Ezekiel 34: 13b-16 “I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search of the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd my flock with justice.”
God certainly gives his people daily bread. This was not his primary concern here. The leaders of Israel, the priests and kings who served as shepherds, had failed to feed them spiritually. That is why the people had strayed away to other gods. The pastures and grazing land on which the Lord intended to feed his people were the pastures of his word.
What a fitting picture for God’s word it is! God’s word, especially his message of love and forgiveness, is like food. Eat too little, or don’t eat a balanced diet, and faith may become weak and sick. Stop eating God’s word altogether, and faith will inevitably starve to death. We can no more stop hearing God’s word once we have learned it than we can stop eating once we have had a meal.
Why stop eating when our King has provided such a tasty feast! “Rich pastures and good grazing land” is what he promises. Beautiful expressions of love and concern are what we find when we actually open his word and taste it. We might even call the Bible an extended love letter. It is written strait from God’s heart to yours. It is filled with passionate promises and personal appeals to feed your faith and make it grow. Our Good Shepherd provides for his people by feeding them.
After feeding us, he gives us a place where we can lie down and rest. “I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Lord.” Israel never enjoyed great security on earth again when they returned from exile. It wasn’t long before Alexander the Great overran their country. Then the Romans came. By 70 AD Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jews were again scattered around the world.
But the Lord never wants us to find our security in this world. If we did, that would teach us rest our hearts here. That would teach us to forget about our true home and true security in heaven. For now, he gives us a place where we can lie down and rest our weary spirits, our aching consciences. It is the same place he feeds us–the promises of his word.
All of this contributes to his program to restore our spiritual health. “I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…” Life often deals a blow to the faith of God’s people. Some pet sin gets the better of us. We feel as though God failed in his promise not to let us be tempted beyond what we are able to bear. Or we doubt whether the Lord would ever want us back again. We feel unworthy even to ask for forgiveness.
We are exposed to the infighting, the meanness, the petty grudges or quarrels between people working inside the Kingdom of God, those trying to build his Church. We wonder how God could possibly let such things go on.
The Lord promises to supply all we need, yet at times we have to do without something that, no matter how we look at it, seems to be something that we genuinely needed. In these and many other ways our spirits can be wounded, our faith weakened. We need someone to come and stop the bleeding, bandage the wounds, and nurse us back to spiritual health.
The Lord does. His forgiveness eases and finally erases the pain of our sins. His overwhelming faithfulness to his promises gives us patience when we can’t understand what he is doing at the moment. He brings us medicine for the soul in his book of love and faithfulness and the words of Good News it proclaims. He restores our spiritual health. It is how our Good Shepherd tends his flock and makes them spiritually strong.