The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. Ezekiel 34:1-6 ESV
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:7-15 ESV
Nellie and her sisters had lost their parents, and they lived in an orphanage run by Miss Frouchy. Miss Frouchy wasn’t at all kind to the children who lived in the orphanage. She made them work hard, and didn’t take care of them when they were sick. She didn’t give them enough to eat, and their clothes didn’t fit them well and were rough and scratchy. She was very strict and unkind to the children, and when Samantha brought Nellie and her sisters some good food and warm clothes, Miss Frouchy took it away and never gave it to them. She was supposed to be taking care of the children, but she was cruel and selfish and didn’t take care of their needs at all.
The prophet Ezekiel was living with the exiles in Babylon when he heard the news that Jerusalem had been sacked and burned. This was a terrible blow to the exiles. Why had the Lord allowed such a terrible thing to happen? Ezekiel gave the exiles a message from God about the leaders of his people. None of them had cared at all about the people they were supposed to be leading, but instead they only cared about what they could get for themselves. Ezekiel used the picture of shepherds who didn’t take care of their sheep, but instead just took their wool and killed them for their meat, and otherwise let them wander on their own. They didn’t protect the weak sheep or take care of the sick or injured ones, and in the end the whole flock was lost and scattered with no one to look for them or bring them home again.
When Jesus, the promised Savior, came, he talked about the leaders who had come to his people in the past who hadn’t cared at all about the sheep. They had been thieves and robbers who had only hurt the flock. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He came to gather his scattered sheep and to take the best care of them. He protects them and helps them and looks for them when they get lost or wander away. He gave his life on the cross so that they would not die, but instead have life forever with him. We are Jesus’ sheep. We hear his voice through his word, the Bible, and follow him. We are happy for his love and protection and the eternal life he gives us.
Dear Jesus, thank you for being our Good Shepherd and for giving your life for us. Amen.
Tripp, Valerie Changes for Samantha: a winter story Middleton, Wisconsin, Pleasant Company, 1988.