Shepherd motif


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Shepherd motif

  1. 1. The motif of the shepherd is found throughout the However, it may be most noteworthy to realize thatscripture. In the Old Testament God has words of strong leaders and rulers being called shepherds was notrebuke and warning for bad shepherds, and prophecies exclusive to the Bible or for that matter to the nation ofof a good shepherd that is to come. In the New Israel. King Hammurabi of Babylon called himself a 1Testament, Jesus identifies himself as the Good shepherd , and Homer regularly styles the Greek chiefs 2Shepherd and we find in the epistles the notion of good as shepherds of their people. In fact, history hasshepherding extended to those who would lead in the shown, “from ancient antiquity rulers were described aschurch. demonstrating their legitimacy to rule by their ability to 3This paper will attempt to explore the shepherding ‘pasture’ their people.” This makes sense then ofmotif in some detail. In specific it will answer the verses like those found in Jer. 49:19 and 50:44, wherefollowing three questions: Why might have God chosen God asks, “who is the shepherd who can stand againstto use this particular image? What are the me?” In this connection, the royal staff, or scepter, acharacteristics of a good shepherd? Who is the common accessory for kings in the Ancient Near East,Shepherd that is to come referred to in the Old was itself a form of shepherd’s rod. ShepherdsTestament? commonly used long poles such as these to pokeWhy the image of the shepherd? around crevices in caves to scare out scorpions and 4The idea of shepherding, and in specific the idea of God snakes. It came to be a symbol of protection, poweracting as the Shepherd of His people, is a motif found and authority. Even in Egypt, a divine symbol of kingship 5throughout the Bible, from beginning to end. In Gen. was the shepherd’s crook. It is true that the idea of48:24, as Jacob, on his deathbed summarized his life, he shepherd as leader was not exclusive to the Bible.declared that God had been his “shepherd all of his life However, what we will find is that God as the ultimateto this day.” In Rev. 7:17, when the saints who come out shepherd of His people takes this concept to a level notof the tribulation are brought before God, John brings present in other cultures.together two of the most striking images of the As we look at the characteristics of a good shepherd itscripture by stating, "for the Lamb in the center of the will become clear that God chose this motif at least inthrone shall be their shepherd and shall guide them to part because His people are so apt to act like sheep.springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every Scriptures like Is. 53:6 remind us over and over againtear from their eye.” that God’s people and sheep are very much alike andWhile perhaps not found with as much frequency as the connection is most often negative. “Sheep are notother motifs in the Bible, the theme of the shepherd is only dependent creatures; singularly unintelligent,very significant. It appears at critical times in the prone to wandering and unable to find their way to a 6narrative of the history of God’s people, and hardly shepherd even when it is in sight.” The analogy isanother motif is as rich in content. fitting. It is clear, because of our helplessness and ourWhy did God choose to include this motif as part of His tendency to wander and get lost we are in need of arevelation to man? Scripture itself does not give a direct Good Shepherd.explanation, so the answer cannot be definitive. The characteristics of a good shepherdHowever, there would appear to be several good The Bible sketches out in great detail what a goodreasons. Shepherding was, and still is to a certain shepherd would look like both in the Psalms and in theextent, a very common occupation for those in the words of Christ himself. However, before turning toMiddle East. The Patriarchs were all shepherds, as was these descriptions it will be beneficial to consider in theMoses and of course David. (It was to shepherds in the broadest terms what the focus of a leader of God’sfield that the news of the birth of Christ was first people should be, and in specific how the poor leadersrevealed!) The terrain and geography of the area lend of Israel failed in this regard.itself to the raising of both sheep and goats, but in The focus of a good shepherd was to be on his flock--particular sheep. There is scarcity of grass and less than their provision, guidance and safety. The epitome of theabundant sources of water. Sheep are moved from one bad shepherds, in Ezekiel’s expose of Israel’s leaders ofarea to another with relative ease and require less his day (34:1-6), sketches out in vivid terms, what itwater than other domestic animals. Everyone was looked like when leaders failed to provide this care.familiar with shepherding --- to say the people to whom These leaders were slaughtering their sheep for theirthe scriptures were first written had a working own gain rather than feeding them. ( This calls to mindknowledge of the concept would indeed be an the hireling of John 10:10, who comes only to steal, killunderstatement. and destroy and also of Jesus’scathing rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 23.) Rather than caring for the
  2. 2. flock, they treated them with “force and severity”. (vs.4) of leadership and the very reason given for Joshua beingPerhaps Ezekiel’s greatest rebuke was for their lack of appointed to carry on for Moses in Num. 27:15 –17. It isguidance. This is emphasized here (and in other interesting to note that David is aware that thepassages). Three times he mentions that the sheep are shepherd provides in this way not because of thescattered. They were lost, became prey for every beast inherent worthiness of the sheep, but because of theand had no one to search or seek them. (vs.6) Jeremiah, reputation of the shepherd. Also, the picture here is ofin his judgment of the leaders of Israel took this notion the shepherd leading the way. Sheep in the East are noton step further, connecting a lack of spirituality on the driven like in the West due to differences in the terrain.leaders part with the scattering of the sheep. In Jer. For the most part, in the East the shepherd goes ahead10:21 he states, no doubt in reference to the captivity of the sheep, choosing the way to go.of Judah, “For the shepherds have become stupid, and Not only did the shepherd provide nourishment andhave not sought the Lord; Therefore they have not direction, but David goes out of his way in the Psalm toprospered, and all their flock is scattered.” convey the idea of the shepherd providing safety andKnowing that the bad shepherd fails to provide for the protection. Sheep are extremely skittish and fearful, butsheep, protect the sheep and guide the sheep, the the shepherd was equipped to protect the sheep. Thepicture of the good shepherd laid out in scripture comes rod, which was more of a club, was use to ward off wildinto clearer view. The most famous description of the animals and robbers. The staff, as we have seen alreadygood shepherd, and perhaps one of the most well was used to protect form scorpions and snakes. As aknown passages in the Bible, is Psalm 23. These lines result the sheep were safe, even walking through thewere penned by David, not a theoretician when it came valley of the Shadow of Death--literally the valley ofto sheep and their welfare, but a proven shepherd. deepest darkness. ( The shepherd himself is able to(David’s ability as a shepherd was clearly connected enjoy a banquet in the presence of his enemies too,with God using him to masterfully lead Israel. In Ps. vs.5.) Isaiah understood this about the good shepherd78:70-72 we read, “ He also chose Davis His servant, as well. In Is.40:11 he pictures the Shepherd’sAnd took him from the sheepfolds; From the care of the protection by pointing out his care for the most helplessewes with sucking lams He brought him, To shepherd of the flock. The newborn and the nursing mothers withJacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he young are the members most vulnerable to attack. “Likeshepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He willAnd guided them with his skillful hands.”) Entire books gather the lambs, and carry them in His bosom; He willhave been written detailing the work and nature of the gently lead the nursing ewes.”shepherd in Psalm 23. What follows attempts to In Jesus’ description of Himself in John 10 he adds tohighlight some of the more important points of the our understanding of what makes for a good shepherd.shepherd’s provision for his flock. The good shepherd is sacrificial. He is willing to ignoreThe good shepherd provides nourishment and his own needs in order to meet the needs of the sheep.refreshment for his sheep. In verse 2 we are told he Over and over in the passage he states the goodcauses the sheep to lie down in green pastures. This shepherd gives his own life for his sheep. (vs.11, 15, 17,indicates a place to rest but also a supply of food on 18) In addition to this, though, Jesus’ audiencehand. Also present is water that is welcoming in understood the sacrificial nature of the shepherd in Hisaddition to refreshing. This met a critical need due to discussion of the sheepfold. When sheep were pennedthe shortage of water in the