That They May Live in Safety

Ezekiel 34:25 “I will make a covenant of peace with them, and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety.”

Ezekiel was not describing a problem with actual wild animals. Chapter 34 of his book is an extended parable in which the Lord portrays his people as sheep, and their leaders as unfaithful shepherds. He promises to gather his scattered sheep himself. He promises to send them his servant David–that’s Jesus– to tend them properly. Now he pictures the results of his good shepherding for us.

For centuries the wild beasts who attacked his people had been false prophets of one sort or another. Their message destroyed faith and murdered souls. Many of them promoted a religion that tossed out some part of God’s law. Some served Baal, whose service not only ignored the sixth commandment. It even incorporated sexual perversions into their worship rites. Others offered Molech, for whom parents murdered their own children.

Even worse were the prophets who claimed to be speaking for the Lord. Most of them had chosen popularity and acceptance over truth. They would not confront the sins of God’s people. The preached a message that made the people feel good about themselves. “You haven’t done anything wrong. God is not angry about your behavior. You are his chosen people! You have no need to change. You have nothing to feel sorry about. Be at peace.”

The ironic thing about that kind of religion is that, for all its lawlessness, it is really a graceless religion. When people are told they are good enough just the way they are, the actually believe they can please God on their own. They don’t need grace. They don’t need forgiveness. They just need to make God happy. And since his law has been watered down, that isn’t hard to do.

The same wild beasts are at work today. Even inside Christian churches one finds “prophets” approving of sexual perversions, practicing them themselves, or proclaiming that it is acceptable to murder your own children before they are born. The worship of Baal and Molech continue in new clothes.

Others have chosen the path of popularity. They tell their people to feel good about themselves. “God will bless you if you just try a little harder. Here are a few secrets I have discovered to make it easier.” A part of us that wishes they were right. We envy their success. We may lack the courage to say they are wrong.

Yet what does the Lord promise his people through Ezekiel? “They may live in the desert and sleep in the forest in safety.” “They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid.” His sheep live in safety. He protects them. But how can he say that?

He has made a covenant of peace with them. When God sent his Son as the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. Jesus’ death on the cross took away the sins that cause our greatest safety concern: can I be safe with God? Since God forgives our sins, he is at peace with us. That’s his covenant. Though he is the only truly free being in all the universe, he has contractually bound himself to forgive us and give us peace. He feels no hostility toward us, and we are safe with him.

With the Lord, peace is so much more than the end of hostilities. It’s more than confidence he will not hurt us. When God is at peace with us, all of life begins to fall into place. That does not mean that everything becomes easy. It isn’t the end of all troubles. But by faith we cling to the certainty that the Lord is directing traffic and everything serves us now.

Perhaps the landscape has not been completely cleared of the wild beasts. But if we take these dangers seriously, he may even use them to bring us closer to him, like a frightened child who holds more tightly to mom or dad the closer the frightening thing comes. Godless governments can legislate, intimidate, even exterminate all the Christians they want. They have no jurisdiction over hearts and souls that belong to God’s spiritual kingdom. He protects his sheep. He protects and defends their faith until he brings them to complete safety in heaven.

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