The only time I’ve really been around sheep has been at petting zoos. If it came to caring for sheep I’d be completely clueless. The suburban life doesn’t adequately equip me to be a shepherd — go figure.
This tends to cause a slight disconnect for me when I read a verse like this: “But when He [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
After reading this I started to question my concept of compassion.
Do I really know what it means to be moved with compassion?
When Jesus was moved with compassion He equated the situation at hand with that of a shepherdless flock of sheep.
I knew nothing about how a true shepherd is to care for his sheep, and how this would relate to an innumerable crowd standing before Jesus.
I then asked God to show me what it looks like to view the multitude through His eyes, and what I saw was shocking.
He led me to Ezekiel 34. This chapter gives a great picture of what a true and good shepherd looks like. The original context of this passage is written in direct relation to the people of Israel. It is safe to assume that the majority of those reading this are not Israeli and Messianic Jewish believers. However, we are called Children of the Promise according to Romans 9! This means that we have been grafted into all that we are about to read, and so much more.
For the sake of brevity, I have condensed Ezekiel 34 down to focus solely on the role of the good shepherd in relation to the sheep. Take your time to read these verses. Don’t rush through this. If you grab ahold of what His word says your life will be dramatically transformed.
“I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.
They will lie down in the pleasant places I lead them to and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord.
I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again.
I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak.
I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused.
I will make a covenant of peace with my people and drive away the dangerous animals from the land. Then they will be able to camp safely in the wildest places and sleep in the woods without fear.
I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. These will be showers of abundant blessing.
The orchards and fields of my people will yield bumper crops, and everyone will live in safety.
When I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the Lord.
They will no longer be prey, and wild animals will no longer devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will frighten them.
And I will make their land famous for its crops, so my people will never again suffer from famines or the insults of foreign nations.
In this way, they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them.
You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people, and I am your God. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
Isn’t this just incredible! God is wildly and passionately interested in our welfare.
Jesus Himself says, in John 10:11, that He is our Good Shepherd.
He is the One who will never let us down.
He has promised to forever watch over us.
To protect us.
To provide for us.
To bless us.
To heal us.
To save us.
To deliver us.
To liberate us.
To strengthen us.
You need to understand that these promises are for you!
Take them to heart. Believe them. Receive them. Walk in them.
This is part of His wonderful love letter to you.
Now to bring this full circle we need to remember that when Jesus looked upon the multitudes He saw all they were missing. Ezekiel 34 was the standard for them and He was bound to get them there.
When He looked at them He saw their pain.
BUT Jesus’ unrelenting compassion changed everything. He loved them too much to leave them where they were.
His compassion led Him to the cross. He willingly laid down His life so that all could find life.
This is the radical compassion that He has called us to. In my next post, I am going to dive deeper into this reality.
In closing, I want to leave you with a dangerous prayer. I promise that if you truly pray this, God will answer, and everything will change.
“Lord, may You ravage my heart with the compassion that You felt when You looked upon the multitudes. Let my life reflect Your love. Set my heart ablaze with a fiery passion for Your people. I want to live in such a way that You get everything You paid for. Come and have Your way in me, Lord. Amen.”