May 5, 2020

May 5, 2020

May 5, 2020

Ezekiel 34:23-31 (NRSV)
by Del Holley
Holston Conference Lay Leader
Colonial Heights UMC (Knoxville)
Smoky Mountain District


Ezekiel 34:23-31 (NRSV)

“And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.  And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them.  I am the Lord; I have spoken.  I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.  And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.  And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land.  And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them.  They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them.  They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid.  And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations.  And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God.  And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.”  Ezekiel 34:23-31 (ESV)

Devotion
Jesus cooked a meal for his friends.

Ezekiel was a prophet of the Babylonian exile.  He was taken from Judah to Babylon 11 years before Jerusalem was destroyed and the southern kingdom fell.  All this happened 120 years after the Assyrians conquered Israel.  The expression “They will know that I am the Lord” is a dominant theme of Ezekiel’s prophecy.  Those words occur 62 times, in 27 of the 48 chapters of the book.  Although the beginning of Ezekiel’s prophecy stands as a warning to the people of Judah of God’s coming judgment, by the end of the book, he is pointing to the reestablishment and glorious future of Israel.  Today’s focus scripture is found in that hopeful part of Ezekiel’s message.

Imagine the despair of the Judahites in captivity.  They had lost many of the things that gave meaning to their lives – their homes, family lands, means of livelihood, and place of worship.  They were struggling to understand why this had happened, and here was an upstart preacher telling them that it was part of God’s judgment on the nation and its people.  Unthinkable!  The reality, God proclaimed through Ezekiel, was that the kings – the shepherds of God’s people – had failed to protect the flock God had placed in their care.

But God had a plan for their redemption.  God would send them a new shepherd, a servant, David – the name derives from a Hebrew word meaning “beloved.”  Remember the voice from heaven when Jesus was baptized?  “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  (Mark 1:11)  And what will this new shepherd and servant king bring to bear for God’s covenant people?  Peace, safety and security, blessing, fruitfulness, liberty.  Above all, he brings the sure knowledge that God is with them, and they are God’s people.

A few weeks ago when I was asked to prepare this devotion, I thought I would be offering a word of encouragement to the people of Holston Conference as General Conference began its meeting in Minneapolis.  During the past couple of years, many United Methodists have felt despair and have wondered about the future of the denomination.  Many have asked, “How could God allow so much division and disagreement to arise among brothers and sisters in Christ?  Does God have a plan for the future of the church we love?”  But as I stare at my computer screen this evening, my mind is preoccupied with a different set of concerns for the future.  We are living in a time when words like “quarantine,” “social distancing,” and “shelter in place” have become a normal part of daily conversation.  Unthinkable!

I take comfort in knowing that God has always had a plan for our redemption.  I give thanks that God’s plan is one that brings peace, safety and security, blessing, fruitfulness, and liberty.  I find myself strengthened by the knowledge that God is with us, and we are God’s people – whatever the future holds.  Thanks be to God!

Prayer

We praise you, O God, with joyful noise and song!  We are thankful that you are our God, and we are your people, the sheep of your pasture!  We bless your name, for you are good; your steadfast love endures forever and your faithfulness to all generations!  Amen.