region as already pointed in at night outside the city, the shepherd himself wouldout. often construct a makeshift fold. He would take brushLater in the Psalm David conveys the idea of abundant and bushes and construct them in a “u” shape or someprovision in yet another way. He speaks of a table being other formation depending on what was already atset, his cup overflowing, and his head being anointed hand. He would then place thorny branches on top ofwith oil. Bedouin hospitality often called for just such a the brush to both inhibit the sheep from jumping outlavish response to a guest, and the anointing with oil and from wild animals and thieves jumping into thewas a symbol of lavish generosity and goodness on enclosure to hurt or kill the sheep. ( Robbers wouldbehalf of a hostess for their guest. (Ecc. 9:8) David accomplish their goal by climbing over the enclosure,points out that the skilled shepherd MAKES them lie slitting the throat of the sheep and heaving the body/down (vs.2), LEADS them (vs.2) and GUIDES them (vs.3). bodies over the wall. This helps explain John 10:1.) TheHe provides guidance which is so critical for sheep that only way in and out of the fold was through a space heare by their nature apt to stray or wander into danger would leave open. The shepherd himself would actuallybecause they are so helpless. This was a critical aspect lie across the opening, becoming the door in and out of
  3. 3. the sheepfold. The shepherd’s own comfort and sleep As mentioned earlier, the record of this kind ofwere secondary to the comfort and safety of the sheep. leadership in the Old Testament was abysmal, with theAdditionally, we know too from the story told in Luke 15 exception of David and a few others. Israel’s leadersthat a worthy shepherd indeed does go and search for a failed to be shepherds of this description. As a resultlost sheep. He is willing to make this effort unlike the prophets in the Old Testament looked forward to a timeworthless shepherds already mentioned who allow the when a truly good shepherd would come. In the nextsheep to wander and be preyed upon. Jesus finalizes the section we will explore who that person would be andnotion of the sheeps’ security by stating in John when He would come.10:28,29 that with Him they are eternally secure. The identity of the shepherd in Old TestamentThe other characteristic of the good shepherd Jesus prophesy and when he would comemakes crystal clear in his discussion of the topic in John There are numbers of passages in the OT that make10, is that the good shepherd is personally, if not reference to a shepherd who is to come and who is tointimately involved with all his sheep. His closeness with play a significant role in the history of Israel. In the casethe individual sheep is clear in vs. 3 when it says he calls of Is. 44:28 the shepherd is actually named--Cyrus. Inthem by name. From Nathan’s story in 2 Sam.12, we the remaining passages, the identity of the shepherd isknow that sheep were sometimes given the status of unknown. In this section of the paper we will explorepet. In fact, so close were the shepherd with their flock the major passages in the scripture that deal with thethat one shepherd is reported to been able to tell which shepherd where his identity is unknown. Most passageslamb went with which nursing mother in the dark by that refer to the coming shepherd are clear as to this 7merely feeling it’s head! The shepherd is also involved person being the Messiah. What is not as clear is whenenough with his flock that they know his voice. In this He will come and what He will do at that time. Whereday multiple flocks would sometimes be brought into appropriate, we will investigate what meaning thesethe sheepfold for the night. The next day each shepherd passages had for their original audience and what theyin turn would stand in the middle of the fold and call his might mean for us today. We will also look at Ezek. 34:own out. It was not a matter of the exact call or words 23, where there is some controversy concerning theused, but the sheep responded primarily to the distinct shepherd’s identity. Here we will argue that the persontone of the shepherd’s voice. of the shepherd is the Messiah.In summary, the good shepherd showed great concern Most passages referring to the coming shepherd arefor his sheep. He provided for them in terms of connected with the ultimate restoration of Israel whichnourishment and rest. He guided them, leading the way. will take place at Christ’s Second Coming. One of theHe was intimately involved with the flock and most striking of these predictions is Is. 40:11. In theconcerned for the safety of each individual. He was midst of the warning about the coming hardship ofwilling to sacrifice his own comfort, even his own life, captivity, Isaiah lifts the eyes of his countrymen to afor the sake of his sheep. time when God will fully restore all things. The globalThis is the kind of love and care with which God wanted scope of the language, “Let every valley be liftedHis rulers to lead Israel in the Old Testament, and the up…that the glory of the Lord will be revealed” argueswriters of the New Testament have much of this in mind for a time frame of the Second Coming. According towhen it comes to leadership in the church. It was in this vs.10, at this time He is coming in judgment and might;context that Jesus challenged Peter to prove his love “Behold, the Lord God will come with might, With Hisafter his betrayal. After each admission of love on arm ruling for Him. Behold His reward is with Him, AndPeter’s part Jesus said, “Tend My lambs” John 21:15, His recompense before Him.” However, Isaiah goes out“Shepherd my sheep” vs.16, and “Tend my sheep” vs.17. of his way in the next verse to picture God in the mostPeter charges the elders at the churches in present day tender and nurturing terms. “Like a shepherd he willAsia Minor to “shepherd the flock of God among you, tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, Andnot under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursingwill of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; ewes.” Provision and care are inherent in this image ofnor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, the ruling shepherd who is to come. This would not bebut proving to be examples to the flock.” (1Peter 5:2-3) missed by Isaiah’s audience. In chapter 49:8-10 IsaiahUnderstanding the level of love, commitment and expands on this same theme, although not actuallysacrifice expended by the shepherd on behalf of the using the term shepherd. “Thus says the Lord, ‘In asheep raises the bar for those who seek to lead in the favorable time I have answered You, And in a day ofchurch. salvation I have helped You; And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people, To restore the land, to
  4. 4. make them inherit the desolate heritages; Saying to (Micah goes on to speak of the global peace Israel willthose who are bound, Go Forth, To those who are in experience at that time as well.) Again, these wordsdarkness, Show Yourselves, Along the roads they will were words of comfort to Micah’s audience, especiallyfeed, And their pasture will be on all bare heights. They in view of the failure of the nation’s leaders of that daywill not hunger or thirst, Neither will the scorching heat to properly care for their flock. The triumphal languageor sun strike them down; For He who has compassion on that follows (vs.5-9) provided great comfort for Micah’sthem will lead them, And will guide them to springs of hearers as well. The church today, though not in thewater.” Isaiah’s sees a time when the Lord of Hosts will same situation can look forward to living in a stateappear as judge, which is a time to be feared especially where our shepherd will at last “be great to the ends offor the enemies of His people. Yet because the the earth” and that “He will be our peace.”nurturing care of His flock, a time to be anticipated with When it comes to Zechariah’s mention of the shepherdexcitement as well. No doubt these words were words to come, the line between fulfillment at Christ’s firstof comfort to Isaiah’s audience as they headed into a and Second Coming becomes even more blurred.dark time. These words should be a comfort for us as Zechariah’s prophecies are largely concerned withwell as we too wait for the Judge and Shepherd to events at the end of history and the Second Coming ofreturn. Christ. His imagery is often apocalyptic in nature andIn Jer. 31:10-17 we find an emphasis not on a future difficult to interpret. However, the gospel writers sawMessiah coming as shepherd, but on God’s omniscience some of the events foreshadowed there as having to doover the events in Israel’s history. Jeremiah declares, with Christ’s first coming. For example, in the very“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations. And declare in complicated passage of Zech. 11:11-12, the speaker (thethe coastlands afar off , And say, ‘He who scattered true shepherd?) asks for his wages. He receives 30Israel will gather him, And keep him as a shepherd keeps pieces of silver, which God then tells him to throw tohis flock.’” vs.10 God oversaw and allowed the the potter (a gesture of disdain and disregard.) Somescattering of His people for their disobedience, and in see this prophecy fulfilled in Matt. 26:14-16, whenHis omniscience He will bring them back. Again, Judas betrayed