JESUS CHRIST IS OUR GOOD SHEPHERD
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Ps 23:1-6 [KJV])
Psalm 23 was written by David the shepherd boy who became the King of Israel to encourage those who have failed or lost hope, the despised, the desperate, the rejected, the despised, the disappointed, those written off and the disengaged so that they would start living again after almost giving up on their lives. David had learnt that the difference between winners and losers is how they respond to failure. Sometimes God stretches us to breaking point, but, as Jeremiah tells us, we are still in His hands: “as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:2-6) [KJV].
David knew how to encourage himself when faced by all manner of rejections by his father, brothers, his enemy Goliath, his wife, his son Absalom and by his father in law King Saul. Rejection, especially by your loved ones, inflicts emotional wounds which cut deep into someone’s heart. But David remained positive and instead of seeing those scars, he saw stars instead.
When David was down, he would sing that “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2). David knew that the Lord was the one who made him lie down in green pastures. When you are down, look up to God. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). When you can go down no farther, look down at what you are lying on; green pastures. Valley bottoms are known to be very fertile. When somebody pushes you to the lowest point, look around and you will see all the fertility surrounding you that was not visible to those who are up there – who pushed you down. Every end is a new beginning. God always takes over when we reach our end of the road. There is so much good in the worst of places and so much bad in the best of places. There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us. All that glitters is not gold and do not judge a book by its cover. God had delivered David out of danger on very many occasions such that he could count on God’s deliverance. David used to sing that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). David had no fear of any kind because he had a God who protected him from any danger using His mighty rod. The shepherd uses the rod to kill the animals which might try to snatch away his sheep. The shepherd also uses the rod to prod the sheep to move to the right direction. When David was faced by death, God was there for him to pull him out of danger with His staff. The staff is a long straight thin and strong stick with a crook at the end. The shepherd uses the staff to rescue the sheep that might have fallen into a pit by hooking and pulling it to safety. The Bible says that there are good shepherds and bad shepherds. The word of God says through prophet Ezekiel that bad shepherds feed on the sheep. They eat the fat ones and butcher the sheep to get wool. Bad shepherds do not strengthen the weak and ailing sheep. They do not care for the sheep but rather abandon them. The bad shepherds scatter the sheep of the Lord’s pasture and the sheep become prey for every wild animal to eat them. Sheep are commonly used throughout the Bible to symbolically refer to God’s people. Psalm 95:6-8 says that “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:”
God rebukes the bad shepherds or false teachers and declares that He will deliver His people from them. “The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy, and say to them: This is what the Lord GOD says to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding themselves! Shouldn’t the shepherds feed their flock? You eat the fat, wear the wool, and butcher the fattened animals, but you do not tend the flock. You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost. Instead, you have ruled them with violence and cruelty. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd; they became food for all the wild animals when they were scattered. My flock went astray on all the mountains and every high hill. They were scattered over the whole face of the earth, and there was no one searching or seeking for them. “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. As I live” — the declaration of the Lord GOD — “because My flock has become prey and food for every wild animal since they lack a shepherd, for My shepherds do not search for My flock, and because the shepherds feed themselves rather than My flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! “This is what the Lord GOD says: Look, I am against the shepherds. I will demand My flock from them and prevent them from shepherding the flock. The shepherds will no longer feed themselves, for I will rescue My flock from their mouths so that they will not be food for them.” (Ezek 34:1-10 [HCSB])
