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. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. Ezekiel 34:11-16 ESV
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3 ESV
People who keep sheep on their ranch or farm have to be sure that the sheep have good food to eat. Ranchers might feed them hay or other fodder if they go into barns at night, but the most important way to feed sheep is to make sure they have good pasture. Ranchers don’t just turn their sheep loose to find whatever grass they can find, but they pay attention to where sheep are grazing and make sure that the pastures have the right kind of food for the sheep. They will plant the right food in their pastures that will grow well in that climate and soil so that their sheep are well nourished. Most pastures are planted with cool season grasses like orchardgrass, ryegrass, and timothy that start growing in the fall and winter. They might also plant some warm season grasses like bermuda grass and crabgrass that start growing in the spring. Pastures also usually have some legumes like clovers and alfalfa that are good for the soil and give the sheep protein in their diet. Ranchers who care about their sheep take a lot of trouble to make sure they have good pastures.
After Ezekiel spoke words of judgment on the leaders of God’s people and compared them to bad shepherds, he spoke God’s word of love to his people. The Lord promised that he would be their shepherd himself and give them the care that their leaders hadn’t given them. He would gather them together from all the places that they had been scattered, and he would bring them home and make sure they had good pastures in their own land. He would give the tired sheep rest from all their troubles and let them lay down in their rich pastures. The Lord would be kind and gentle with the sheep who were hurt or weak and help them get strong again. But the fat sheep who had abused and hurt the other sheep would be punished for their selfishness.
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He gathered and brought his people from all over the world into his flock, and he takes care of us and helps us. He laid down his life for us on the cross so that we could belong to him for always. He feeds us every day with his word, the Bible, which gives us strength and comfort. We don’t have to carry the burden of our sins, because Jesus carried that burden for us and paid for it at the cross. He gives us rest and peace through his forgiveness, and we are safe and cared for in his pasture.
Dear Jesus, thank you for being our Good Shepherd, and for feeding us and taking care of us every day. Amen.