Christ. Matthew carefully points out thescripture connects the scattering of God’s flock as a exact price of his betrayal. Likewise in Zech. 13:7-9hurtful and damaging thing. His promise to bring them there is mention of the sheep being scattered when theback together, restoring them to the land, which He did shepherd is struck down. Matthew 26:31 saw thein part in after the Babylonian captivity, conveyed great fulfillment of this in the disciples’ forsaking Christ thecomfort to His people then in exile. They did not get night He was arrested. Out of context this interpretationwhere they were by accident, and the same God who may seem a very clear fit. However in context it is not soscattered His people would see that they came back clear. Just prior to the scattering of the sheep, it referstogether. This truth, that God oversees and directs to the awakening of a "sword against God’s Shepherd,history (in a broad sense) should be a comfort to us as and against the man, My Associate". (!!) (Some believewell. This is a passage that is typical of many prophecies this last person referenced to be the Anti-Christ!) Thein the Old Testament. It was fulfilled in part with the verse ends with a remnant declaring, “The Lord is myreturn of Judah to the land after the Babylonian God”. Is this the remnant gathered together at Christ’scaptivity. It was further fulfilled when modern day Israel Second Coming? These passages seem particularlywas restored to the land in 1948, and it will be unclear in terms of the time of the Shepherd’s comingcompletely fulfilled (to the top of the cup) when Christ or what He will do, and yet the gospel writers viewcomes back to establish His kingdom once and for all. them as at least fulfilled in part in Jesus’s lifetime.In Micah 5:2-5a we find another reference to the future Perhaps the most interesting of the OT propheciesshepherd of Israel. Here we see elements of the concerning the shepherd of the future is in Ezek. 34.prophesy fulfilled at the first coming of Christ, but other After Ezekiel extensively rebukes the shepherds of Israelaspects that will be completed at His second coming. for their abysmal failure to lead the people as GodBethlehem is mentioned as the place where a ruler of would have them, (vs.1-10), God interjects anIsrael will go forth. Matthew 2:5-6 saw this fulfilled in unmistakable ray of hope. He says, (vs.11) “I myself willChrist’s first coming. In vs.4 it states “And He will arise search for my sheep and seek them out.” He then goesand shepherd His flock, In the strength of the Lord, In on in beautiful imagery to paint the picture of the Goodthe majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And Shepherd searching for and restoring the lost andthey will remain, Because at that time He will be great.” scattered sheep. He will return them to the land andThe language here suggests the global knowledge of feed them on the mountains of Israel. (vs.13-14) He willChrist which will take place at His Second Coming. bind up the broken and strengthen the sick, but at the
  5. 5. same time will come with judgment. (vs.16) In vs.17-19 that Jesus was in fact the son of David promised in thewe see He will execute judgment not only on the scripture. Acts 2:21-36 Jesus boldly asserts that not onlyleaders, but also on individual members of the flock, is He the offspring of David, the very one that Davidsome of whom have demonstrated the same self anticipated, but He was God at the same time. Matt.interest as the leaders. (vs.12) There is total restoration 22:43, Mk. 12:35, Lk. 20:42 all record Jesus forcing theof the nation of Israel and they enter in to a time of Jews to think through His identity by considering whatabundance and blessing. (vs. 25-31) This would appear, David says in Ps.110. How like God to so fantastically tiequite clearly, to be a prediction of the Second Coming of Jesus in with the line of David to fulfill that promise toChrist and the final restoration of the true Israel. sit on the throne forever. How like God it is that HeHowever, in vs. 23 and 24 we read ‘Then I will set over Himself, not a resurrected David, is the Good Shepherdthem one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed and as the Good Shepherd the final king for His people.them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. This was always His desire. He allowed for a human kingAnd I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David as a concession to his rebellious children, (I Sam. 8:7)will be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.” but it was His desire to rule and care for His childrenThe mention here of David, for some is particularly from the beginning.controversial. Rather than the shepherd being Christ, Walvoord also argues that David, not Christ will presidethey see David as God’s shepherd, servant and prince. over sacrifice in the Millennial Kingdom. The problem“However, nothing in Ezekiel 34:23 demands that with this argument has more to do with the nature ofEzekiel was not referring to the literal King David who the Kingdom to come than who is officiating as priest.will be resurrected to serve as Israel’s righteous The true question concerns the idea of sacrifice for sin 8prince.” They argue that later in Ezek. 37:34-35 there is in the Millennial Kingdom. Why would God bring back amention again of David. Here he is king and prince system that he declared insufficient and obsolete overforever. David appears in the future predictions of Jer. and over in the book of Hebrews? Why would it be30:9 and Hos.3:5. In Ezek. 45:22, and 45:4 there is reinstated after hundreds of years? It seems to make nomention of sin offerings taking place in the millennium. sense. All other authors of the scripture speakThese scholars (Walvoord) argue that it would be metaphorically when referring to the kingdom to come.inappropriate for Jesus to offer such sacrifices, but It is very hard to understand why Ezekiel alone wouldappropriate for David the prince. From these lines of describe it in literal terms. It is not hard to understand,reason the conclusion is drawn that the shepherd though, that the exiled priests who made up part ofmentioned here is not Christ but a literal resurrected Ezekiel’s audience would view the return of theDavid. sacrificial system as part of that which God wouldAside from the obvious problem of dealing with Jesus ultimately restore. This was no doubt something theyHimself claiming to be the Good Shepherd, (and the longed for in their years of captivity. Ezekiel, again inwriters of the NT agreeing with Him as in 1 Peter 2:25, speaking words of comfort to the people of his dayHeb. 13:20 etc.) this conclusion ignores the marvelously could have included notions of the sacrificial system indeliberate and intricate way the scripture identifies his depiction of the kingdom to come.Jesus with David. The promise to David from earliest In conclusion, it would seem that this passage in Ezekiel,times was that His descendent would be on the throne like the others, looks forward to the coming of theof Israel forever, not David himself. There is an eternal Messiah, not David as the Good Shepherd of his people.aspect to the kingship of David’s line that he humanly As was the case with the other references to His comingcould never fulfill. However, it was understood by all, to regather and care for his sheep, God intended to giveincluding David himself that God would establish one of hope and encouragement to the people of Ezekiel’s day.his descendants to sit on the throne eternally. Jesus was Knowing that a day would come when God would “feedthat descendent. Matthew’s gospel from chapter 1 His flock and lead them to rest” (Ez. 34:15) was meantonward strives to make that point. Over and over again to bring them comfort in a day when they were cut offhe refers to Jesus as the Son of David. The Jews knew from their land, and seemingly cut off from their God. Inthe Messiah had to be a son of David. This causes them the midst of the darkness God wanted them not toto ask in Mt. 12:23 “This man cannot be the Son of despair, but to know He had great plans for them. (Jer.David, can he?” The answer to that question, though 29:11)they didn’t believe it was “YES”. Jesus was the great and The final prophecy of the shepherd to be considered isfinal descendant of David. Paul in trying to persuade the Mt. 25:32-34. “And all the nations will be gatheredJews that Christ was the Messiah makes this argument before Him; and he will separate from one another, asin Acts 13:23 and again in 13:34-36. Peter too points out the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; And
