I will do it

Ezekiel 34:11–16, 23, 24 “I will do it by myself” A child says after the block tower falls for the 5th time. “I will do it by myself.” The teen declares, denying the years of wisdom and experience from generations before her. “I will do it by myself.” A prideful adult proclaims while assembling the furniture from IKEA. “I will do it by myself.” An aging senior says, when she wants to prove that she is still capable of doing something. We see it often and all do. We want to be independent and capable. We aren’t as tough as we think we are. COVID-19, with all its upheaval, political drama, and devastation has taught us this. We need help in life. It is when we finally admit that we need help is when God can do some of his greatest work because he is really the only one who can and will save us. In these verses from Ezekiel, God declares “I will do it.” What God does, he does well. Ezekiel was transported to Babylon along with Daniel and many other inhabitants of Judah. It is estimated that he lived there from 597 to 570 B.C., which is about half of the entire Babylonian captivity (606 B.C.–536 B.C.). Jerusalem was burned in 586 B.C., and that incident became the focal point of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Before the city’s burning, he had prophesied of destructive judgment. After Jerusalem’s burning, he prophesied comfort and restoration. Included in his prophecy of comfort was the coming Messiah, Jesus, who would give people eternal rest in the promised heaven. This particular section of Ezekiel’s prophecy is part of a section that reprimands those who were supposed to be shepherds of God’s people, the spiritual leaders. In contrast to their wickedness and unfaithfulness, God promises to be the Shepherd of his people. He talks about the many things he would do for his people as their Shepherd and holds out to them the promise of “David,” who would be their Shepherd and Prince in days to come—a prophecy of Jesus, the great descendant of David. 11 For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. God emphasizes, “I will do it.” Not those shepherds who were so filled with themselves, their wealth, and their prosperity. God will be the shepherd. He will search them out and he will keep them close. The word for “look after” is the same word in the original as “to be a shepherd.” So he will watch over the sheep as a shepherd would care for the flock. We need someone who is smarter and stronger to look after us. We aren’t capable of doing it all by ourselves. When we do feel that pressure to do it alone, it is really hard to live up to that expectation. The shepherding is described in the next verse. 12 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. Ezekiel was speaking of the scattering of God’s ancient people, the Jews, when the Assyrians and Babylonian empires came in and took over. The Jews were scattered to the surrounding nations and sold as slaves. It felt like days of darkness for them. It speaks well to the darkness we endure today because of the sin in our world. We feel separated more than ever, even though we have the means to connect with others more than ever because we have been disconnected from in-person connection we all long for. That takes toll on us. The evils of society, the uncertainty of the future, hardships of all kinds, loss of loved ones, personal tragedies, overwhelming challenges, a really grievous sin committed—all fill the days with clouds, darkness, and misery. We can’t fix it all by ourselves. God dramatically declares, “I will rescue them.” We need that rescue from our own sin and the sinful world around us. Ezekiel predicts the return of the Israelites from their captivity. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. The Jewish leaders could not return the people back to Israel. The Jews couldn’t free themselves. God could and he would bring them safely home. For us today, it reminds us of heaven. We will finish our lives here and be called to our eternal home. Ezekiel describes it in this way. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. It will be rich and bounteous. It will be full and safe. It will be safe because the Lord will be our Shepherd. We enjoy that today because the Lord is still our shepherd. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. It is a repeat worth repeating. God will do it. He adds in this detail of a shepherd lying down. When the shepherd lies down, he knows that there are no enemies around. He makes it safe. No earthly man, no pastor, no teacher, no parent, no government ruler will do what God himself has done and will do. Our true Shepherd gives us comfort, guidance, and strength as we sinful sheep wander through this life and on to the next. Here's a reminder why it can’t be anyone else but God. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. It is the straying that need to be rescued, the injured that need healing, the weak that need strength. If you think you can do it all by yourself, if you think that anyone else but God will give you safety and security, then you don’t need God. Let’s admit our weakness. We aren’t as strong as we think we are, as much as we try to trick ourselves into thinking so. When we finally admit that we need God, he leads, heals, and strengthens us. Pay attention to the best part of this whole section. 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken. In these two verses, we see the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy regarding God’s shepherding his people. David had been dead for almost 500 years by this time so it had to be speaking about someone else. Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of this chapter when he said, “I am the good Shepherd.” He did it. He saved us by his might and strength, not by our own. Jesus Christ has won redemption for his people by his life, death, and resurrection. Those who lived before Jesus’ time believed in that upcoming fulfillment. Those who have lived since that time believe in what has already taken place. But all are members of God’s flock, by faith. He did it. I want to update you on my summer vacation. I mentioned in a sermon months ago that our van broke down. About a week ago, we finally got it back from Las Vegas. I tried asking for help and two friends flew down to drive it back for me. That plan backfired because the van ended up not ready yet and they had to fly home. I finally decided that I would do it all by myself. So I flew down there and started my drive home. It broke again. I fixed it in a parking lot of an auto parts store all by myself, except not really. They weren’t my tools. I borrowed them from the store. I was coached by my father-in-law over the phone who wouldn’t be in my life without my wife. It was God who allowed the van to break down in a town that had a place which just so happened to have the part I needed in stock. I wouldn’t have had the guts to attempt it without my dad’s genes and desire to fix things running through my blood. I did nothing by myself. The sooner we realize this about all of life, your struggles, your difficulties, your sins, your everything, the better you will be. We are weak. God is so strong. We are sinful. God is perfect and forgiving. We are sick. God is our healing. We can’t do it by ourselves. He does it. He does it well. He saves you perfectly. Amen

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