Ezekiel 34:26-27 “I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers of blessings. The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in the land.”
Our Good Shepherd pours down showers of blessings on his people. Those are not neutral, passive terms. Water is a powerful thing. It can carve a canyon out of rock. It can uproot trees and flatten buildings. It can turn a turbine and light a city. But its most amazing power is its power to support life. That power is present even in a gentle shower of rain. In the desert, a little rain can make the landscape come alive.
“Blessing” is likewise a powerful term. The Bible has a number of different words we translate as “bless.” Sometimes it means simply, “Speak well about someone.” When we bless God, that is what we are doing–we are praising him. Sometimes it refers to a state of happiness. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” in the Sermon on the Mount, he is saying that they are happy.
But when God blesses, as here, he is using his power to give success, prosperity, longevity, even life itself. When God blesses, things change. The situation improves. His people benefit. When God blesses, he is at work on our behalf.
What is that power our Lord uses to shower us with blessings, showers that make life fruitful and feed his people so well? When Jesus was sitting at the well of Jacob, talking to the woman from Sychar, he told her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…. Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:10, 13-14). What is the life-giving water Jesus gave? Earlier in his book John says, “The Law came through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” God’s word of grace brings these blessings. It is the message that he loves us though our sins made us unlovely. He has saved us because we can’t save ourselves. It is the good news, the gospel, that is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. That gives life. That feeds faith. That makes things spiritually grow.
Then what happens? “The people will be secure in their land.” His sheep live in safety. Why? “The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops.” After World War I, much of Europe teetered on the brink of famine. In order to give people the illusion of having food, some bakeries substituted sawdust for flour in bread. The people felt full after eating, but they were still seriously undernourished.
Sometimes people eat the spiritual equivalent of sawdust. It gives them the illusion that they are spiritually fed. It may take the form of “God-talk” that is little more than sweet sentiments or speculation. It may be served as moral instruction, loads and loads of it. It doesn’t add strength; it just adds weight. Over time the burden becomes heavier, and heavier, and harder and harder to bear.
But where sins are regularly confessed and forgiven, where God’s grace in sending a Savior is sung and celebrated, where the cross and all it means is preached week in and week out, where Jesus himself regularly offers the forgiveness of sins in his supper, there God is pouring down his blessings. His sheep are being fed, and they are safe from spiritual famine.