  6. 6. He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the and plopped in her lap. “I’ll take him,” I said,left.” In this passage the shepherd goes on to direct the grabbing for my wallet. Without so much as asheep (the righteous-vs.37, 46) to the kingdom hint of dickering, I paid the man exactly what heprepared from the foundation of the world, and the was asking. She called him “Billy Boy,” or “Bill”goats, to eternal punishment. The metaphor here for short; I (at times) called him “Big Bopper.”relates to the fact that often a shepherd tended a mixed And he certainly did fit the “big” part – he cameflock of both sheep and goats. (In a similar way we say to weigh 70 pounds. Sometimes in the night, Ijudgment between individual sheep, as well as between experienced all 70 pounds of the “Big Bopper”sheep and goats in Ezekiel 34.) There were times when when he would leap unannounced onto the bedthe two groups needed to be separated. This was a in one single bound.common part of the shepherding job, clearly Eventually, “Billy Boy” and our nieceunderstood by Jesus’ audience. These passages teach moved to the Pacific Northwest, and he nowthat the Good Shepherd will come to judge between lives on a small ranch, along with a small flock ofindividuals at the end of the age. For those who are His, sheep – a sheep dog’s version of heaven. Onethese were meant to be words of comfort. For those thing I’ve noticed about sheep dogs is that theywho were not, words of great sobriety. really don’t seem to care for sheep all thatIn conclusion, the OT scripture does look forward to the much. From my experience, it’s all aboutcoming of the Good Shepherd. As God’s Messiah, Jesus dominance. Sheep dogs like to “herd” (as infulfilled this prophetic role in some measure in His first “boss around”) almost anything … children (ifcoming. He will complete it in His second coming, there are enough of them), ducks, cows, youhowever, when He will come in judgment to separate name it. It’s a contest between the dog’s willthe righteous from those who did not know Him, and to and the determination of the animal beingfinally care for and lead those that are His own. herded. The sheep dog locks eyes with whatever- See more at: creature he is seeking to control. If that isn’t intimidating enough, he will rush toward thernal/issue4/shepherd.htm#sthash.OKJpFt8m.dpuf animal. And if that isn’t sufficient, the dog is not<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<> above a little nip in the backside or on the hoof>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> to make its point. Introduction Sheep dogs are very effective, but in When our niece came to live with us my limited experience, they are nothing like a several years ago, she had never really had a shepherd. In this lesson, we are going to study dog of her own. As she began to watch for dogs the church by turning our attention to the in the paper, she became particularly interested biblical imagery of a shepherd and his flock, or in Australian Shepherds as a breed. One day she more precisely the “Good Shepherd” and His saw an ad for a puppy that caught her attention, flock, the church. This lesson is important, not and we agreed to drive out to the country to only because it helps us to understand how God look at it. “Now, we’re only going to look, Uncle leads us, but also because it instructs us how we Bob,” she said. “After we’ve had time to think should lead if we are to be like God. Let us listen about it, if we decide to buy it, then you can well, then, to what the Bible teaches us about begin to bargain with the owner.” You see, my the Good Shepherd and His sheep. niece had been with us long enough to observe The Shepherd and His Flock: An Easy me in the process of buying a couple of cars. Image to Comprehend From her limited observation, she was One of the most common images in the convinced that I could buy almost anything for Bible is that of the shepherd and his sheep. Even half of what the owner was asking, and she was if we have not grown up on a farm, we should certain I could strike the same kind of bargain have little trouble grasping this imagery, with the owner of this pup. because it is so commonly spoken of in the We made our way out into the country Bible. where the breeder lived, and he invited us into We should remember that God’s his home. We learned that the man had just the chosen people were shepherds. Abraham was a one pup left. He went outside and brought the keeper of sheep (Genesis 13:3). As a matter of pup into the house. My niece was sitting on the fact, Abraham was so successful that he and Lot floor, and the pup immediately ran over to her had to split up, because they could not sustain
  7. 7. both of their herds in the same grazing areas helpless, like sheep without a(Genesis 13:7). Jacob, too, was a shepherd, and shepherd (Matthew 9:36).this is how he became wealthy while working To be a shepherd over a flock is thus tofor Laban, caring for his flocks (Genesis 30:43). be a leader over a group of people. It is littleWhen Jacob and his family went to join Joseph wonder, then, that David saw his relationship toin Egypt, they were shepherds, which is part of God as that of a sheep to its shepherd:the reason why the Egyptians avoided 1 The Lord is my shepherd,intermarrying with the Hebrews (Genesis 46:33- I lack nothing.34; 43:32). If Judah married a Canaanite and 2 He takes me to lush pastures,allowed his sons to do likewise (Genesis 38), it he leads me to refreshing water.would not have been long until the tribe of 3 He restores my strength.Judah (from which the Messiah would come – He leads me down the right paths Genesis 49:8-10) would have ceased to exist as for the sake of his reputation.a distinct tribe, due to their intermarriage with 4 Even when I must walk through athe Canaanites. Since the Egyptians loathed dark ravine,shepherds, they would not (with the possible I fear no danger, for you are withexception of Mrs. Potiphar – Genesis 39) have me;considered intermarrying with the Hebrews. your rod and your staff keep meThe Shepherd and His Flock in the calm (Psalm 23:1-4).Bible: A Model for Leaders God’s relationship to the nation Israel Shepherding is an image that pertains was likened to that of a shepherd and his flock;to ruling, to a leader (or shepherd) exercising God was Israel’s Shepherd, and the people wereauthority over a group of people (his flock). This His flock:is clearly indicated in both the Old and the New Yet he brought out his people likeTestaments. You will remember the story of sheep;Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, Ahab, king of Israel, he led them through the wilderness likeand Micaiah the prophet of God in 1 Kings 22. a flock (Psalm 78:52).Ahab wanted Jehoshaphat to join him in battle 6 Come! Let’s bow down and worship!against Syria. Jehoshaphat wanted divine Let’s kneel before the Lord, ourconfirmation that this was truly God’s will, and creator!the theatrical production of the 400 prophets of 7 For he is our God; we are the peopleAhab failed to convince Jehoshaphat. And so of his pasture,Micaiah was called for a “second opinion.” the sheep he owns.Micaiah warned Jehoshaphat against this Today, if only you would obey him!military alliance and informed Ahab that if he (Psalm 95:6-7)were to go to war against Syria, it would cost Realize that the Lord is God!him his life. Notice the imagery he uses to He made us and we belong to him;describe the death of Ahab, king of Israel: we are his people, the sheep of his 17 Micaiah said, “I saw all Israel pasture (Psalm 100:3). scattered on the mountains like The imagery of a shepherd and his flock sheep that have no shepherd. thus provided a picture of the way God cared for Then the Lord said, ‘They have no His people, and thus this imagery also serves as master. They should go home in a model for human leaders. God cares for His peace’” (1 Kings 22:17, emphasis people as a shepherd cares for his flock. Human 28 mine). leaders are likewise to rule over men as a In His earthly ministry our Lord shepherd tends his flock. I believe we can safelyexpressed great compassion for the people infer that God prepared Moses to lead thebecause they lacked spiritual leadership. He Israelites by first having him serve as a shepherddescribed the plight of the people in in the wilderness for 40 years (cf. Exodus 2 and“shepherding” terms: 3). God likewise prepared David for leadership 36 When he saw the crowds, he by his experience as a shepherd in the days of had compassion on them because his youth. they were bewildered and
  8. 8. 8 “So now, say this to my servant lion and the bear. This David: ‘This is what the Lord of uncircumcised Philistine will be hosts says: “I took you from the just like one of them. For he has pasture and from your work as a defied the armies of the living shepherd to make you a leader of God!” 37 David went on to say, my people Israel”’” (2 Samuel 7:8; “The Lord who delivered me from see also 1 Chronicles 17:7). the lion and the bear will also 70 He chose David, his servant, deliver me from the hand of this and took him from the sheepfolds. Philistine!” Then Saul said to 71 He took him away from following David, “Go. The Lord will be withthe mother sheep, you.” 38 Then Saul clothed David and made him the shepherd of Jacob, with his own fighting attire and puthis people, a bronze helmet on his head. He and of Israel, his chosen nation. also put body armor on him (1 72 David cared for them with pure Samuel 17:33-38).motives; To be a good leader was to be a good He led them with skill (Psalm 78:70-72). shepherd. The same principles that guided David When David spoke of going to battle as the shepherd of a little flock prompted Davidagainst Goliath, his oldest brother mocked him to step forward in the face of Goliath’s referring to his seemingly insignificant service Just as David must have seen his little flockas a shepherd: terrorized by a bear or a lion, so he saw the 28 When his oldest brother Eliab armies of Israel terrorized by the Philistines, and heard him speaking to the men, he Goliath in particular. God had given David the became angry with David and said, strength to care for his flock, and God would “Why have you come down here? surely give David the strength to care for this To whom did you entrust those larger flock, by attacking the one who few sheep in the desert? I am threatened them. familiar with your pride and deceit. The shepherding model not only You have come down here to encouraged David to stand up against Goliath, it watch the battle!” (1 Samuel also served Nathan well when rebuking David 17:28) for his abuse of power as Israel’s king. When David saw this situation with Goliath David sinned against God by taking Bathshebaand the armies of Israel in a very different way. and killing her husband, Uriah, God confrontedIt was his experience as a shepherd that gave him through the prophet Nathan. Nathan gothim the confidence to challenge Goliath. He was David’s attention by telling him a story thatconfident of this because of the way God had would have touched the heart of any goodempowered him to care for his “little flock” of shepherd:sheep: 1 So the Lord sent Nathan to 33 But Saul replied to David, “You David. When he came to him, aren’t able to go against this Nathan said, “There were two men Philistine and fight him! You’re just in a certain city, one rich and the a boy! He has been a warrior from other poor. 2 The rich man had a his youth!” 