Tag: Good Shepherd

The Sacrificial Love of the Good Shepherd

“Note four things about Jesus the Good Shepherd. He owns the sheep; they belong to Him. He guards the sheep; He never abandons them when danger is near. He knows the sheep, knows them each by name and leads them out. And he lays down His life for the sheep, such is the measure of his love.” ~ Billy Graham

The Lord Is My Shepherd

The picture of God as a shepherd is a humbling one, for the occupation of a shepherd is a lowly one with no recognition, no fame. Who but the sheep know whether the shepherd is doing his duty? A shepherd is motivated by the love for his sheep that he bought and paid for. It can be a lonely job. He calls his sheep by name, but having a meaningful conversation with them might be a bit difficult! The shepherd’s life is always in peril as he must protect his flock from the beasts in the wild (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

David wrote the 23rd Psalm and understood all the implications because he was a shepherd; the boy shepherd who became King of Israel. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who is the King of Kings.

Reflection:

Read Psalm 23 aloud alone or with your small group. List the provisions made for the sheep by the Shepherd. Then read John 10:11-18 and make another list. Compare the two lists.

Biblical Shepherds

• Abel gave the proper sacrifice. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep. . . Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering (Genesis 4:2, 4) By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks (Hebrews 11:4) . . . to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:24).

• Abraham had many livestock. God substituted the lamb (ram) for the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:8, 13).

• Jacob tended flocks of Laban 14 years – for Leah and for Rachel (Genesis 29:20, 30).

• Israel (Jacob) blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day. . . (Genesis 48:15 NIV) and prophesied concerning Joseph, Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel (Genesis 49:22-24 NIV).

• Moses was a shepherd in Midian for 40 years (Exodus 2:15-3:2).

• David’s experience as a shepherd enabled him to kill Goliath and lead the people of Israel as king (Psalm 78:70-72, 1 Samuel 16:11-12, 2 Samuel 7:8).

• Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would reign on David’s throne (Isaiah 9:6-7).

• Ezekiel described the reign of Jesus in the Davidic kingdom (Ezekiel 34, 37:24).

• Shepherds witnessed the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8-14).

Reflection:

How did the shepherds of the Old Testament point to the coming of the Good Shepherd?

The Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God

Prayer: the people ask for the Shepherd’s help: Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth between Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might, come and save us. Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved (Psalm 80:1-3 NIV). – God is called the Shepherd of Israel 80 times in the Bible.

The Lord God cares for His flock: Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule 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).

The Lamb gives His life for His sheep: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:6-7).

The Lord will gather the scattered flock (Israel): Jeremiah 31:10-12

The Shepherd rejoices over one sheep. Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:1-7

The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29

The Good Shepherd had compassion on His sheep. Matthew 9:36, Mark 6:34

The Good Shepherd is the Guardian of our souls. 1 Peter 2:25

The Chief Shepherd will bring reward to His under-shepherds. 1 Peter 5:1-4

The Good Shepherd offered Himself as the sacrificial Lamb, one sacrifice for sins of all time. Hebrew 10:12

The Good Shepherd is also The Resurrection and The Life. Hebrews 13:20

The Lamb is praised. Revelation 5:11-12

The Church, the Bride of Christ, is made ready for the Bridegroom, the Lamb. Revelation 19:7

The Lamb sits upon the throne. Revelation 22:1-4

Reflection: 

How is the will of God accomplished through the Good Shepherd?  Who does all the work?

The Sheep

Sheep go astray. Isaiah 53:5-7 Read Acts 8:25-35. Why do sheep go astray? Isaiah 43:25

Sinners regarded as lost sheep: Jeremiah 50:6, Ezekiel 34:6, Matthew 9:36, 15:24, 18:12

Sheep are in the midst of wolves: Matthew 10:16

The family of God compared to a flock: Psalm 78:52-53, 79:13, 100:3, Isaiah 40:11, Zechariah 9:16, Matthew 10:16, 26:31, Luke 12:32, Acts 20:29

Scattered by persecution and false shepherds: Jeremiah 23:2, Ezekiel 34:12, John 10:12, 16:32

Act as under-shepherds: Number 27:15-17, Jeremiah 3:15, 23:3-4, Acts 20:28-29, 1 Peter 5:2

Hear the voice of their shepherd: John 10:3-5, 14

Reflection:

What is the role of the sheep?

