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The Shepherd King

November 16, 2020

I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. . . I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them.” (Ezekiel 34: 15, 23-24).

Next Sunday is the last week of the church year, when we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. The Scripture lessons for Sunday focus on the one foreshadowed by the prophets to be our Shepherd King. Last year this blog was read in 48 countries in addition to the United States. Whether you live in a country led by a president, prime minister, king, sultan, emperor, or emir, our Scripture texts remind us that we need never be discouraged, because Jesus Christ is the Lord of the World. He is our King, the perfect shepherd.

Christ our King, as our Good Shepherd, has his eyes on us to keep us safe. Phillip Keller was a shepherd in East Africa. He recounts that “Any shepherd who is a good manager always bears in mind one objective: It is that his flock may flourish. The continuous well being of his sheep is his constant preoccupation. All of his time, thought, skill, strength and resources are directed to this end.” As a shepherd oversees his flock with a watchful eye, our Good Shepherd keeps watch over us. He wants us to be safe and to flourish.

Christ, our King, was born in the line of David, as had been prophesized. More than 800 years before David became king in 1010 B.C., Jacob predicted that the Messiah would be born of the line of his son, Judah (Genesis 49: 10-11). David, son of Jesse, was a shepherd from the tribe of Judah. After David ascended to the throne in 1010 B.C., God instructed Nathan to deliver news to David, which became known as the Davidic Covenant: “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. . . When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom . . . Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever’” (Excerpts from 2 Samuel 7: 8-16).

In the next century, Ethan, a contemporary of David’s son, Solomon, wrote Psalm 89 confirming the Davidic covenant. In the centuries that followed, God raised up prophets to remind the Israelites that the promised Messiah would come from the line of David: Hosea and Isaiah (8th Century BC), Jeremiah (7th Century BC), and Ezekiel (6th Century BC).

Ezekiel was one of a long line of prophets and Biblical patriarchs who foretold that the Messiah would be born in the line of King David. Ezekiel lived in the 6th century B.C, during the Babylonian captivity, and as both a priest and a prophet, ministered to the needs of his fellow Jewish exiles in the streets of Babylon, near Bagdad, in current day Iraq.

Using the metaphor of a shepherd, Ezekiel writes that God told him to report the following: “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘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. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. . . I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land . . . I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord . . . I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them.” (Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 14-15, 23-24). The Messiah, who would be born of the line of David, would be the perfect shepherd, God’s only Son.

The psalm for next Sunday continues the imagery of God as the Shepherd King: “For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. . . Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:3, 6-7).

Like sheep who safely graze under the watchful eye of a vigilant and caring shepherd, we find peace when we rely on our Shepherd to lead us to still waters, to provide and care for us. And we are asked to pass on his care for us to those around us. Jesus, the Shepherd King asks us to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, invite strangers into our midst, provide clothes to the needy, and visit the sick and those in prison (Matthew 25: 37-45). Jesus makes it very clear that giving lip service to our faith is not enough. We are required to pass on the blessings we have received to others: “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did not do for the one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25: 45-46).

Christ the King is the Good Shepherd who tends his flock with a watchful eye. When you cry out to him, his Spirit is there to carry you, to comfort you, to save you from the certain destruction that would befall you if you were left to your own devices. And he will help you shepherd others as he has cared for and shepherded you. Listen to the Shepherd’s call, and follow him.

Prayer: King of Kings, you sent Jesus to be our King and our Shepherd, to lay down his life for us and to watch over us. You call us into your kingdom—not into the kingdom of the world with its arrogance, despair, and darkness—but into your kingdom of humility, joy, and light. Give us hope, strength, and comfort in these trying times, and lead us into your kingdom of life where light and love prevail. Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

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