34 David replied to great many flocks and herds. 3 But Saul, “Your servant has been a the poor man had nothing except shepherd for his father’s flock. for a little lamb he had acquired. Whenever a lion or bear would He raised it, and it grew up come and carry off a sheep from alongside him and his children. It the flock, 35 I would go out after it, used to eat his food, drink from his strike it down, and rescue the cup, and sleep in his arms. It was sheep from its mouth. If it rose up just like a daughter to him. 4 against me, I would grab it by its “When a traveler came to the rich jaw, strike it, and kill it. 36 Your man, he did not want to use one of servant has struck down both the his own sheep or cattle to feed the
  9. 9. traveler who had come to him. the army? I am the one who Instead, he took the poor man’s sinned and committed this awful lamb and fed it to the man who deed! As for these sheep, what had come to him.” 5 Then David have they done? O Lord my God, became very angry at this man. He attack me and my family, but said to Nathan, “As surely the Lord remove the plague from your lives, the man who did this people!” (1 Chronicles 21:17) deserves to die! 6 Because he The shepherd model became the committed this cold-hearted standard for all leaders. God used shepherd crime, he must pay for the lamb imagery to describe the abuses of power that four times over.” 7 Nathan said to characterized Israel’s leaders. Because of their David, “You are that man! This is sins, the leaders of Israel would lose their flocks what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I and lose their positions of leadership over the chose you to be king over Israel people of God: and I rescued you from the hand of 18 The Lord told me, “Tell the king Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s and the queen mother, ‘Come house, and put your master’s down from your thrones. That is wives into your arms. I also gave because your glorious crowns will you the house of Israel and Judah. be removed from your heads. 19 And if all that somehow seems The gates of the towns in southern insignificant, I would have given Judah will be shut tight. No one you so much more as well! 9 Why will be able to go in or out of them. have you shown contempt for the All Judah will be carried off into word of the Lord by doing evil in exile. They will be completely my sight? You have struck down carried off into exile.’” 20 Then I Uriah the Hittite with the sword said, “Look up, Jerusalem, and see and you have taken his wife as the enemy that is coming from the your own. You have killed him with north. Where is the flock of the sword of the Ammonites. 10 people that were entrusted to So now the sword will never your care? Where are the ‘sheep’ depart from your house. For you that you take such pride in? 21 have despised me by taking the What will you say when the Lord wife of Uriah the Hittite as your appoints as rulers over you those own.’ 11 This is what the Lord allies that you, yourself, had says: ‘I am about to bring disaster actually prepared as such? Then on you from inside your own anguish and agony will grip you house. Right before your eyes I will like that of a woman giving birth to take your wives and hand them a baby” (Jeremiah 13:18-21, over to your companion. He will emphasis mine). have sexual relations with your 1 The Lord says, “The leaders of wives in broad daylight. 12 my people are sure to be Although you have acted in secret, judged. They were supposed to I will do this thing before all Israel, watch over my people like and in broad daylight’” (2 Samuel shepherds watch over their 12:1-12). sheep. But they are causing my As you well know, through this story people to be destroyed andNathan got the point across, and David repented scattered. 2 So the Lord God ofof his sin (see Psalm 51). Later, David sinned by Israel has this to say about thenumbering the people. When God gave David leaders who are ruling over hishis choice of punishment, David responded with people: “You have caused mythe heart of a true shepherd: people to be dispersed and driven 17 David said to God, “Was I not into exile. You have not taken care the one who decided to number of them. So I will punish you for
  10. 10. the evil that you have done. I, the also judged other rulers for abusing their Lord, affirm it” (Jeremiah 23:1-2, position and power. While the term “shepherd” emphasis mine). is not used in Daniel 4, I think we can see that 1 The word of the Lord came to God disciplined and humbled the mighty me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy Nebuchadnezzar because of his oppressive against the shepherds of Israel; leadership: prophesy, and say to them—to the 24 “This is the interpretation, O shepherds: ‘This is what the king. It is the decision of the Most Sovereign Lord says: Woe, High that this has happened to my shepherds of Israel who have been lord the king. 25 You will be driven feeding themselves! Should not from human society, and you will shepherds feed the flock? 3 You live with the wild animals. You will eat the fat, you clothe yourselves be fed grass like oxen, and you will with the wool, you slaughter the become damp with the dew of the choice animals; but you do not sky. Seven times will pass by for feed the sheep! 4 You have not you, before you understand that strengthened the weak, healed the the Most High is ruler over human sick, bound up the broken, brought kingdoms and gives them to back the strayed, nor sought the whomever he wishes. 26 Now in lost; but with force and harshness that they said to leave a taproot of you have ruled over them. 5 They the tree, your kingdom will be were scattered because they had restored to you when you come to no shepherd; and when they were understand that heaven rules. 27 scattered they became food for Therefore, O king, may my advice every wild beast. 6 My sheep be pleasing to you. Break away wandered over all the mountains from your sins by doing acts of and on every high hill. My sheep righteousness, and from your were scattered over all the face of iniquities by showing mercy to the the earth, but there was no one to poor. Perhaps your prosperity will seek or search for them. 7 be prolonged.” 28 Now all of this “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear happened to King the word of the Lord: 8 As I live, Nebuchadnezzar. 29 After twelve declares the Sovereign Lord, months, he happened to be because my sheep have become a walking around on top of the walls prey, and have become food for all of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 the wild beasts, since there was no The king uttered these words: “Is shepherd and my shepherds did this not the great Babylon that I not search for my flock, but fed have built for a royal residence by themselves and did not feed my my own mighty strength and for sheep, 9 therefore, you shepherds, my majestic honor?” 31 While hear the word of the Lord: 10 This these words were still on the king’s is what the Sovereign Lord says: I lips, a voice came down from am against the shepherds; and I heaven: “It is hereby announced to will demand my sheep from their you, King Nebuchadnezzar, that hand. I will make them stop your kingdom has been removed feeding sheep; the shepherds will from you! 32 You will be driven not feed themselves anymore. I from human society, and you will will deliver my sheep from their live with the wild animals. You will mouth, so that they will no longer be fed grass like oxen, and seven be food for them’” (Ezekiel 34:1- times will pass by for you before 10, emphasis mine). you understand that the Most God not only condemned Jewish High is ruler over humanleaders for their injustice and oppression; He kingdoms and gives them to
