Thankful To Belong

Matthew 25:31-46

“Therefore, this is what the Lord GOD says to them: See, I Myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Since you have pushed with flank and shoulder and butted all the weak ones with your horns until you scattered them all over, I will save My flock, and they will no longer be prey for you. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will appoint over them a single shepherd, My servant David, and he will shepherd them. He will tend them himself and will be their shepherd.”           Ezekiel 34:20-23 (HCSB)

I hope you will take time today or this weekend and read the passage from Matthew’s Gospel and remember that the Old Testament was the “Bible” that Jesus read. Then consider God’s words through Ezekiel and Jesus’ words together.

It may be hard for those of us who are not familiar with the life of a shepherd to understand the depth of love and care that God is expressing through these two passages. Sheep, by their very nature, were totally dependent upon a shepherd. It was a shepherd that would bring his flock to places of abundant food and safety that would allow them to rest and grow. It was a shepherd who protected the flock because sheep had no way to protect themselves or run away from a predator.

I am also dependent upon God for all that sustains me. When I follow my Shepherd, I find that place of peace in the middle of a cruel and unfair world. I grow and mature when I graze on the wisdom and “good food” provided by my LORD. I am not aware of how often Jesus steps in front of terrible difficulties in my life. How often does He lead me to go down a street and avoid a car crash or give me an opportunity to share a sandwich with a homeless person on the corner? I am often so oblivious or caught up in the “crisis of the moment” that I miss His opportunities.

I believe that one of the most important desires that I am born with is a need to “belong”. As a child, I want to belong to a family that will love me and be there for me no matter what. As a young person, I want to belong to a circle of friends that encourage me to do what is honorable and kind. And yet, these are not enough. There is still a “hole” that can only be filled when I accept that all that I can see and touch cannot meet this need. I am missing my Father who knew me since before He conceived me. I want a relationship with my Creator and it was my Shepherd, Jesus, who made that possible. On that night that I threw myself into His arms, I knew that I belonged. I felt safe and satisfied for the first time in my life. And when life is difficult and I look around like a lost sheep, I know to listen for the Shepherd’s voice and that is where I will find my way back to the fold where I belong.

Today before I take off on a path of my own design, I am going to listen and be. Stop and rest from the striving and trying. Sit at the feet of my Shepherd.  

He Leadeth Me by Joseph Gilmore (1862)

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