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Parables to shepherds who didn't care about the sheep

October 23, 2023

Daily Scripture

Ezekiel 34:1-10, Luke 15:1-2

Ezekiel 34
1 The LORD’s word came to me: 2 Human one, prophesy against Israel’s shepherds. Prophesy and say to them, The LORD God proclaims to the shepherds: Doom to Israel’s shepherds who tended themselves! Shouldn’t shepherds tend the flock? 3 You drink the milk, you wear the wool, and you slaughter the fat animals, but you don’t tend the flock. 4 You don’t strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, or seek out the lost; but instead you use force to rule them with injustice. 5 Without a shepherd, my flock was scattered; and when it was scattered, it became food for all the wild animals. 6 My flock strayed on all the mountains and on every high hill throughout all the earth. My flock was scattered, and there was no one to look for them or find them. 7 So now shepherds, hear the LORD’s word! 8 This is what the LORD God says: As surely as I live, without a shepherd, my flock became prey. My flock became food for all the wild animals. My shepherds didn’t seek out my flock. They tended themselves, but they didn’t tend my flock.
9 So, shepherds, hear the LORD’s word! 10 The LORD God proclaims: I’m against the shepherds! I will hold them accountable for my flock, and I will put an end to their tending the flock. The shepherds will no longer tend them, because I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and they will no longer be their food.

Luke 15
1 All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. 2 The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Ezekiel prophesied during Israel’s exile in Babylon (some 550 years before Christ). Through him, God said Israel’s self-absorbed spiritual leaders had failed as “shepherds,” being indifferent to what happened to their people. Jesus found leaders like that opposing him. As he reached out to sinners and outcasts, they grumbled about it (and not just on one bad day—cf. Luke 5:30). They didn’t think they should care about those people. Jesus told them the two main parables we study this week.

  • What do you think life in God’s Kingdom should look like? The Pharisees and legal experts thought God looked down on “those people” who didn’t act just right, so they felt right in snubbing them, too. Jesus upset them by acting as though God deeply loved all people. Did your early life experiences of God and “church” agree more with the Pharisees, or with Jesus? How secure are you with the church loving today’s “tax collectors and sinners” (maybe including you)?
  • “[Ezekiel’s] metaphor goes beyond the normal responsibilities of making sure that the sheep are protected and fed. Instead it focuses on the remedial duties, caring for the sick and finding the lost. These equate to the need for kings to bring about justice for alienated and disenfranchised people.” * What are some of the ways you actively support and work for justice for alienated or disenfranchised people around you?

Lord God, thank you for touching my life with your love and care, which reaches all people. Thank you for Jesus, who expanded the borders of your Kingdom beyond all our human biases. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Mindy LaHood

Mindy LaHood

Mindy LaHood serves as a Worship Experience Specialist at The Church of the Resurrection. She loves all things related to worship and enjoys working with our talented team of staff and volunteers. One of her favorite things to read about and study are stained glass windows, and she considers herself very blessed to work and worship in a place with such a magnificent window.

For most of my life, when I’ve read the “lost” parables, I identified with the lost aspect of the story. After all, we’ve all been lost at some point in time and can easily relate to the feelings of fear, vulnerability, and loneliness associated with being lost–literally, figuratively, and spiritually. And that’s just when we realize that we are lost. There’s a whole host of other feelings that surface when we don’t acknowledge or even recognize that we’re lost–desperation, anxiety, and lack of motivation and direction. In other words we know “lost,” we’ve felt lost.

But as I reread these passages, I began to think about these lessons and stories from the perspective of the one who seeks out what is lost, and how particularly important it is to be on the lookout for those who may not even know they’re lost to begin with.

When I was five or six years old, I remember wandering off and being separated from my parents at a store. There was a lot of panic and so many tears as I ran around trying to find my parents. When you’re little, getting lost like that is terrifying because you can’t be sure you’ll ever be found. Thankfully, a kind store employee helped me reunite with my family. Looking back, I still remember the relief I felt at being found. I also remember that instead of my parents being angry with me, they were both so happy to have found me. My mom had tears in her eyes… happy, relieved tears. My dad hugged me tighter than I could ever remember. As an adult, I realize that the joy they felt in finding their lost child far exceeded any feelings of anger about the situation. They loved me and would have moved mountains to find me.

I think through these parables, Jesus has two lessons for us to hear and then apply to our lives.

First, when we are lost and wandering, He will do whatever it takes to find us in the midst of our despair and moments of darkness because He loves us that much. He won’t ever stop seeking us. He can’t. Love is what He is, and that love constantly pursues us both in moments of being lost and in moments when we are found. Just as the shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep to find the one that was lost, God’s love knows no bounds in its search for us. His relentless pursuit of us is a testament to His love and grace.

Second, I think He wants us to learn that we should be vigilant in looking for and recognizing those who are lost. Because God is love and wants us to know and exemplify that love, we should constantly be looking for those who are lost. No matter how busy or distracted we get, paying attention to those moments of interruption when God allows us to cross paths with someone who is lost are so important. Those are moments we should be praying for, moments when we should feel blessed that God wants to work through us to find and love those who are lost.

It’s so easy to let the busyness of our lives distract us from paying attention; it’s easy to get frustrated when those interruptions get in the way of what we have planned. But the joy God must feel when the lost are found (and we get the blessing of being a part of that) is beyond comparison.

My prayer is that God uses me each day to pay attention to those around me and then interrupts me whenever and however often He wants to, so that He can use me to find and reach as many as possible. We have the incredible privilege of participating in God’s redemptive plan by actively seeking the lost, just as He actively pursues us when we are lost.

In the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, we see not only the joy of being found but also the responsibility to seek the lost. Through these stories, Jesus teaches us about the transformative power of love and the importance of being willing to be used by Him to reach those who are lost.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 190424-190426). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.