  11. 11. whomever he wishes.” 33 Now in Belwill be put to shame. Marduk that very moment this will be dismayed. Babylon’s idols pronouncement came true with will be put to shame. Her Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven disgusting images will be from human society, he ate grass dismayed. 3 For a nation from the like oxen, and his body became north will attack Babylon. It will lay damp with the dew of the sky, her land waste. People and until his hair became long like an animals will flee out of it. No one eagle’s feathers, and his nails like a will live in it.’ 4 “When that time bird’s claws. 34 But at the end of comes,” says the Lord, “the people the appointed time I, of Israel and Judah will return to Nebuchadnezzar, looked up the land together. They will be toward heaven, and my sanity coming back with tears of returned to me. I blessed the Most repentance as they seek renewed High, and I praised and glorified relations with the Lord their God. 5 the one who lives forever. For his They will ask the way to Zion, and rule is an everlasting rule, and his turn their faces toward it. They will kingdom extends from one come and bind themselves to the generation to the next. 35 All the Lord in a lasting agreement that inhabitants of the earth are will never be forgotten. 6 “My regarded as nothing. He does as he people have been lost sheep. wishes with the army of heaven Their shepherds have let them go and with those who inhabit the astray. They have wandered earth. No one slaps his hand and around in the mountains. They says to him, ‘What have you have roamed from one mountain done?’ 36 At that time my sanity and hill to another. They have returned to me. I was restored to forgotten their resting place. 7 All the honor of my kingdom, and my who encountered them devoured splendor returned to me. My them. Their enemies who did this ministers and my magistrates were said, ‘We’re not liable for seeking me out, and I was punishment! For those people reinstated over my kingdom. have sinned against the Tremendous greatness was Lord, their True Pasture. They restored to me, greater than have sinned against the Lord in before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, whom their ancestors trusted.’… praise and exalt and glorify the 17 “The people of Israel are like King of heaven, for all his deeds scattered sheep which lions have are right and his ways are just. He chased away. First the king of is able to bring low those who live Assyria devoured them. Now last in pride (Daniel 4:24-37, emphasis of all King Nebuchadnezzar of mine). Babylon has gnawed their bones. God also judged the leaders of Assyria 18 So, I, the Lord God of Israel whoand Babylon for their cruelty against God’s rules over all, say, ‘I will punish thepeople. This time He did use the shepherding king of Babylon and his land just asmodel as the basis for His rebuke: I punished the king of Assyria. 19 1 The Lord spoke concerning But I will restore the flock that is Babylon and the land of Babylonia Israel to their own pasture. They through the prophet Jeremiah. He will graze on Mount Carmel and in said: 2 “Announce the news the land of Bashan. They will eat among the nations! Proclaim it! until they are full on the hills of Signal for people to pay attention! Ephraim and in the land of Gilead. Declare the news! Don’t hide it! 20 When that time comes, no guilt Say, ‘Babylon will be captured. will be found in Israel. No sin will
  12. 12. be found in Judah. For I will forgive them. Then they will no longer those of them I have left alive. I, need to fear or be terrified. None the Lord, affirm it’” (Jeremiah of them will turn up missing. I, the 50:1-7, 17-20, emphasis mine). Lord, promise it. 5 “I, the Lord,The Promise of the Good Shepherd promise that a new time will Israel’s leaders were a great certainly come when I will raisedisappointment. The patriarchs were far from up for them a righteousperfect. Even the best of Israel’s leaders had descendant of David. He will rulefeet of clay. Moses’ failure as a leader kept him over them with wisdom and 29from entering the Promised Land. David understanding and will do what isabused his powers as king when he sinned by just and right in the land. 6 Under 30taking Bathsheba and killing Uriah. His his rule Judah will enjoy safety 31leadership with his family was flawed, and his and Israel will live in security. This 32 33last days as king were not his finest. Eli and is the name he will go by: ‘The 34Samuel were great men, but their leadership, Lord has provided us with justice’”especially in regard to their families, was far (Jeremiah 23:1-6, emphasis mine).from exemplary. Even the great prophet Elijah 10 This is what the Sovereign Lordsought to resign from his ministry, and from life says: I am against the shepherds; 35itself. Solomon’s early years as king were awe and I will demand my sheep from 36inspiring, but his later life was in shambles. In their hand. I will make them stopthe end, there was no perfect leader throughout feeding sheep; the shepherds willthe history of Israel. not feed themselves anymore. I How, then, could any human king ever will deliver my sheep from theirfulfill all of God’s promises and Israel’s hopes for mouth, so that they will no longera coming king who would sit, forever, on the be food for them. 11 “‘For this isthrone of David as promised in 2 Samuel 7:12- what the Sovereign Lord says: I13? When the Old Testament prophets spoke myself will search for my sheepout against the wicked leaders of their day, they and seek them out. 12 As aspoke words of hope concerning a “Good shepherd seeks out his flock whenShepherd,” Who would someday come and he is among his scattered sheep,tenderly rule over His people: so I will seek out my flock. I will 1 The Lord says, “The leaders of deliver them from all the places my people are sure to be judged. where they have been scattered They were supposed to watch over on a day of clouds and thick my people like shepherds watch darkness. 13 I will bring them out over their sheep. But they are from the peoples and gather them causing my people to be destroyed from foreign countries and bring and scattered. 2 So the Lord God them to their own land; and I will of Israel has this to say about the feed them on the mountains of leaders who are ruling over his Israel, by the streams and all the people: “You have caused my inhabited places of the land. 14 In people to be dispersed and driven a good pasture I will feed them, into exile. You have not taken care and the mountain heights of Israel of them. So I will punish you for will be their pasture. There they the evil that you have done. I, the will lie down in good grazing Lord, affirm it. 3 Then I myself will ground, and they will feed on rich regather those of my people who pasture on the mountains of Israel. are still left alive from all the 15 I will feed my sheep and I will countries where I have driven make them lie down, declares the them. I will bring them back to Sovereign Lord. 16 I will seek the their homeland. They will greatly lost and bring back the strayed, I increase in number. 4 I will install will bind up the injured, and I will rulers over them who will care for strengthen the weak, but the fat
  13. 13. and the strong I will destroy—I will who can break through barrierswillfeed them with judgment… . 23 lead them out they will break out,I will set up one shepherd over pass through the gate, and leave.them, and he will feed them— Their king will advance beforenamely, my servant David. He will them, The Lord himself will leadfeed them and will be their them (Micah 2:12-13, emphasisshepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will mine).be their God, and my servant We can see from the prophecies aboveDavid will be prince over them; I, that the Good Shepherd would be God Himself.the Lord, have spoken. 25 “‘I will The wonder of it all was that the Good Shepherdmake a covenant of peace with would Himself become a lamb, on Whom thethem and will rid the land of wild sins of the world would be placed:beasts, so that they can live 5 He was wounded because of oursecurely in the wilderness and rebellious deeds, crushed becausesleep in the woods. 26 I will make of our sins; he enduredthem and the regions around my punishment that made us well;hill a blessing; and I will make because of his wounds we haveshowers come down in their been healed. 6 All of us hadseason; they will be showers of wandered off like sheep; each ofblessing. 27 The trees of the field us had strayed off on his ownwill yield their fruit and the earth path, but the Lord caused the sinwill yield its crops. They will live on of all of us to attack him. 7 He wastheir land securely; and they will treated harshly and afflicted, butknow that I am the Lord, when I he did not even open his mouth.break the bars of their yoke and Like a lamb led to the slaughteringdeliver them from the hand of block, like a sheep silent beforethose who enslaved them. 28 They her shearers, he did not evenwill no longer be prey for the open his mouth. 8 He was lednations and the wild beasts will away after an unjust trial— butnot devour them; they will live in who even cared? Indeed, he wassecurity and no one will make cut off from the land of the living;them afraid. 29 I will establish for because of the rebellion of his ownthem a renowned planting place, people he was wounded. 9 Theyand they will no longer be victims intended to bury him withof famine in the land and will no criminals, but he ended up in a richlonger bear the insults of the man’s tomb, because he hadnations. 30 They will know that I, committed no violent deeds, northe Lord their God, am with them, had he spoken deceitfully. 10and that they, my people, are the Though the Lord desired to crushhouse of Israel, declares the him and make him ill, onceSovereign Lord. 31 And you, my restitution is made, he will seesheep, are the sheep of my descendants and enjoy long life,pasture, you are people, and I am and the Lord’s purpose will beyour God, declares the Sovereign accomplished through him (IsaiahLord’” (Ezekiel 34:10-16, 23-31). 53:5-10, emphasis mine).12 I will certainly gather all of you,O Jacob, I will certainly assemble Jesus Is the Good Shepherdthose Israelites who remain. I willbring them together like sheep in The One of whom Isaiah spoke wasa fold, like a flock in the middle of none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, thea pasture; and there will be so “Lamb of God,” Who came to bear the penaltymany of them they will make a for our sins:great deal of noise. 13 The one