False Shepherds/Hirelings

Description: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15).

Scatter the flock: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!”says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered my flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, or shall they be lacking,” says the Lord. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness: A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:1-6).

Lead sheep astray: My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray (Jeremiah 50:6).

Prey upon flock: And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.” (Ezekiel 34:1-3).

Forsake the sheep: But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep (John 10:12-13).

Reflection: 

How can the sheep recognize the false shepherds?

Separation of the Sheep and the Goats

• Matthew 25:31-46. Who was Jesus’ primary audience in this discourse? See Matthew 24:3 and 26:1.

• As in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the division will be made at judgment day. Is there any way to recognize the tares or the goats before that time? John 10:26, 1 John 4:1-3

• Is there a relationship between the thieves and robbers Jesus mentioned in John 10, false prophets mentioned throughout scripture (Matthew 7:15, 2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15), false Christs (Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-27) and the goats.

The Good Shepherd, The Under-Shepherd and The Sheep

Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord’ You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’ (John 21:15-17).

Reflection:

Why do you think Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him? What did He say would be evidence of Peter’s love? What does that say to you?

How does understanding what the Good Shepherd does for you affect the way you live?

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb . . . for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 7:10, 17).

© Stephanie B. Blake

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The Story of the Good Shepherd as Told by a Little Lamb

I awoke with a start, unusually stiff, cold and terribly uncomfortable. The ground I slept on last night was not the soft, dense grass I was accustomed to. This was hard with patches of prickly weed poking me even through my thick wool.  Where was I and how did I get there?

As I struggled to my feet and looked around, I suddenly remembered my folly of yesterday. I had ventured away from my pasture, traveling to what I thought was a plush grass with a beautiful view and a small, clear brook in the distance. Everything had looked so inviting, but my eyes had deceived me. Now I realized what I believed was a path to a better place had been a mirage.

What would I do now?  How would I get back to my mother, my family and the good shepherd? At the end of the evening, the good shepherd counts every one of us and calls us by name back into the sheepfold for the night’s rest. I knew they would be missing me by now. I didn’t know which direction to go, but I decided to head back toward the way I thought I might have come from.

My spirit did not get better as I tried to find my way home, for I was frightened and all alone.  It wasn’t too long before I found myself in a patch of briar bushes. The thorns were so sharp I started to bleed. I couldn’t seem to go forward and I couldn’t turn around. I was hopelessly caught in the bushes.

My struggle was halted, though, with a dread unlike anything I had ever felt before. I felt hot, fast breathing behind me and the smell that filled my nostrils took my breath away.  My heart started beating so hard I thought it could be heard for miles. Although I didn’t want to look, I knew I had to see what was behind me. I twisted and tried to turn, falling into the bush in the process. My worst fears were confirmed. Coming slowly toward me was a wolf.

Oh, the thoughts that filled my mind. If only I had paid attention to my mother’s words. “Never wander outside the fold. Don’t leave the protection of your family. Keep your eyes on the good shepherd. He knows how to take care of us.” How I wish I had taken heed of that advice yesterday. I would not be facing my certain death today!

Just as the wolf was about to make his lunge for my neck, he fell to the ground right in front of me. I had closed my eyes for the inevitable, but when I heard the loud thump of his body, I opened them again to see the wolf, dead, no longer able to have me for his dinner.

Then I saw the good shepherd with the slingshot in his hand. He put it back in his belt, looked at me lovingly and said, “Little lamb, there you are.  I have been looking for you.” Relief filled my heart. His was the voice I knew so well and had been longing to hear. As he gently lifted me, taking care to pull the thorns from my wool and some from my flesh, his eyes were tender, not at all condemning me.

