THE SHEPHERD KING EVERYONE CAN TRUST
Dear friends in Christ,
Rich Weinstein knew he needed health insurance. He had a plan but it was cancelled because it did not meet the standards required by the Affordable Care Act. When he applied for insurance on the government run exchange, he found that his premiums had doubled. The Affordable Care Act wasn’t affordable to Rich Weinstein. He decided to start to investigate. That’s when he found videos of Dr. Jonathon Gruber, professor at MIT and member of the architectural team that put ObamaCare together. Dr. Gruber was recorded saying some awful things like the law was purposely written torturously so people would have a hard time understanding it. He said the American people were stupid (his word) and would vote for it anyway. Dr. Gruber even said that the law was written so it wouldn’t be transparent. The present administration said they would be transparent to get elected. All this disgusts me.
If you are visiting today, you might be saying that this pastor is political and he must be a Republican. I admit I am conservative. My point is that our leaders who have been sworn into office on a Bible, promised to serve the American people. If you are going to use a Bible then you are supposed to be telling the truth. Will God bless leaders and any nation when those leaders lie? I would hope that all people would feel the same way about wanting truth.
No, this is not a sermon on politics, but let’s face the facts: the more history changes the more it stays the same. God warned his Old Testament people about lying religious and secular leaders. Dishonest and self-serving political and spiritual leaders led Israel down the wrong path. Today we are called to thank God we don’t depend on them but upon “The Shepherd-King Everyone Can Trust” who rules over them. Our Shepherd-King 1) Gathers; 2) Feeds; 3) Restores his people.
During Ezekiel’s lifetime God’s people, the nation of Judah, were suffering. They were exiled to Babylon. Chapter 34 of Ezekiel is a very important chapter. The first ten verses explain why. They had bad pastors. They were called shepherds. They led Judah away from the Lord.
That warning of bad pastors is a common theme in the Old Testament. Isaiah lived 170 years prior to Ezekiel. Isaiah warned about lousy shepherds then. He called them watchmen. “Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge.” They didn’t know their Scripture. They don’t value the Scripture. They didn’t see how following the Scripture leads to blessing and ignoring them leads to trouble. “They are all mute dogs, they cannot bark.” Pastors are to be watchdogs to warn of spiritual dangers of Satan’s temptations, temptations of the sinful flesh, pride and arrogance. The shepherds were silent! “They lie around and dream, they love to sleep.” One word describes them – lazy. Laziness makes them uncaring. “They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, they seek their own gain.” Come,” each one cries, “let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better.” Instead of warning against getting too wrapped up in the world, the world and its pleasures wrapped them up.
Sinful humanity needs God-loving, God-fearing, God-living shepherds. In Ezekiel’s day they were far and few between.
What teachers teach their students live. That’s why Judah was affected. Times are no different. Pray for God-fearing, God-living and God-living shepherds. The stakes are too high. What are the stakes? The eternal destiny of the immortal soul!
But good shepherds need to be connected with the Good Shepherd. Finally, it is the Good Shepherd who makes the difference. He must take matters in his own hands. He promised that through Ezekiel. “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 a day of clouds and darkness.”
Many times Biblical prophecy had an immediate fulfillment but also a fulfillment over the bigger picture of the history of mankind. This is a classic example. The people of Judah, God’s people were lost in captivity. They needed help. They received help from the Lord himself. As their shepherd he sought them out and brought them back from captivity as a shepherd gathers his sheep.
How? God raised up the Persian Empire who conquered Babylon. Cyrus, the Persian leader would free Judah and let them return. In fact, it was predicted nearly 170 years before it happened by Isaiah. The scattered flock was gathered to return so their land. One day the real Good Shepherd, Jesus, would walk that land and show the world he is the ultimate Good Shepherd and lay down his life for the sheep.
In verses 23 and 24 Ezekiel writes but God speaks, “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.” That’s Jesus – shepherd and prince all in one.
