For thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.” – Ezekiel 34:11–13 ESV
In the twelfth year of Israel’s exile, the capital city of Jerusalem fell to the dominant power, Babylon. The holy city fell, and a lone fugitive escaped to share the news with the prophet Ezekiel. Upon hearing the news, God gave Ezekiel words of condemnation for the people and shepherds of Israel. The people were guilty of idolatry and disobedience to God. God charged Israel’s leaders with selfishness and neglect. The nation was in shambles; the people were exiled, their homes were destroyed, and allegiance to the Lord was scarce. Ezekiel had long been predicting this downfall and destruction.
But God also prophesied Israel’s future hope and restoration! God promised that He would search for His sheep. Although Israel’s leaders had failed to care for the flock, God will seek them out Himself. God compares His relentless pursuit of people to the relationship between a shepherd and sheep. This Shepherd will seek out his flock, especially when they are scattered. He will bring them to their own land, providing them with the food, protection, and comfort they need. God is like a kind of shepherd.
Perhaps more familiar than the shepherd in Ezekiel is the one we encounter in the Gospels. Jesus claimed: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Even when leaders fail, God never does. He will seek out the lost and lead them into an eternal relationship that He’ll continue with them. In Him, the lost are found, the weak find strength, and the weary are given rest. Stay close to the Good Shepherd. And as the Lord gives you ‘under-shepherding’ responsibilities—as a parent, teacher, or church leader—follow His lead. Stay close… He will never lead you astray!