Ezekiel 34:11-22: Revoked Responsibility

The Christian is not just the man who is saved by Christ;
he is the man whom God uses for the salvation of others by Christ.
— Jacques Ellul (The Judgment of Jonah)

Delegating responsibility is a powerful thing. Delegating is a way to accomplish something that you’re not too good at.  More importantly, delegating tasks to people gives them confidence in their own abilities. When delegation (not just dumping) is done properly, there is a reciprocal trust relationship enhanced between the delegator and the delegatee. Yes, I just made those words up. You get the picture.

Delegating is difficult. There is no worse feeling than watching someone struggle and spend hours doing something that you could do so much better in half the time. This is where we find God.

It’s obvious that God doesn’t delegate responsibilities in order to ease his work-load, or to let someone better take the reins. God delegates responsibility to his creation in order to help us to grow. As we accomplish his work, the trust relationship grows between us.

In the first verses of chapter 34, we have a picture of human shepherds who have completely abdicated their responsibilities to the flock. They had the task of shepherding God’s people delegated to them and they blew it.  In verse 11, God steps in. Like a leader reclaiming a formerly delegated task from an inept worker, Yahweh arrived with these words: “I myself will search for my sheep” (NRSV).

. . .

God was fed up with how the earthly shepherds were exploiting his flock. Last week’s entry listed the ways they were abusing the sheep. Here God reverses that list in order to show how he will care for them (v. 16, NRSV):

  • “I will seek the lost”
  • “I will bring back the strayed”
  • “I will bind up the injured”
  • “I will strengthen the weak”

These are all tremendous promises for those who consider themselves part of God’s flock. I think God’s care for his sheep is summed up best in the statement: “I will make them lie down” (v. 15, NRSV). God will lead the exiles back to their land and make them lie down and rest in fertile grazing grounds where there is no need to fear anything or anyone.

. . .

Of course, the flip side of this comfort is the corresponding judgment of the extortioners. In our era, it is uncomfortable to talk about judgment, but without judgment there is no justice. To the fat sheep (now stripped of their “shepherd” moniker) who abuse the weak and powerless, to the sheep who drink fresh water while fouling the rest with their feet, to the sheep who eat from good pasture and trample down what’s left, to the sheep who butt the weak with their horns, to the sheep who scatter the rest of the flock: God will judge.

. . .

Lord God, may we always be found on the side of the weak and powerless—refusing to play power games in the world’s arena. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 34:1-10 | Sheep’s Clothing

Ezekiel 34:23-31 | King David >

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