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Out Our Way: God wears chaps

Ezekiel 34:11-16


November 30, 2018

Out our way, there are different ways of herding cattle. I recall on one round up, Big Mike, the boss, brought some friends with four-wheeler quads to push the main herd and I suspect they managed some 200-plus head that day. But Mike knew that the quads couldn’t get to every place the cattle could, so he called on Charlie and me to ride on horseback into the arroyos, and thickets.  Charlie warned me to wear chaps because some of the hawthorn thickets where pretty thick.

A cow has a tough hide and often a cow/calf pair will hole up in the midst of those thorn bushes, and going into the midst of those long,sharp thorns is a painful experience. So we wear chaps and deflect most of the damage because if the cows go down into the thickets we have to go in after them.

Now, aside from the value of each cow and calf to the boss, there is also the simple reality that the high pasture was worn out and the grazing was poor. With winter coming on, those strays would have starved, died of thirst, maybe froze, or even been prey for the cougars that roam the area. We were going after them for their own sakes as well as Big Mike’s. Riding in and out of the thickets and deep gullies I figure Charlie and I found them all and at the end of the day we brought in another 30-50 head. That’s why the boss used horsemen and why we wore chaps — because we were not willing that we lose any of the herd.

This past week, I was reading the passage from Ezekiel about God being the shepherd to Israel. Just like a great many of the lunkhead cattle, people tend to stray and hide away in thickets that cut and tear. It would be so much easier to just leave them in the thorns. The history of Israel — and of the Church, for that matter — is filled with strays who keep wandering off, going their own way, and hiding in the thickets.

More than a few prophets and church leaders have cried out to God: “Strays aren’t worth the effort. Let ’em go — let ’em just die in the misery they brought on themselves.” But then they are reminded: God wears chaps.

As God told Ezekiel and then demonstrated in Christ, God doesn’t give up, even if we do. Jesus spoke of the lost sheep that the Good Shepherd refused to leave behind. God wears chaps! He is willing to go into the thorns and through the thickets — He is willing to hunt every inch of the arroyos where the lost may be and keeps going until He finds the strays and then gets them back home.

Like a good many folk, I have been a stray. Sometimes I still tend to wander off and get lost. Sometimes it seems I am surrounded by thorns and can’t get out.  But God wears chaps, and time after time, He manages to come through the worst thickets to find me and get me home. Its kind of good to know that God won’t quit on me even if I quit on Him — and that God wears chaps.


John Bruington


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