Friday, February 1, 2013

Seemeth it a small thing?

This comes in the middle of Ezekial 34, which is a chapter about shepherding.  In the middle, it switches to a talk with the flock itself.
18 Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture,
but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures?
and to have drunk of the deep waters,
but ye must foul the residue with your feet?
 19 And as for my flock,
they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet;
and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.
 20 ¶Therefore thus saith the Lord God unto them;
Behold, I,
even I,
will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.
(Ezekiel 34:18-20)
It took me several years to figure out what this was talking about, when it refers to cattle eating the good pasture and then treading down the rest with their feet.  It refers to members who are participating in nourishing spiritual experiences and then ruining those experiences for others, whether with a lack of attention, or inappropriate comments, or criticism, or improper deportment.    

Ruining it for others arises out of a lack of reverence and appreciation for the blessings of those experiences.  The question that comes at the beginning is very apt—“Seemeth it a small thing unto you?”   When we are not reverence or grateful, then yes, it does seems a small thing to us.  Everything is “no big deal” when we aren’t reverent. 

The Lord doesn’t let these things go.  It says in verse 20 that He will judge between fat cattle and lean cattle.  It is not clear whether the “fat” cattle are those that are nourished spiritually or whether they are so self-satisfied that they aren’t willing to ‘eat’ any more or let anyone else do so.  It is not clear whether the “lean” cattle are those who have been deprived because of others’ lack of reverence or whether they are deprived because of their own lack of reverence.  Whichever is the case, though, we are assured that the Lord will hold accountable those who ruin it for others.

This is a good scripture to use if you’re trying to teach a church class and someone is consistently driving away the Spirit with smart-aleck comments.  If my mom had known about this one when I was a teen, she probably would have used it on me on a few occasions.


Ramona Gordy said...

I remember a lesson taught about this and the implication was that the fat and lean of the flock; did represent God's people.

Unfortunately the "fat" guys weren't necessarily good or bad, but remiss. The lean guys represented "the poor in spirit" and they were neither "good" nor bad, but also remiss.

The "fat" had partaken of the blessings;etc of God, and had slowly started to "pervert them",(the pearl thrown to swine thus trampling underfoot) And the lean or poor in Spirit, seemed to blindly follow after them, without questioning this process, without standing up for what was right.

They allowed themselves to be "acted upon" because of fear, which seemed to lead to a lack of faith and trusting in God. So who is more guilty? Those who trample underfoot Gods word, or those who see and blindly follow, and eat the leftovers.

Alma 32 is a good reference for this. Where we find Alma ministering to a group of church members who were thrown out of the synagogue because of their "leanness" or poverty.

Alma 32:19-20
19 And now, how much more cursed is he that know the will of God and do it not, than he that only believes, or only hath cause to believe, and fall into transgression?

20 Now of this thing ye must judge. Behold, I say unto you, that it is on the one hand even as it is on the other; and it shall be unto every man according to his work.
Just saying...

Michaela Stephens said...

Thanks for the additional perspective. The lack of clarity and the different ways we can see the situation is perhaps to underline that the Lord is the judge and perhaps we may find ourselves surprised, since there are factors we can't see (like the state of a person's heart) that the Lord takes into account. A person sitting reverently during the sacrament may be intent on the worship of God, or they may also be daydreaming and thinking of the movies they watched the night before. We just don't know. Only the Lord knows.