Some of us like the idea of being set apart by God for his work and glory, because it helps us feel useful and loved. We want to feel as if we belong, and being set apart assures us we belong. Yet sometimes we might feel unsettled about being set apart. What does it require of us? What if it’s too hard? What if belonging to God requires us to be outcast by others (which, by the way, it does)?
We don’t get to define what “set apart” means. In fact, it’s much less about us than it is about who God is and what he promises. Let’s dig into Ezekiel 34 today and get a taste of what God’s promise to set us apart will most assuredly involve.
Verse 11: This is what the Lord God says: I, myself, will search for my sheep and take care of them. God pursues and cares for us.
Verse 12: As a shepherd takes care of his scattered flock when it is found, I will take care of my sheep. I will save them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. God can find us and save us no matter where we are.
Verse 13. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries. I will bring them to their own land and pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines, and in all the places where people live in the land. God gathers us into the community he creates.
Verses 14-15. I will feed them in a good pasture, and they will eat grass on the high mountains of Israel. They will lie down on good ground where they eat grass, and they will eat in rich grassland on the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock and lead them to rest, says the Lord God. God abundantly provides nourishment and rest.
Verse 16. I will search for the lost, bring back those that strayed away, put bandages on those that were hurt, and make the weak strong. But I will destroy those sheep that are fat and strong. I will tend the sheep with fairness. God heals and strengthens us. God is fair with us.
Verses 17-21. This is what the Lord God says: As for you, my flock, I will judge between one sheep and another, between the male sheep and the male goats. Is it not enough for you to eat grass in the good land? Must you crush the rest of the grass with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you make the rest of the water muddy with your feet? Must my flock eat what you crush, and must they drink what you make muddy with your feet? So this is what the Lord God says to them: I, myself, will judge between the fat sheep and the thin sheep. You push with your side and with your shoulder, and you knock down all the weak sheep with your horns until you have forced them away. God judges us and responds with fairness.
Verse 24. Then I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a ruler among them. I, the Lord, have spoken. God provides instruction and guidance. God speaks to us.
Verse 25. I will make an agreement of peace with my sheep and will remove harmful animals from the land. Then the sheep will live safely in the desert and sleep in the woods. God provides peace and protection.
Verses 26-27. I will bless them and let them live around my hill. I will cause the rains to come when it is time; there will be showers to bless them. Also the trees in the countryside will give their fruit, and the land will give its harvest. And the sheep will be safe on their land. Then they will know that I am the Lord when I break the bars of their captivity and save them from the power of those who made them slaves. God abundantly blesses us.
Verse 30. Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them. God is with us. He is not distant. He is near. He is involved. He is invested.
Being set apart isn’t something God does from a distance. It’s not something that you receive as a reward that you can place on your mantle and only think about from time to time. Being set apart is about a relationship. It’s a sacrifice. It is an intimate trust in God.
God will not leave any promise unfulfilled. He is incapable of breaking a promise. How he fulfills his promise might not be exactly how or when you expect or prefer, but a relationship with him isn’t about getting our way. It’s about yielding to his way. When you are set apart, you are his…completely.
Are you living a completely set apart life today?