He is THE Good Shepherd for all of history and for all of humanity. Jesus wasn’t shy about saying so. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” He lays down his life for the sheep; he knows the sheep; he gathers his sheep from the nations just as he gathered them from Babylon.
Our Good Shepherd gathers people from the four corners of the world. It is not a lottery. You don’t pick a number. He picked you. He knows you. He knows your name. His relationship is personal. “Fear not,” says the Good Shepherd through Isaiah, “I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” No one gets lost in the crowd or gets to hide in the crowd. In my ministry I had fourteen vicars to train as one year in their Seminary training. There was a list of little things I told each vicar they needed to do. “Remember people’s names.” I wish I could find that list of all the other things I had, but I can’t remember where I put it.
The Good Shepherd gathers us from the dark places. Yes, from the dark places – from our sins that are committed far too often, but he forgives us; from the doctor’s office or the hospital bed when we were fearful and anxious but he says he is with us; from the hurts we put on other people who find it hard to forgive us and from other mistakes we do, our Good Shepherd promises that he will make them turn out for good. That’s the Shepherd-king who gathers and keeps his flock.
He feeds his flock. Ezekiel says, “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 have a book that was written by an Australian shepherd. He explains the 23rd psalm from the eyes of a shepherd. He said that when sheep are grazing sheep require 1) to be free from fear; 2) to be free from friction that might develop with other sheep. They need peace. A shepherd needed to provide that peace.
He gives us spiritual food to feast on. To the woman at the well in Sychar, Jesus said about himself, “But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He said to those who witnessed the miracle of the feeding of the thousands that he had better food that would grant eternal health. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
The body needs a gallon of water a day to operate efficiently. Water helps break up and soften food. The blood, which is 90 percent water, carries nutrients to the cells. As a cooling agent, water regulates our temperature through perspiration. And without its lubricating properties, our joints and muscles would grind and creak like rusty old machinery. Just think where we would be without Jesus, the Living Water and the Bread of life. He is what we need to live forever just like we need food day to day.
The Good Shepherd also restores us. “I will search for 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 the flock with justice.” A major concern for a shepherd was to keep his flock safe. The Australian shepherd said that there are so many parallels between sheep and humans. He said that sheep like to try everything. You know how kids put everything in their mouths or want to experience things often without caution. Our shepherd gives us words of caution in the Bible. Not everything we are confronted with is something we should try.
Wolves, bears, cougars and coyotes love rack of lamb to eat. Often they prey on a flock from above and pounce at the chance to attack to cause the sheep to stampede. Sheep are clumsy and one or two are bound to fall and become easy prey.
In far too many churches there are too many who want to discredit our most dangerous enemy, Satan. Many write him off or doubt his existence. Yet many lives have been ruined because he pounced and attacked with his clever and sly temptations and taunts. God’s sheep get marred very badly because Satan’s claws do great damage.
Sheep can also be victims of their own foolish ways. They love to wander. There fleece can become full of fleas and ticks, mud and burrs, even their own manure. But the Shepherd binds up and restores. God’s sheep have the same problems with the Predator of predators. God’s sheep have trouble with their sinful self. God binds up and restores.
How? With the Word and Sacrament! I pity those sheep whose shepherds don’t talk much about the cleansing we receive in Baptism. I pity the sheep that don’t hear about how our sins are washed away now and forever through the washing with water in the Word. The Holy Spirit is at work and connects us with the Good Shepherd.
I also pity the sheep whose shepherd says the Lord’s Supper is only a meal to show what you are when it really individualizes forgiveness as we receive individually the body and blood that paid the penalty of our sins. So you want to know you are forgiven? This is the proof, “the body given for you, the blood shed for you.” Yes, we can walk away knowing we are restored and in communion with him.
Then there are the precious promises of the words of Jesus, the Good Shepherd and King. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that they world might be saved though him.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
The Word and the sacrament all comes from the Shepherd King that Everyone Can and Needs to Trust.