For those of us raised in the industrialised West, the concept of the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd may seem remote and irrelevant. But it may be helpful to remember that even in ancient times, shepherding was not always considered an honourable profession (Genesis 46:33-34).

Yet God often likened Himself to a shepherd and called the nation’s leaders shepherds, too. This is seen from the earliest days of Israel’s history. When they were slaves in Egypt, God heard their cries and put in motion a plan to rescue them. The book of Exodus records the birth of a baby, Moses, who was rescued from the River Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter and then raised as her son. At the age of forty, he foolishly thought he could rescue his people from their suffering, but his plan failed, and he had to flee from Pharaoh into the Midian wilderness. There he became a shepherd and spent the next forty years tending sheep. But God used this experience to shape Moses for the great task of shepherding His people through the wilderness for the next forty years. Unfortunately, Moses was not permitted to complete the work of bringing them into the Promised Land, so he asked God to appoint another leader for them.

Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”

Numbers 27:15-17

God told Moses to appoint Joshua the son of Nun and he was the one who led them into the land of Canaan. Similarly, David, Israel’s greatest king, went from shepherding his father’s sheep to shepherding God’s people (2 Samuel 7:8; Psalm 78:70-72).

But the Old Testament also records harsh words for those shepherds of Israel who “fleeced the sheep” that God had entrusted to them.

​And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “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? 3 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

But the Lord also promised that one day He would appoint another Shepherd to care for His sheep. He calls this shepherd, “My servant David” (Ezekiel 34:23). Since God is speaking to Ezekiel hundreds of years after the death of King David, faithful Jews understood this to be a prophecy of the coming Messiah who would be born of David’s line and who would fulfil the covenant God had made to David that one of his sons would rule over the house of Israel forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13), a promise that was fulfilled in the birth of the Lord Jesus (Luke 1:31-33).

When some wondered if John the Baptist was the Messiah, he said:

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Make straight the way of the LORD,” ’
as the prophet Isaiah said.”

John 1:23

His role was to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah but that prophecy is also declaring that the Messiah is the Lord. And that same prophecy goes on to say:

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.
11 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

This wonderful prophecy combines both the power and the tenderness of the ministry of the Lord Jesus and shows us what a wonderful metaphor “shepherd” is.

Jesus Himself claimed, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Yet Jesus made it clear that there are some who are His sheep and some who are not. He speaks of calling His sheep by name and leading them out (John 10:3), but also tells those who don’t believe that they are not His sheep (John 10:26).

Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

John 10:24-30

In this series of articles, we have insisted that at the very heart of the gospel message is the question of the identity of the Lord Jesus. But we must also emphasise that the gospel message demands a response. It is not enough to simply know about Jesus or to believe facts about Jesus. The gospel is a call to receive Him by believing in Him (John 1:10-11). During His earthly ministry, there were those who saw Him face to face, heard Him preach, and witnessed His miracles, but still didn’t believe. But whoever believes demonstrates it by listening to His voice and following Him. Then they enter into all the wonderful blessings of a relationship with the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep. This is the language of intimacy. He knows what His sheep need, what they fear, what their weaknesses are. He feeds His sheep. He protects His sheep. But more than anything, He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes 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 command I have received from My Father.”

John 10:17-18

The death of the Lord Jesus was not a tragedy but a victory. Although there were numerous occasions recorded in the Gospels where the enemies of Jesus took up stones to kill Him, the hour for His death had not yet arrived (John 7:30; 8:20, 59). But when the time had come for Him to be received up, Luke tells us that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), knowing that the path to glory was through the cross. When Jesus told His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and be killed, Peter vehemently objected to Jesus saying such things. But Jesus sternly rebuked Peter, saying:

“Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Matthew 16:23

Without the Lord Jesus laying down His life for us, we would not be able to have eternal life. But He did lay down His life, took it again in rising from the dead, and now offers to you eternal life. And on behalf of the Lord Jesus, we would like to invite you to respond to His call, become part of His flock, enjoy His protection and provision, and receive the gift of eternal life.


By admin