Usually, when one thinks of a hero, someone who has been through the battlefields of war or has achieved widespread acclaim because of their accomplishments for mankind comes to mind. It is unlikely that anyone would initially think of shepherds as heroes. Yet shepherds are some of the notable heroes of scripture.
Abel, the First Shepherd
Abel, son of Adam and Eve, was a keeper of sheep. He gave the proper sacrifice to God when he brought the firstborn of his flock. God gave His only begotten Son – the firstborn among many brothers – so that whoever believed in Him would be saved.
Abraham, a Wealthy Shepherd
When Abraham proved to God that he trusted Him above all else, God substituted the lamb (ram) for the sacrifice of Isaac. John the Baptist announced that the living Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Good Shepherd offered Himself as the sacrificial lamb, one sacrifice for the sins of all time.
Jacob, a Shepherd in Love
For the love of Rachel, Jacob served Laban fourteen years – seven for Leah and seven for Rachel. Before he died, he gave a blessing to his beloved son Joseph who was Rachel’s child. Israel (Jacob) acknowledged that the God of his fathers had been his shepherd all through his life and that his son Joseph was strong because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.
Moses, a Shepherd in Training
Before leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses spent forty years as a shepherd in Midian. This period of obscurity, guiding and protecting defenseless sheep, was preparation for forty years spent in the wilderness with fearful and stubborn people.
David, the Giant Killer
Although a youth, David’s experience as a shepherd enabled him to fight the giant Goliath. Even as king, David never forgot lessons learned tending sheep. His Psalm 23 is the most often quoted Psalm of the Bible.
Shepherds in the Field
Humble God-fearing shepherds were honored by a visit from an angel announcing the birth of the Christ child. Finding Him in a manger made them feel quite at home.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd
Shepherds, under-shepherds and sheep are an important part of God’s story. He warns against false shepherds. He calls His people His flock.
The Old Testament characters above (and others) pointed to the coming of the Chief Shepherd, the Son of God. Although heroic in their actions of protecting the sheep under their care, the true hero of the Book is the Good Shepherd, the Lamb that was slain.
Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rules for Him; behold His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young (Isaiah 40:10-11).