Read Psalm 85 and Ezekiel 34:1-10 (yesterday) and Luke 12:35-48
Today is short and to the point, a new thing for me. In the Ezekiel passage today God is chastising the priests for padding their own pockets, stuffing their own guts, looking out for their own interests, while the sheep, the people the priests are supposed to care about are starving to death, spiritually and literally. And, as Doris’s dad used to say, “That ain’t no good.”
I’m going to finish this thought in a couple of hours. Right now, I am on my way to my Thursday morning men’s group. Check back in later this morning, about 8:30.
That’s how I started yesterday and never got back to it. Sorry about that. I got up at 4:45 (about 45 minutes late) I had committed to pick a guy up at 5:40 for Bible Study and then, go to SportsCom with him at 7. I followed that with a meeting there about websites and by then the day was off and running and I never made it back. That is neither an excuse nor a reason. I’m just killing time until the Lord tells me what to write for today.
Okay, I got it. 😊 Let’s combine two readings, okay, three, into one devotion. (This better be a good one, Lord!)
Sometimes the verses we read bring a sense of peace and joy in our hearts and sometimes they feel like eating cold brussels sprouts while listening to Led Zeppelin at 3 am. (I’m drawing on a real bad college season there.) Whatever your “not so fulfilling experience is”, insert it there, but sometimes the Word of God is not roses and warm apple pie but it is harsh, and convicting, and maybe even a little disconcerting. All three of the scripture readings from yesterday and today, Psalm 85, Ezekiel 34, and Luke 12 might qualify.
In Ezekiel 34, the prophet is lambasting the priests. They are so focused on their own interest and making a profit from what they do that they are neglecting, maybe even abusing the people under their care. I preached a sermon on this passage year ago, a sermon I called, “Fat Shepherds and Scrawny Sheep.” I read this passage yesterday and thought, “Thank God, I’m not a priest.” And God said, “Aren’t you?” Every one of us has people that God has placed in our sphere of influence, people that He believes we can influence or impact for Him. For my young, wonderful pastor, it may be the thousand or so people in our congregation. For me, it may be the forty counselors and staff at Branches. I am pretty sure for every one of us it is at least our spouses, kids, grandkids, that family group that God has placed us in.
The point of all this, (yes, there is a point) God has given you somebody or somebodies to care for, AND, He wants you to care for them, even ahead of your own comfort and concern. Maybe that looks like getting up a little early and picking them up for Bible Study (ugh). Maybe it looks like slowing down enough to sit beside them on the couch and listen to them complain when you know you can do nothing about it. Or, apologize even when you don’t think you were wrong. Or, send a note telling them that you are thankful they are in your life, even if you’re not. 😊 In other words, there are dozens of ways to put the sheep in your flock ahead of your own desires, and God says, “Do that.”
This leads me to the passage in Luke 12. Another heart warmer. I just want to sit by the Christmas tree, sipping my hot cocoa, and read those verses over and over, NOT! But it is there and it does seem to be saying to me again that I have a responsibility for other people. “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the Master can give the responsibility of managing the other household servants and feeding them.” (verse 42) I don’t know about you, but if there are two things I want to be, they are faithful and sensible. This is not about earning our salvation or working our way into heaven. Paul says, “We are saved by grace, not by works so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) But verse 10 says, “For you are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus, TO DO GOOD WORKS, which God has prepared in advance for you to do.” There are sheep to be shepherded and you and I are supposed to be doing it. If your flock is a thousand, a hundred, or one, your sheep, and your shepherding matters. Remember the parable of the ninety-nine sheep?
And Psalm 85? You thought I forgot, didn’t you? The sin of the Israelites was that they didn’t do what God told them to do, take care of each other. They took advantage of the poor, neglected the needy, and basically had a bunch of skinny sheep running around. A thousand years later, when asked what the most important thing the Jews were supposed to do, Jesus would say, “Love God. Love people.” Done. Drop the mic. And the anger of God, for not doing that is hashed over in Psalm 85. I love verse 10. “Unfailing love (the amazing grace of God) and truth (the fact that we are supposed to take care of the sheep) have met together. Righteousness (doing what God says) and peace (the good feeling that comes when you do) have kissed.” I’m afraid in our day there’s not enough kissing going on. Well, that came out wrong but you know what I mean.
Okay, this is about two days’ worth. Like it or not, you are a shepherd. God wants us to be “faithful and sensible”. And, when we do our good works, prepares the way for His coming. (Psalm 85:13)
Did you learn anything today? I did. Brussels Sprouts has THREE s’s. No devotions tomorrow or Sunday. See you Monday on Day 29 of 40 Days to Celebrate the King. Ask the same questions from yesterday.
For now, just ask yourself these questions:
Who has God placed under my care? ie, who am I supposed to shepherd?
Am I more concerned about my own interest than the needy people around me? (Hint: Doris and I took Christmas to a family from Journey Home yesterday, a ministry for the homeless in Murfreesboro. I was moved.)
And, who could I help TODAY in a tangible way?
Here is the reading for this weekend and for next week:
Saturday Psalm 85 and Acts 1:1-11
Sunday Psalm 85 and Zephaniah 3:14-20, Philippians 4:4-9, Luke 3:7-18
Next week read Psalm 77 and:
Monday Isaiah 7:10-17
Tuesday Matthew 1:18-25
Wednesday Isaiah 40:1-11, 28-31
Thursday Ezekiel 34:11-16
Friday Isaiah 9:1-7
Today’s prayer: O Lord God, whose chosen dwelling place is the heart of the lowly; I thank you that you revealed Yourself in the Baby Jesus. I ask you to make me humble in faith and love so that I might know the joy of the Good News that is hidden from the wise and revealed to babes. Amen