I had gone astray through my own foolishness, and yet he did not mention it.  All the loneliness and fear left me immediately as the strength and security of his loving arms cradled my sore, weary body close to his heart. I rested my head on his chest, silently vowing never to stray again. Not only was I sure I never wanted to ever feel so scared, but I did not want my mother and the good shepherd to pay the price of worry and sacrifice for my own foolishness.

I must have wandered far away from home because it took us quite awhile before we came close to our own green pastures. At the edge of the field, the good shepherd set me down by the still waters I knew so well. He tended all my wounds, taking care to wash away the blood from my fur. Even though he said nothing to me, I knew he wanted to make sure my mother did not see me in the condition in which he found me. After he finished cleaning me and making sure I had quenched my thirst, he lifted me again, cradling me into the crook of his arm where I fell asleep.

The next thing I knew, the good shepherd was laying me down next to my mother.  She was rejoicing and thanking him for finding me. Her eyes met his and he knew that she would remind me again of the treasure of knowing that he was always with us and his rod and staff were our guide and comfort.

I begged mom’s forgiveness and told her I had learned my lesson the hard way. The things that look so good on the outside can be so deceptive. She had reminded me many times before that sheep are defenseless animals. We need our shepherd. Now I knew that firsthand. I would never again take my eyes off the good shepherd.

The years went by and I frolicked and played with my family and friends. Fall turned into winter, winter into spring, spring into summer, and summer back into fall again. Every night, the good shepherd led us into the sheepfold with other flocks and posted his own body as guard at the gate. In the morning, he gathered us from among the other sheep by calling our names aloud, one by one.

How wonderful it was to hear his voice call my name, “Little lamb, follow me to the pasture.” The good shepherd always made sure we did not want for anything.  Sometimes we had to journey onto other green pastures, but we kept our eyes on his staff as we traveled.  If our feet wandered from the rest of the flock, his staff lovingly brought us back. When he found another place with the resources we needed, he lowered his staff and we made pasture there.

As time went on, I had lambs of my own. I echoed the teachings of my mother and paid close attention to my lambs so they would not leave the abundant pasture of the day and the secure fold of the night. My lambs tried to stray occasionally, of course, as lambs are prone to do. I had made a pledge to myself, though, that as long as my sights were on the good shepherd I could call him to bring them back if I needed to.

One day, as my lambs were playing together at the other end of the pasture, I saw a new sheep come into our pasture. It was so unusual to see someone I didn’t know. The entire flock was familiar to me, but this one was a stranger. More than curiosity was getting the better of me. I just couldn’t believe there was a sheep I had not met yet.

This sheep did not seem to want to mix and mingle with the rest of us, but I was determined to make his acquaintance and started walking toward this new arrival. The closer I got, however, the more uneasy I felt. He was larger than most with a walk that was more like stalking than the accustomed slow meander of my friends and family.

Then my heart felt like it was turning to stone. I stopped dead in my tracks. This was no sheep. I caught a look into his eyes and recognized the kind of gaze that had frightened me those many years ago. This was a wolf, disguising himself as one of my very own. As his eyes caught mine, I felt the same immobilizing fear I thought I would never experience again.

The wolf was taking his time coming toward me enjoying my fright. I was frozen in my steps unable to make a move or a sound. Then I saw the good shepherd come between us.  My savior again! He would kill the wolf and the flock would again be safe. To my horror and amazement, the good shepherd did not kill the wolf. In fact, it became obvious he did not intend to kill him. Instead, as the wolf glared at him with teeth bared and ready for attack, the good shepherd transformed in front of us both. My good shepherd became a lamb just like me. He turned his head briefly and gave me a look of deep devotion and compassion, then lay down in between the wolf and me and willingly sacrificed himself to the devouring appetite of the evil wolf. I could not believe my eyes.  How could this be?

After the wolf had his pleasure with the meal that was set before him, he seemed to lose interest in the rest of us and walked confidently and triumphantly out of the pasture. He seemed to be satisfied for the moment.

