Scattered Sheep

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 33:21-33; 34; 35; 36 - Listen to Ez. 34-36

Churches are imperfect places, led and attended by imperfect people. Consequently, many of God's sheep have wandered away from the flock, and even from the Lord, because they've been hurt by people in the church. Some have been driven away by the stinging remarks and insensitive actions of other church members. Some have been deeply wounded by the unloving or inappropriate conduct of a church leader. "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them." (34:5-6).

God promises to hold accountable his earthly shepherds who "cared for themselves rather than for my flock" (34:34:8-10). He rebukes the leader who harms or neglects his flock, saying, "You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally" (34:4). God also promises to deal with the bullies of his flock, saying, "I will judge between one sheep and another.... Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? ...Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered" (34:17-22).

God's lost and hurting sheep are scattered over the whole earth. No matter how far or how long each one has wandered, God himself will seek them out to bring them home. "For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.... I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.... I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down.... I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak..." (34:11-16).

As the shepherd of our souls finds and gathers each one into his arms, “I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost" (Mt. 18:13-14).

If you've been hurt by someone in the church, trust the one who hurt you to the one who sees all deeds and knows all hearts; he will shepherd his flock with justice (34:16). If you scattered "on a day of clouds and darkness" and have lost your way, answer the Lord's beckoning call; reach up to take his outstretched hand. Let Jesus rescue you from danger and restore your soul. Let him bind up your wounds and dry your tears. Let "the good shepherd" gather you in his arms and carry you close to his heart (Jn. 10:14; Is. 40:11).