  14. 14. On the next day John saw Jesus who is not a shepherd and does coming toward him and said, not own sheep, sees the wolf “Look, the Lamb of God who takes coming and abandons the sheep away the sin of the world! (John and runs away. So the wolf attacks 1:29, emphasis mine) the sheep and scatters them. 13 21 For to this you were called, Because he is a hired hand and is since Christ also suffered for you, not concerned about the sheep, he leaving an example for you to runs away. 14 I am the good follow in his steps. 22 shepherd. I know my own and my He committed no sin nor was own know me— 15 just as the deceit found in his mouth. 23 Father knows me and I know the When he was maligned, he did not Father—and I lay down my life for answer back; when he suffered, he the sheep. 16 I have other sheep threatened no retaliation, but that do not come from this committed himself to God who sheepfold. I must bring them too, judges justly. 24 He himself bore and they will listen to my voice, so our sins in his body on the tree, that there will be one flock and that we may leave sin behind and one shepherd” (John 10:11-16, live for emphasis mine). righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. 25 For you The “Good Shepherd” cares for His were going astray like sheepbut sheep, so much so that He will lay down His life now you have turned back to the for them. He cares for the sheep because they shepherd and guardian of your are His sheep. And because they are His sheep, souls (1 Peter 2:21-25). He knows them, and they know Him. They recognize His voice, and they follow Him. In John 9, we read of our Lord healing Ultimately, the Good Shepherd lays down Histhe man born blind, something that had life for His sheep. Notice how this text alsoapparently never happened before (1 John 9:32- indicates that the “Good Shepherd” has “other33). The Jewish religious leaders first attempted sheep that do not come from this sheepfold”to prove that the man claiming to have received (10:16). What a beautiful way to describe thehis sight was not really who he claimed to be. inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s flock!When this failed, they sought to explain the Before the “Good Shepherd” ascendedmiracle in some way that did not acknowledge to heaven, He provided for the on-going care ofJesus to be the Messiah. In the end, these His flock by appointing men as under shepherds:leaders excommunicated the healed man forbelieving Jesus was someone who came from 15 Then when they had finishedGod (9:33-34). The transition from the end of breakfast, Jesus said to Simonchapter 9 to the beginning of chapter 10 is really Peter, “Simon, son of John, do youseamless. I take it, then, that chapter 10 is love me more than these do?” Heclosely related to chapter 9. Is John not replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I loveunderscoring the fact that the Jewish religious you.” Jesus told him, “Feed myleaders are really “evil shepherds,” as is evident lambs.” 16 Jesus said a secondin their response to the man who was time, “Simon, son of John, do you 37healed, and to Jesus, the Messiah? love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, In contrast to these “evil shepherds” in you know I love you.” Jesus toldchapter 9, Jesus proclaims Himself to be the him, “Shepherd my sheep.” 17“Good Shepherd” inJohn 10. Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter 11 “I am the good shepherd. The was distressed that Jesus asked good shepherd lays down his life him a third time, “Do you love for the sheep. 12 The hired hand me?” and said, “Lord, you know
  15. 15. everything. You know that I love “sheep” from the “goats,” separating true you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my believers from those who are not. sheep” (John 21:15-17, emphasis mine). 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with Who better than Peter to address those him, then he will sit on his gloriouswhom God had appointed as shepherds over throne. 32 All the nations will beGod’s flock? assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another 1 So as your fellow elder and a like a shepherd separates the witness of Christ’s sufferings and sheep from the goats. 33 He will as one who shares in the glory that put the sheep on his right and the will be revealed, I urge the elders goats on his left. 34 Then the king among you: 2 Give a shepherd’s will say to those on his right, care to God’s flock among you, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my exercising oversight not merely as Father, inherit the kingdom a duty but willingly under God’s prepared for you from the direction, not for shameful profit foundation of the world’” but eagerly. 3 And do not lord it (Matthew 25:31-34, emphasis 38 over those entrusted to you, but mine). be examples to the flock. 4 Then when the Chief Shepherd appears, Conclusion you will receive the crown of glory that never fades away (1 Peter 5:1- What are we intended to learn from 4, emphasis mine). the imagery of the Good Shepherd and the flock of God? First of all, we learn something about Jesus had earlier warned of “wolves in ourselves, as sheep. I must warn you that it issheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15-23), and so not a very flattering image. Sheep are not alldoes the apostle Paul. Paul’s parting words to that smart. They seem prone to trouble. Theythe Ephesian elders, like our Lord’s words to are easily led astray. They are vulnerable toPeter in John 21, instruct elders to fulfill their wolves and other animals (who would gladlycalling as shepherds by protecting God’s sheep make a meal of them).from false teachers: Whether we like it or not, sheep are often destined to die. I am reminded 28 “Watch out for yourselves and of Charlotte’s Webb, a book which my for all the flock of which the Holy grandchildren have read and watched as a Spirit has made you overseers, video, and of Wilber the pig. What a shock it toshepherd the church of was for Wilber to learn that pigs became bacon God that he obtained with the and ham and pork chops! Sheep, too, are often blood of his own Son. 29 I know destined for slaughter: that after I am gone fierce You handed us over like sheep to be wolves will come in among you, eaten; not sparing the flock. 30 Even from you scattered us among the nations among your own group men will (Psalm 44:11). arise, teaching perversions of the Yet because of you we are killed all day truth to draw the disciples away long; after them” (Acts 20:28-30, we are treated like sheep at the emphasis mine). slaughtering block (Psalm 44:22; see Romans 8:36). When our Lord returns, He will do so as The best thing about being a sheep isa shepherd (among other things), separating the that we belong to the “Good Shepherd.” Sheep belong to the Shepherd, who owns them. Under
  16. 16. His care, they are tenderly looked after, and all contrast there is between Paul’s leadership andof their needs are met. As David put it, “The those who loved to flex their muscles and abuseLord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm their authority:23:1). He leads us; He protects us, and He goesafter us when we wander too far from Him. And 18 Since many are boastingbest of all, He gave His life for the sheep, so that according to human standards, Iwe might have eternal life. too will boast. 19 For since you are The wonderful thing about this imagery so wise, you put up with foolsof a shepherd and his flock is that it depicts the gladly. 20 For you put up with it iftender way God leads His own, His flock. Think someone makes slaves of you, ifof it, the all-powerful, all-wise God could rule someone exploits you, if someoneover mere men any way He chose. I remember a takes advantage of you, ifparticular seminar I taught in one of the Texas someone behaves arrogantlystate prisons. One inmate was really large and toward you, if someone strikes youmuscular. He had many scars on his body, proof in the face. 21 (To my disgrace Ithat he had seen his share of conflict, and his must say that we were too weakfront teeth had all been knocked out. I had for that!) But whatever anyonenever heard “Amazing Grace” sung toothless else dares to boast about (I ambefore that seminar. But my friend Dick speaking foolishly), I also dare tointroduced this fellow by saying, “Here’s Mo. boast about the same thing. 