Advent Reader -- Day 12
"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. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. 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 myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,' declares the Sovereign Lord." (Ezekiel 34:11-15) ----------
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
"I am the good shepherds. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherds; 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. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life -- only to take it up again. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:11, 14-17, 27-29).
The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1)
We are sheep: needy, defenseless, prone to wander and very stubborn. All people, even God's people, have been this way since the beginning of time.
And there have always been wolves, for whom a lone sheep is an easy target. This is why God has a people and not a person, why we are told to stick together. And this is why we need a shepherd.
If we believe in Jesus, the Father has given us into the hands of the Shepherd he promised and sent at just the right time, a time we now remember in history as Christmas. And our Shepherd is good. He is noble and trustworthy. He guides his sheep and does not drive us. He knows us intimately, knows each one of our names and never fails to lead us to abundance. He protects us, even at the risk of losing his own life on our behalf. He gathers us in, always looking for the lost and those outside the fold of his care.
There are false shepherds (wolves, robbers, hired hands, false prophets and pharisees) who steal and kill the sheep for their own purposes. This is why we must listen to what the Good Shepherd says and learn to discern "That sounds like something Jesus would say," or "That does not."
And we stay in his flock, never wandering away from it, because together with the other sheep we can follow the Shepherd's lead. We can get very, very close to him. And then no one can snatch us out of his hand, because he has given us eternal life, a promise that we will live with him forever.
Jesus, you are the good Shepherd, leading me into abundance and rest, correcting me when I stray, tending my wounds and protecting me from my enemy. I confess that I am weak-willed and prone to wandering. Yet you never give up on me, and you refuse to abandon me to the elements -- even when I have brought calamity upon myself. Teach me the joy of surrender and the blessings of obedience. May I willingly submit to your lordship over every area of my life; may I abide with you, hope in you, trust in you, love you, obey you and follow you in all you tell me to do for your sake. May I learn to discern your voice so that I may live in freedom and plenty until the day of your glorious return. Amen!