us. Why should he seek us? What is there about us that he should set his heart upon us, rescue us, make us his own, and bring us home to him in faith? The Prophet Isaiah’s words still apply to you and me, “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”
If we were fabulously wealthy and brought with us some rare treasure, it might be understandable that he seeks us. But we have nothing. All we have is on loan from him already. If we had at least been obedient children, we would merit his efforts to have us. But we are like an unclean thing–dead, decaying, leprous, untouchable. Even the best we can muster, our righteous acts, are sin-tainted: to God they are like rags–not even fit to keep for wiping up the dirt and grime, because these rags are thoroughly filthy already
Yet he seeks us. He does so passionately. He rescues us, and there is no price that he would not pay to do so. Jesus pictures God’s seeking you and me like the woman who turns her whole house upside down just to find the one precious gold coin which she had lost, and then how he rejoices and celebrates when he has found us. He also speaks of the shepherd who leaves the flock behind to find the one lost sheep, and when he finds it, he doesn’t drive it home scolding it all the way. No, he picks it up and gently carries it, and after all his efforts he is simply overjoyed to have it again.
All our lives, our Good Shepherd has been using his powers to arrange everything that happens just so that you could hear the gospel and come to faith, just so he could rescue you and make you his own. Before our lifetimes he threw his own body between us and the hell we deserved. He gave his life in place of ours to guarantee that our sins would not be our end. Jesus is our Lord. Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and his care is clearest for us to see in this: He rescues his people.