22 AreHe’s going to sing for us. Let’s see, what is he they Hebrews? So am I. Are theygoing to sing? Anything he wants!” Israelites? So am I. Are they Mo was big enough that he usually got descendants of Abraham? So am I.his way. God is infinitely bigger. Who could 23 Are they servants of Christ? (Iresist if He chose to rule over men as a cosmic am talking like I am out of mytyrant? And yet He has chosen to lead His own mind!) I am even more so: withpeople as a shepherd tends his flock. He loves much greater labors, with far moreHis church as a groom loves his bride. He leads imprisonments, with more severeHis church as a shepherd tends his flock. There beatings, facing death many no other kind of leadership I would rather be 24 Five times I received from theunder than that of the Good Shepherd. Jews forty lashes less one. 25 The invitation of the gospel is that we Three times I was beaten with asubmit ourselves to the leadership of the Good rod. Once I received a stoning.Shepherd, Who became the Lamb of God to Three times I suffered shipwreck.bear the penalty for our sins. The gospel is an A night and a day I spent adrift ininvitation to submit ourselves to the Great the open sea. 26 I have been onShepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20). What a journeys many times, in dangersgracious and tender invitation the gospel is: from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own 28 “Come to me, all you who are countrymen, in dangers from weary and burdened, and I will Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on dangers in the wilderness, in you and learn from me, because I dangers at sea, in dangers from am gentle and humble in heart, false brothers, 27 in hard work and and you will find rest for your toil, through many sleepless souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to nights, in hunger and thirst, many bear, and my load is not hard to times without food, in cold and carry” (Matthew 11:28-30). without enough clothing. 28 Apart from other things, there is the All Christian leaders are to follow the daily pressure on me of myexample of our Lord and to lead as shepherds. anxious concern for all theThis was the kind of leader Paul was. What a churches. 29 Who is weak, and I
  17. 17. am not weak? Who is led into sin, you as a father treats his own and I do not burn with children, 12 exhorting and indignation? 30 If I must boast, I encouraging you and insisting that will boast about the things that you live in a way worthy of God show my weakness. 31 The God who calls you to his own kingdom and Father of the Lord Jesus, who and his glory (1 Thessalonians 2:5- is blessed forever, knows I am not 12, emphasis mine). lying. 32 In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was Here is the leadership style we should guarding the city of Damascus in practice: order to arrest me, 33 but I was let down in a rope-basket through a 25 But Jesus called them and said, window in the city wall, and “You know that the rulers of the escaped his hands (2 Corinthians Gentiles lord it over them, and 11:18-33). those in high positions use their authority over them. 26 It must The “false apostles” led in a very not be this way among you!different way. They abused their authority and Instead whoever wants to be greatthose who submitted to it (11:20). Their gullible among you must be your servant,followers confused domination and dictatorial 27 and whoever wants to be firstedicts with apostolic authority. Paul’s authority among you must be your slave—was that of God’s Word, and his authority as an 28 just as the Son of Man did notapostle was demonstrated by the suffering and come to be served but to serve,sacrifice he made to carry out his mission. Paul and to give his life as a ransom fornot only led as a shepherd, but as a father, and many” (Matthew 20:25-28).as a nursing mother: 24 And the Lord’s slave must not be a fighter but kind toward all, an 5 For we never appeared with apt teacher, patient, 25 correcting flattering speech, as you know, nor opponents with gentleness. with a pretext for greed—God is Perhaps God will grant them our witness— 6 nor to seek glory repentance and then knowledge of from people, either from you or the truth 26 and they will come to from others, 7 although we could their senses and escape the devil’s have imposed our weight as trap where they are held captive apostles of Christ. But we became to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26, little children among you. Like a emphasis mine). nursing mother caring for her own children, 8 with such affection for It is the leadership style of our Lord, the you, we were happy to share with Good Shepherd. The question is, “Are you one you not only the gospel of God but of His flock?” InJohn 10, Jesus told us how we also our own lives, because you may know who the Good Shepherd is, and who had become dear to us. 9 For you His sheep are: recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery: By working night 1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the and day so as not to impose a one who does not enter the burden on any of you, we sheepfold by the door, but climbs preached to you the gospel of God. in some other way, is a thief and a 10 You are witnesses, and so is robber. 2 The one who enters by God, as to how holy and righteous the door is the shepherd of the and blameless our conduct was sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens toward you who believe. 11 As you the door for him, and the sheep know, we treated each one of hear his voice. He calls his own
  18. 18. sheep by name and leads them relationship to those who have rejected Him out. 4 When he has brought all his and His offer of salvation: own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him 10 Look, the sovereign Lord comes because they recognize his voice. 5 as a victorious warrior; his military They will never follow a stranger, power establishes his rule. Look, but will run away from him, his reward is with him; his prize because they do not recognize the goes before him. 11 Like a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus told shepherd he tends his flock; he them this parable, but they did not gathers up the lambs with his arm; understand what he was saying to he carries them close to his chest; them. 7 So Jesus said to them he leads the ewes along (Isaiah again, “I tell you the solemn truth, 40:10-11). I am the door for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves Those who follow Jesus as the Good and robbers, but the sheep did not Shepherd know Him as a shepherd, but those listen to them. 9 I am the door. If who reject Jesus as the Good Shepherd will anyone enters through me, he will experience His coming in a very different way. be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief 9 As a result God exalted him and comes only to steal and kill and gave him the name that is above destroy; I have come so that they every name, 10 so that at the may have life, and may have it name of Jesus every knee should abundantly. 11 “I am the good bow —in heaven and on earth and shepherd. The good shepherd lays under the earth, 11 and every down his life for the sheep. 12 The tongue confess to the glory of God hired hand who is not a shepherd the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord and does not own sheep, sees the (Philippians 2:9-11). wolf coming and abandons the sheep and runs away. So the wolf 1 Why do the nations cause a attacks the sheep and scatters them. 13 Because he is a hired commotion? Why are the countries devising plots hand and is not concerned about that will fail? the sheep, he runs away. 14 “I am 2 The kings of the earth form a united the good shepherd. I know my front; own and my own know me— 15 the rulers collaborate against the Lord just as the Father knows me and I and his chosen king. know the Father—and I lay down 3 They say, “Let’s tear off the shackles my life for the sheep. 16 I have they’ve put on us! other sheep that do not come Let’s free ourselves from their ropes!” from this sheepfold. I must bring 4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one in disgust; the sovereign Master taunts them. flock and one shepherd” (John 5 Then he angrily speaks to them and 10:1-16). terrifies them in his rage. 6 He says, “I myself have installed my As I close, I must warn you that while king on Zion, my holy hill.”our Lord’s relationship to His church (those who 7 The king says, “I will tell you what thehave trusted in Him for the forgiveness of sins) Lord that of a Good Shepherd to His flock, the He said to me: ‘You are my son!church, this image does not describe our Lord’s This very day I have become your father!
  19. 19. 8 You have only to ask me, and I willgive you the nations as your inheritance, the ends of the earth as your personalproperty. 9 You will break them with an ironscepter; you will smash them as if they were apotter’s jar.’” 10 So now, you kings, do what is wise! You rulers of the earth, submit tocorrection! 11 Serve the Lord in fear! Repent in terror! 12 Give sincere homage! Otherwise hewill be angry, and you will die because of yourbehavior, when his anger quickly ignites. How happy are all who take shelter inhim! (Psalm 2:1-12) Those who reject Jesus as the GoodShepherd will, in the end, confess Jesus to beLord, but not as one of His sheep. I pray that youare one of His sheep, and that you know andlove the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd. If so,you can say with the psalmist: Then we, your people, the sheep of your pasture, will continually thank you. We will tell coming generations of yourpraiseworthy acts (Psalm 79:13).