And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.
~ Mark 6:34 (NKJV)
When Babylonia sacked and burned Jerusalem in 587-586 BC, God's people received decisive punishment for centuries of idolatry.
But the idolatry which turned people away from YHWH played out in more than worship and sacrifice to carved images. The Lord God also expressed outrage over oppression of the weak, whether directly or in lack of mercy (see Ezekiel 16:46-51). His greatest wrath was aroused by the religious leaders—shepherds entrusted with care for the people who used their positions to satisfy their own agenda (Ezekiel 34:1-6).
Fast forward six centuries. God still entrusts His shepherds with nurturing the souls of His people. The religious leaders are now obsessively fastidious about following the law, but are blind to the continuing idolatry which has no compassion for the oppressed and the vulnerable.
Indeed, no one shepherd can meet the needs of so many. But if everything worked the way it should, perhaps the people would all be cared for. Collectively, the shepherds might manage to minister to some while training others to share the work. Or did the Lord YHWH set up a system which could not succeed even if each person did his part?
The faithful shepherd is surely a frustrated one, desperately trying to do as much as he can, knowing he cannot do the work intended for many, understanding that God alone can meet all the needs.
"For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."
~ Matthew 23:4 (NKJV)
In the feeding of 5,000, God stands among His people as their Good Shepherd, and His soul is grieved to see them neglected. He feeds the desperately hungry souls of His people with His words. Even cloaked Himself in the human flesh which limits Himself, God chooses in this instance to work a miracle and feed the people bread and fish.
Two millennia after the onetime feeding of 5,000, the Good Shepherd is still surely "moved with compassion" and grieved when the souls of His people go hungry.
2,600 years after Ezekiel, the Lord YHWH is surely angered when His shepherds are without compassion for the oppressed and the vulnerable.
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Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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