My feelings of devastation were beyond description. My good shepherd was gone. He has given his life in my place. What would I do? What would we do? We had always had the guidance and protection of our good shepherd and now he was gone, having sacrificed himself for me. I didn’t understand. I was so helpless and afraid. What would become of us?

As tears filled my eyes, I laid down in deep despair. Grief overtook me and I could not even contemplate what life would be like without the good shepherd. I knew I was not capable of protecting my little lambs.

As sobs shook my body, I suddenly felt a firm, strong hand on my shoulder. I looked up – the good shepherd! No, it was not the good shepherd that had just given his life for mine, but another shepherd. He wiped my tears and sat on the cool grass and placed my head in his lap. He said, “Grieve no more, little lamb, for the sacrifice you witnessed was not a mistake. I, too, have been the recipient of his redemption. I am one of the under-shepherds the good shepherd has been training for this very day. He told us about his sacrifice and how it would be necessary to satisfy the evil wolf. He said if we all trusted him he would continue to protect us. There are other under-shepherds as well and he commissioned all of us to take care of his lambs. We will all keep in remembrance what he has done for us. I will be here for you and we will remember him and his sacrifice together.” Although I didn’t thoroughly understand, I believed the under-shepherd and knew that the good shepherd was still there, providing and caring for us all.

As the years went on, my family grew. My lambs had lambs of their own.  As each little lamb grew old enough to hear the story, I would tell of the good shepherd and how he gave his life for mine. How I loved telling that story. Each time I told it, I couldn’t help but feel tears of gratitude well up in my eyes. Sometimes my lambs would ask if I was crying. I would always say, “Not from sadness, my children, but from the joy of gratitude for the gift we have all received.” I would tell them of his provision for us here now and forever in the future. I watched as my lamb’s lambs played in the security of the green pastures.

My pace slowed as I got older, but I followed the under-shepherd each night into the fold where other flocks rested with the other shepherds that the good shepherd had prepared in advance. Now, instead of the good shepherd always taking the watch at the door of the fold, the under-shepherds took turns making sure we were all safe and secure from dangers of the dark.

One beautiful spring day, I was the last of the flock to leave the fold following the under-shepherd to the green pasture. On that particular day, I was drawn back to the very spot where the good shepherd had given his life for mine. I always felt a sense of amazement when I approached that spot. I had never deserved the kind of love my good shepherd showed to me. I had been so disobedient as a little lamb, but he willingly forgave me. What an incredibly unselfish love he had for me and all my kind. I loved the under-shepherd, to be sure, but I missed the physical presence of the good shepherd and longed to see his face once more. Sometimes coming to this spot helped me feel closer to him.

As I settled down on the cool, soft grass, I felt more weary than I had ever felt before.  My family was grown, and I had stayed true to my promise to keep them ever mindful of the wonderful gift of life and love we had all received from the sacrifice of my good shepherd.  He died that day allowing not only me to live, but all the generations beyond me. I longed to say, “Thank you,” in person. I laid my head down feeling a peaceful sense of contentment and drifted off into my last sleep.

As I opened my eyes, there was no sense of drowsiness. The tiredness was completely gone. I felt like a young lamb again. An inexpressible joy filled my heart. Then I realized I was no longer in the same pasture. This one was different in a way I could not describe. Excitement filled my heart as I became aware of the wonderful surroundings.

There was no sheepfold here, just goodness, mercy and peace. There was not just a stream here but a river of pure water, clear as crystal. Everything around me was light, but there was a light in the middle of the pasture that was brighter than all. My gaze was drawn to that light. I started to run as I recognized a familiar face, the face of my Savior.  My sacrificial lamb, the good shepherd, was sitting on a throne. As I reached him, I fell down on my knees and cried out with joy, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  He said to me with the look of kindness on his face that I remember so well, “You are welcome, little lamb. Welcome home.”

. . . for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters (Revelation 7:17a).

© Stephanie B. Blake

August 2013

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