Chapter 34:11-16 (ESV) - “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
Question to consider: What is this day of clouds and thick darkness in which the shepherd God would rescue His scattered sheep?
Yesterday, I wrote about how the ultimate shepherd for the people of Israel was God Himself as declared by Jacob, the patriarch of Israel, in Genesis 48:15. God appointed the priests and kings as human shepherds to guide and to tend His sheep (the people of Israel). Rather than fulfilling their role, they fed and clothed themselves on the sheep and let them be scattered among the nations. This was particularly true of the Pharisees who rose up in the 400 years of silence between God’s word to Malachi and Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. The Pharisees were not shepherds appointed by God in scripture like the priests and kings. They were self-appointed keepers of the Law which they attempted to do through traditions they declared were from God. They used these traditions to abuse the sheep to the point where many walked away from the faith or were put out of the assembly.
When Christ came, He declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd who came for these lost sheep of Israel and proved it by signs and wonders. He called the self-appointed Pharisees hired hands who cared nothing for the sheep and abandoned them when the wolf came, allowing them to be scattered (see John 10). In fact, He called out their traditions as having come from the devil rather than God.
For this, the Pharisees ignored Christ’s teachings, prophetic warnings, and miraculous signs, and they teamed up with the Sadducees and Herodians, the false shepherds, to put Him to death on a Roman cross by the hand of the Romans. This was the day of clouds and thick darkness on which God rescued His sheep. After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to His throne, He gathered the lost sheep from among the nations to Jerusalem to celebrate the Pentecost after the day of rescue. There His Holy Spirit descended on the disciples, and the church was born. The new church learned from the disciples in Jerusalem until the stoning of Stephen. Rather than being scattered in judgment, the church was scattered into the nations to be God’s heralds and harvesters of righteousness through the proliferation of the gospel.
This image of feeding on the mountains of Israel is that of the church where we all come to the mountain from which Christ reigns in the heavenly Jerusalem which is described by the writer of Hebrews, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering…” (Hebrews 12:22) The fat and the strong being destroyed in justice was fulfilled against the earthly temple and city in 70 AD.
Dear Lord, thank You for being the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep and protects us against the wolves who try to destroy us. Amen.