Can you see the garden? The rolling bluffs? …the tufts of grass? … the cloudless skies? …the trees reaching into the heavens? (And yes, trust me, they’re all here). Can you see the picture of this perfect garden?
At first glance, the picture appears to be nothing but a bunch of red and blue flames streaking across the page. Random splotches swirl in this chaotic mess. There’s a pattern, a rhythm of sorts, but it all looks so confusing. And just when you think you can pick out a tree branch or a puffy cloud, you lose focus, may grow a little frustrated, and drift back into confusion. But, the perfectly peaceful garden is there.
It’s not easy, is it? It takes concentration. It takes patience. It takes discipline to focus on the “big-picture” instead of fixating on all these individual images.
Maybe you find it just as difficult to always remain focused on the “big-picture” of your Christian life. It’s as though this holusion constantly hangs in front of your eyes. You watch a society sinking into a swirling mess of rejecting what is right and embracing what is wrong. You’re left without answers when streaks of tragedy rip into your life. Role models disappoint you; your best-laid plans fail, and you’re left frustrated to see God still remaining in control.
That’s why God gives you these words from Ezekiel. He gives you a long-term focus on life by looking at life through his eyes. See The Lord Is Your Shepherd, who rescued you from gloom, who leads you to good pastures, and who will tend you forever.
It can be difficult to see at first. Just consider Ezekiel’s audience: the nation of Judah. The Lord does not look much like a shepherd. There is no protection, no safety, no life filled with good-feeling blessings. Look around Judah and watch nothing but utter chaos unfold. Massive siege towers lean against city walls, their bridges unrolled and soldiers streaming out. Babylonian soldiers march through their beloved city streets, sword in hand, seizing Jewish politicians, shoving them into wagons and carts, and whisking them away and out of sight. Over there, troops unwrap the gold from inside God’s church; some pick away at the fine cedar paneling and others pull down the glistening white-stone walls with ropes. Dust blows down the empty streets in the once-bustling marketplace. Jerusalem has fallen— and there is nothing anyone can do to change it (Ezekiel 33:21).
Life suddenly feels so dark; the future feels so uncertain, as if a thick cloud drops down and crushes out any remaining light of hope that God is still with believers.
This is not the way life is meant to be; this is not the kind of life anyone wants. God creates a perfect Eden (Genesis 1:1-2:4). No tears, no sadness, not even a reason to be sad. No death, no mourning, no heart-wrenching sorrow that comes from losing loved ones. No pain, no hurt, no single ache from getting older. Life is filled with non-stop, constant happiness! Most of all, God himself is their God (Revelation 21:3-4). This is the “big-picture” behind the swirling mess of Babylonian captivity; God desires life lived with him and his commands!
Yet, that “big-picture” shatters into pieces the minute God’s creation finds no happiness with him. Yes, God did not remove himself from the nation; it is the nation which chose to scatter from him! It is those in Jerusalem who ran to foreign kings for help instead of God their King! It is those in Jerusalem who favored prostitutes instead of God’s gift of marriage. It is those in Jerusalem who turned worship into nothing more than a empty-minded habit (Ezekiel 22). God is not the problem; the fault lies with the nation. They are the ones who made the “big-picture” into a blurry mess. They are the ones who scattered into the darkness.
Darkness is not God’s intentions for his creation—and not just for those of long ago, but also you who live today.Even though about 2,500 years separate you from Ezekiel’s audience, God still created the Garden of Eden for you. God still desires that you find perfect joy in obeying his Word, praising him, and trusting him. Yet, relationships crumble when you find little contentment in God’s instructions for you as a wife … as a husband (Ephesians 5:21-27). Fear over health, worry about money, apprehension over the future flares up when you begin questioning God’s control over his world. That feeling of abandonment swells up when you run away from the Bible for comfort and instead search for answers in godless friends, family, and leaders. The reason the “big-picture” becomes blurry, unfocused, confusing, and frustrating comes, not because of God, but because we scatter from him—and we have scattered from him the very moment we are conceived.
By nature, I am sinful (Psalm 51:5). By nature, I do not choose to do what is good. By nature, God would have every right to leave me in eternal darkness.
Yet, God himself steps into this confusing picture, rolls up his sleeves, and makes something clear: 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. Those lost in the uncertain darkness of sin, God finds. Yes, God himself. He does not demand that you find him (John 15:16). He does not hand you a new set of Ten Commandments to follow (John 14:6). God himself makes a promise to you: I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.
