Eternal God, we look around a world where your sheep are lost, where many are scattered without a shepherd. And we are ever more aware of fallen shepherds who have abused your sheep, taken advantage of them, cheated them of the Words of Life, feeding them nothing. But when we search our hearts, O God, we can see the seeds of these wayward shepherds even within ourselves. Remove such evil; fill us instead with your heart for the sheep. Fill us with your grace and mercy, that we might be fit vessels for you to tend your sheep through us.
Ezekiel 34:1-16 NLT
Then this message came to me from the LORD: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: Destruction is certain for you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the broken bones. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with force and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd. They are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through the mountains and hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them.
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. Though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, along with their right to feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey.
“For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: 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 to which they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in lush mountain pastures. I myself will tend my sheep and cause them 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 bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes—feed them justice!”
Prayer of Confession and Intercession
Eternal God, we look around a world where your sheep are lost, where many are scattered without a shepherd. And we are ever more aware of fallen shepherds who have abused your sheep, taken advantage of them, cheated them of the Words of Life, feeding them nothing. But when we search our hearts, O God, we can see the seeds of these wayward shepherds even within ourselves. Remove such evil; cleanse every thought of our heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit.
Fill us instead with your heart for the sheep. Fill us with your grace and mercy, that we might be fit vessels for you to tend your sheep through us. Guard us from the world, from our flesh, and from the Tempter, that we might never bring shame upon the Gospel, never hurt those you would entrust us with. And fill us, too, with your courage, for the task is far too much for us, and the dangers too many, but nothing is impossible with you.
And, Father, we intercede for those sheep who have been abused, mistreated, malnourished. We pray you would bring the healing and justice that only you can bring. Feed them with your words of life. Restore them in your mercy, O Shepherd of our souls.
And although we find it difficult, we intercede also for the wayward shepherds, the abusers, the selfish, the gluttonous. Pursue them with your rod of justice. Instill in them a godly sorrow leading to repentance. Soften their hardened hearts. Open their eyes to see their sin. And, though it is difficult for us to ask, extend your hand of mercy to them.
Your mercy is far greater than we can ever understand—so great that it offends us. We choose to leave vengeance with you. Set right all that is wrong. Let you kingdom come, and your will be done, here among these scattered sheep as it is in heaven. Amen.