2 Sam 7:1-14a, Jer 23:1-6, Ps 23, Mk 6:30-34, 53-56 – Sheep Time!

Doing

For this week’s sheep-themed readings, here are some ovine activities.

Mini-sheep Bookmarks

DSCN6627

Sheep Racing!

sheepracer

Reflecting

You cannot escape the theme in this week’s readings – there’s a whole lot of sheeping going on! Or rather, shepherding.

David – the hyper-active shepherd

David wanted to build God’s temple, now that his people were settled in the land. “That’s great,” says God, “I like your enthusiasm, but it’s not your job.” Instead, God would build up David’s house and give him and his people peace. Then David’s son would build God’s temple, as we know Solomon did. God had raised David from shepherd-boy to shepherd-king, to model God’s shepherd care of his people, but architect was not part of the calling, however noble the motivation. David had to step back, to sit back, and let someone else take up his pet project. I think that must have been hard for David to hear.

Perhaps you are feeling like David – you have something on your heart to do, but the way seems blocked. Sometimes the call is to persevere, sometime to hand over the task. It’s often tricky to know which. Which is not a lot of help, I know. Sorry.

Jeremiah – calls out the bad shepherds

I guess nothing changes – they had rubbish politicians then just as we get them now. Jeremiah called out the shepherds who were living off the flocks instead of with them – making themselves fat at the expense of those they should have been caring for. The leaders had led the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah into sin and caused them to be conquered and deported. But God would gather the scattered flock and put new, better shepherds in place. This happened later with Ezra and Nehemiah.

Perhaps you are feeling like Jeremiah – you are wanting to call out injustice. Praise God that you live in a country where criticising those in power is allowed (if that is the case for you). Let us stand up for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses as we pray, ‘Your kingdom come … on earth as in heaven’.

But there is more. There is a promise.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.

This is the name by which he will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.

A new king. A descendent of David who will rule righteously over all of God’s people. That’s not what we see in Ezra and Nehemiah. They weren’t kings – one was a butler and the other a scribe. They were good, they were God’s provision for their time, but they weren’t this.

This is one of those ‘telescope’ passages – you can focus it on objects at different distances. Jeremiah was talking to real people about real events and real consequences that happened in the lifetimes of the hearers. But Jeremiah’s words also applied to something further off – another gathering of the scattered flock and a better shepherd yet.

Jesus – the Good Shepherd

We meet Jesus in the flurry of busy ministry. There are needy people pressing all around him so that he can’t even eat his lunch in peace. He tries to get some space for a few minutes – and the people follow him. He tries again – and still he is mobbed by frantic crowds. Most people would have snapped by now. “Can’t you give me some space?” “Stop grabbing at my clothes!” Surely this is the way to burn-out and compassion-fatigue.

But Jesus is the one promised in Jeremiah and foreshadowed in David’s famous psalm. The ultimate shepherd. He sees the people, ambling their way through life, sheep aimlessly looking for food, and he feeds them.

lost-sheep

Those of us who live in the UK or other lush countries must remember that for a shepherd to make his flock ‘lie down in green pastures’ was not simply turning them out into a field. In that scrubby landscape, ‘green pasture’ was an odd patch of uneaten thistle, a tussock of scrawny weeds. Finding these was a hard job, a constant, never-ending need.

 

Perhaps you feel like Jesus’ disciples, a busy shepherd constantly tending sheep – dashing from place to place, serving, serving, serving, and still there are more to be served. A harassed mother of a toddler, a busy minster to a needy flock, a full-time carer for a loved one. Take a few moments for yourself – even if it’s only when you’re on the loo! Listen to Jesus’ words: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Close your eyes and breathe deeply a couple of times. Then consciously drop your shoulders and place your hands in your lap, palms up to receive. Breathe in and think “Come”. Breathe out and think “Lord Jesus”. Pause. Repeat.

Reading

2 Samuel 7:1-14

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

“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. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 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. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.

 

Jeremiah 23:1-6

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.

This is the name by which he will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.

 

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

[…]

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Credits

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sheep in ‘green pasture’ from Free Bible Images

 


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