The Lord, your Shepherd, kept his promise. Under Good Friday’s clouds and thick darkness, the Lord rescues you from gloom. On the cross, Jesus pries open the jaws of death to free you and he lets those jaws close around his own life. Thick darkness blacks out his life as he dies for your willful wandering. He dies to remove eternal darkness from you forever.
On Easter Sunday, he rises from the dead. In fact, he is the first to rise and remain alive! He intends to lead you out of your grave as well (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). He enters heaven, sitting on his throne, getting ready to gather you around him forever!
The Lord Is Your Shepherd and he rescued you from gloom. Now, you get to live in the light of the knowing peace with God! That means, the best is still yet to come because The Lord Is Your Shepherd who leads you to good pastures.
Yes, right now, in this life, as you live; the Lord presently, currently remains active! Six times he stresses what he will do. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. And God did! After seventy years of living in the nation of Babylon, God led the nation of Judah back to their old homeland.
I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. And they did! They farmed the land and led their cattle to rivers. Kings ruled the nation again. Homes dotted the countryside; businesses opened shop; an economy and government started again. Yet, this promise does not stop with Judah’s return from exile. God points ahead to the day when Jesus would be the Shepherd among many people.
Jesus is born in that nation of Judah. He ministers to those living in the land of Judah. He enters heaven after his earthly ministry is over. And he still tends to you, his sheep. How? With the Word of God [the Bible].
Look to the Bible; see what he promises to do: I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. When you are crushed by guilt, when you feel that God cannot possibly love you, listen to Jesus say: “I have found you, healed you from sin, and brought you into my believing flock.” When life appears to be this blurry picture, listen to Jesus say: “I strengthen you with my promises.” When violence rips through society, trust that I send my angels to protect you (Psalm 91:10-11). When friends take advantage of you, do not take revenge because I will take revenge (Romans 12:19). When you feel sad or depressed, see that I am with you always as I bless you with friends and family, and I provide for you, as I lift you spirits by remaining in your life (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). The Lord Is Your Shepherd who leads you to good pastures of his Word, so that you may be fed, strengthened, and nourished.
Not just that, The Lord Is Your Shepherd who leads you to good pastures as he defends you from your spiritual enemies. [B]ut the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice... God has not lost control of his world. With that same powerful Word he strikes down the devil. The devil has lost; you will not go to hell. With that same powerful Word God strikes down a godless society. No one can change the fact that you are heading towards the eternal pastures of heaven. No one can fluster the spread of God’s Word. In fact, the Word of God is spreading like wildfire in countries that still stand so opposed to its teachings. With that same powerful Word God will forever damn the devil, the evil angels, and those who rejected him.
This is the “big-picture.” It may appear blurry at times, but soon it will become perfectly clear. The Lord Is Your Shepherd, who leads you to good pastures of his Word and who will tend you forever.
Perhaps a better way of saying that is: The Lord Is Your Shepherd, who tends you forever, That means right now and he continue to do so.
Through Ezekiel God promised: I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. When Ezekiel first says these words, King David has been dead for over 400 years. God is not promising to raise David from the dead. Rather, he draws your attention to that great descendant of David’s line: Jesus Christ.
Ezekiel points ahead to what will happen (Jesus will come); you (and I) get to look back and see what has happened. God has already raised up his servant David. He has already sent his Son to the cross. He has already raised his Son from the grave. He has already taken his Son into heaven. He has already placed a crown on his Son’s head. He has already entrusted all authority to Jesus.
What’s left? I the Lord will be their God…He is now, but soon you will see him face-to-face. [A]nd my servant David will be prince among them. He is now, but soon you will stand around the golden throne of the triumphant Lamb. Where God gets to be with his people and live among them. Just as the way God has made it to be. No one will get in his way. I the Lord have spoken.
Can you see the “big-picture” now? Look behind the chaos, behind the mess, behind the confusion— and see what God is doing now. Look into the Bible and see what God has done behind the scenes of this life. The One born Christmas day has lived for you, died for you, rose again for you, and entered heaven to prepare your eternal home. God still rules all things so that you may lift your eyes up to him and trust his ever-present, guiding care. With his Word he makes one final guarantee: “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).
Gain a long-term focus on life by looking at life through God’s eyes. See The Lord Is Your Shepherd, who rescued you from gloom, who leads you to good pastures, and who will tend you forever.