Five hundred and eighty-five years before the birth of Christ (585 B.C.), the word of the Lord came to Prophet Ezekiel saying that God will send a Good Shepherd who will save His people and deliver them. “I will save My flock, and they will no longer be prey. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will appoint over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them. He will feed them and be their shepherd. I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be a prince among them. I, the LORD, have spoken.…” (Ezekiel 34:22-24). The name of David is here put simply, as in Ezekiel 34:24, Ezekiel 37:24-25; Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5, instead of the more usual designations of the Messiah as the Son, the Branch, the Offspring of David. The mention that David shall be a prince among God’s people is symbolic of God’s Son Jesus Christ who came from the line of king David who had actually died 384 years before this prophecy in 969 B.C. as recorded in 1 Kings2:10. For it is to be noted from the above scripture that in Messianic prophecy it is Jehovah who saves the people. When God said that “I will set up one Shepherd”, He meant the Messiah, “the true Shepherd, who hath given himself this name both in the prophets and in the gospel, and who hath perfectly fulfilled all the duties, and God’s prophecies. Jesus is called David, because he sprung from David according to the flesh; because he possessed eminently and really all those qualities which the Scriptures give to David as the type of the Messiah; and because he was the person in whom all the promises made to David were fulfilled. This prophecy was in a great measure completed when Christ, by the preaching of the gospel of peace and salvation for His people and for the lost sheep of Israel. When Jesus Christ finally came on earth to fulfill all the promises of God concerning saving His sheep the people of God’s pasture, He called Himself the Good Shepherd. Jesus Christ says that “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is a hired man, and not the shepherd, who do not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees: and the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep. The hired man flees, because he is a hireling, and cares not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:11-18 [KJV]) Jesus Christ says “I am the Good Shepherd” not only for the people of Israel but for the other people that were scattered by the bad shepherd who is actually the devil. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Can there be a better shepherd than Jesus who laid His life for His sheep. He offered Himself to die instead of His sheep, the people of His pasture. No one could do what He did because an ordinary shepherd though good could have offered to die on behalf of the sheep who are God’s people but they would not see that savior again. But Jesus had the power to lay down His life and pick it up again because He is God. That is why Jesus Christ is called the Good Shepherd whom God prophesied in the scriptures and pictured in the Old Testament as types of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd ordained by God to be the Lamb of God who was to be slain before the foundation of the world for His sheep. Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” But how could Jesus have been slain from the creation of, or foundation of, the world? This is where we must pause to wonder, to stand in amazement, at God’s view of time and eternity.
God exists outside of time. Yes, He interacts with His creatures in time, now, and through the person of Jesus when He walked the earth. The idea is that, God is able to look down, as if He were above it, on time, and the events in time. God sees it all at once. But if God knows and responds to our life in time, and interacts with time, from His position in eternity, we can just begin to grasp, if not fully understand, how He can foresee the response of His free creatures to His love. We can begin to grasp how He can foresee the fall, our sin, and He can foresee the need for our redemption. In that way, Jesus is slain from the foundation of the world. What it means is that, before there was time, before we existed, He had already put in place the plan for our redemption. We see this stated in a different way in by apostle Peter: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:18-21, NIV)
Jesus is our Good shepherd and He cares for us now, in the ages past and in all eternity. A shepherd is someone who shepherds, or cares for, God’s flock. In our churches today we typically call them pastors. However, our English word “pastor” is not actually found in Scripture, but comes from the Latin word pastor, which means “shepherd.” In other words, your pastors are your shepherds. Jesus then is our Good Shepherd, our Chief Pastor, our High Priest who cares for His flock and intercedes for us before the throne of God in heaven. “We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;” (Heb 8:1 [KJV]) “Accordingly Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. And the others who became priests were numerous, because death prevented them from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently since he lives forever. So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all. For the law appoints as high priests men subject to weakness, but the word of solemn affirmation that came after the law appoints a son made perfect forever.” (Heb 7:22-28 [NET2])
What a Good shepherd we have who has been there for us from eternity and is set down at the right hand of God interceding for us to Our Father in Heaven as our High Priest? Jesus Christ shed His own blood that our sins be blotted away for us to receive forgiveness after repenting of our sins and believing in him as our Lord and Savior. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. “But Christ being come as an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Heb 9:11-12 [KJV])
“We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.” (Heb 10:10-13 [KJV])