This is week two of a series in Ezekiel 33-37, about God’s promised reboot of his people. If you’ve just joined, you can either go to the start of the series, or simply begin the new chapter with us starting from Monday’s post.
We finish chapter 34 this week by asking the question raised by Ezekiel’s description of “the coming Era of Good Shepherding” (34:17-31), the just reign of God ushered in by the Good Shepherd. What does that just reign of God look like? I suppose it should be obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be said, so I will.
If we, the church, are God’s new people; if we have Jesus as our new leader, the new face of our rebooted movie franchise, our new shepherd; and if Jesus’ shepherding is characterised by justice and fairness—shouldn’t the church be the place where justice can be found; where everyone has enough; where the weak are nourished and the sick have their wounds bound; where the strong get out of the way so the weak can drink from clear water and eat from fresh pasture?
So what does that look like, when we step outside of the sheep metaphor? Lots of stuff; here’s just a taste.
It looks like giving money to provide food hampers for the poorest in our local community.
It looks like a home group rallying around with meals and support when someone in our church experiences a tragedy.
It looks like paying for someone to go to a church camp, or to come out to dinner after church when we know they can’t afford it.
It looks like throwing a birthday party for someone with no family around.
It looks like being family for those whose decision to follow Jesus has cost them the love of their own family.
It looks like researching what we buy, so that—wherever possible—our coffee and chocolate and clothing is ethically sourced. That a fair price has been paid to those who produce it. That it uses our world’s resources in a sustainable way. So that we’re not muddying their drinking water with our feet or trampling on their meagre supply of grass.
It looks like advocating for those who don’t have a loud enough voice of their own. It looks like crossing traditional political lines and standing up both for the rights of the unborn and the rights of those living in subhuman conditions in refugee camps: not butting the weak sheep out of the way, but allowing them to lie down in our green pastures, and increasing our foreign aid to bring them clear water.
It looks like acknowledging the original custodians of our land, and how their pastures have been unfairly trampled in the past—and committing ourselves to showing them the same special care God shows to those flocks who have been plundered and driven away.
It looks like calling out domestic violence wherever it occurs, and providing a place for victims “to sleep in safety.”
Ezekiel 34:25 “I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety.”
It looks like ensuring the church is a safe space for everyone, honouring God’s promise that “they will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid (34:28).”
It looks like treating those who aren’t living God’s way the same way Jesus did: with loving acceptance and a gracious invitation to repent.
It looks like meeting people’s physical and social and economic needs as a demonstration of God’s righteous rule as the Good Shepherd—the one who laid down his life to meet their greatest need.
What does it look like?
It looks like what you’d expect it to look like when God’s people follow their new leader: when God himself turns up to lead his sheep.