10This is what the Lord YHWH says: “Look! I am against the shepherds, so I will seek my sheep from their hand, and I will cut off the shepherds of the sheep, and they will no longer tend them, but I will save my sheep from their mouth, and they will no longer be food for them. 11For this is what the Lord YHWH says: “I, even I myself, will look for my sheep and I will tend them. 12As a shepherd tends his flock when he is among them after they have been scattered, so I will tend my sheep, and I will save them from all the places to which they have been scattered in a day of clouds and deep darkness. — Ezekiel 34:10-12
There are a number of ways in which you can look at a passage of scripture. First, and primary, is what it meant to the people who first heard it. In this case, this was addressed to Israel in the time of the exile. There is both a literal and a spiritual sense to it. Second, we can take the metaphor and look at it in a different time and place. For example, this verse would apply in principle, I believe, to a pastor or evangelist who called people to the Lord under his care and then abuses that position of power. God will judge that person, but he is going to go after his faithful sheep himself. There is a message of hope here for those who have been betrayed by human leaders. God is in control and he still cares for you.
But there is another possibility, which looks at the situation and sees some other reflections of God’s love and care in it. I want you to look at our passage in this way today. In fact, I hope that you will look at this passage in a very selfish way. Ask yourself, â€œHow does this passage show me that God loves me and cares for me?â€
In times of prayer or conversations with various people, one of the several most common questions is just what God has called a particular person to do. When we ask that question we make an assumption, and I think it is a good one. We assume that God has called each one of us. We have good, scriptural grounds for believing that.
Now look at our passage again. When the shepherds fail, the ones God has called, God moves in himself to take care of the sheep. Think about that. If God can take care of the sheep after he has removed the shepherds, he presumably could have taken care of the sheep before. In fact, I think we regularly confuse what God can do with what God does do. Since God is omnipotent, by definition he has all the options that there are. He’s not short on options.
He can do things better than any of us can as well. We are not omnipotent. Our power is very limited. So if God can do everything, and is better at doing everything, why doesn’t he?
Let me keep it simple. God doesn’t have to give us any role at all. He could make all the decisions and accomplish all the missions. He could make the world a perfect place with no problems at all. But God has chosen to let us have a part, to let us be creative people, made in his image. Sometimes we see God’s call as a burden. We think we are being pushed into doing terribly difficult things. But our call is a privilege. God is giving you and me the privilege of having some input into how the universe is run! That’s God’s image exercising God’s dominionâ€”the dominion he gave to us humans (Genesis 1:28).
When the going is tough, we often think how we’d like God to just step in and fix everything. But it’s interesting how much we complain if our own choices are restricted. The privilege of being called by God goes with the responsibility of choosing, of choosing to act like a steward of the dominion God has given you.
God could do it himself, but he likes you and me working with him. What a privilege!