The Lord is My Shepherd

by: Bill Bratt

Email: info@icogsfg.org


I have some friends whose kids have raised lambs for their 4H projects for their county fair. It is interesting to listen to them and hear their experiences of tending to their lambs.

The job of a shepherd is quite involved.

Responsibilities of a Shepherd!

"Shepherds were responsible for the physical survival and welfare of their own or their masterís flocks. In comparison with goats, which tended to fend for themselves, sheep depended on the shepherd to fine pasture for them (cf. Ezek. 34:2, 9, 13f.), and they required "quiet" water (Psalm 23:3). Shepherds also had to provide shelter, medication, aid in lambing time, and provision for lameness and weariness. Without the shepherd the sheep were helpless (see Num. 27:17; 1 K. 22:17; 2 Ch. 18:16; Zee. 10:2; Mt. 9:36 par. Mk. 6:34)."(1)

"Shepherds generally lived in tents made of water-repellent cloth woven from black goats' hair (cf. Gen. 4:20; Ex. 36:14). Because of the lack of rainfall they had to move around during the summer months and they had to be prepared to be away from their base of supplies for days or weeks at a time. The shepherd's woolen, homespun garments included, for protection against cold, sharp winds, and rain, a long overcoat of stiff, felt material, which served as a coat, a blanket, and even a tent-like sunshade (cf. Jeremiah 43:12). In his bag, a large leather container made of goatskin (1 S. 17:40, 49), the shepherd carried all the food he would need while away, such as bread, olives, and cheese. Milk he could get from the sheep (1 Cor. 9:7). (2)

"The Palestinian shepherd had different ways of doing things from the shepherds of our country; and, to get the full meaning of this picture, we must look at the shepherd and the way in which he worked."(3)

"His equipment was very simple. He had his scrip, a bag made of the skin of an animal, in which he carried his food. In it he would have no more than bread, dried fruit, some olives and cheese. He had his sling. The skill of many of the men of Palestine was such that they "could sling a stone at a hair and not miss" (Judg.20:16). The shepherd used his sling as a weapon of offence and defense; but he made one curious use of it. There were no sheep dogs in Palestine, and, when the shepherd wished to call back a sheep which was straying away, he fitted a stone into his sling and landed it just in front of the straying sheep's nose as a warning to turn back. He had his staff, a short wooden club which had a lump of wood at the end often studded with nails. It usually had a slit in the handle at the top, through which a thong passed; and by the thong the staff swung at the shepherd's belt. His staff was the weapon with which he defended himself and his flock against marauding beasts and robbers. He had his rod, which was like the shepherd's crook. With it he could catch and pull back any sheep which was moving to stray away. At the end of the day, when the sheep were going into the fold, the shepherd held his rod across the entrance, quite close to the ground; and every sheep had to pass under it (Eze.20:37; Lev.27:32); and, as each sheep passed under, the shepherd quickly examined it to see if it had received any kind of injury throughout the day." (4)

"The shepherd had to be prepared for emergencies, as when a sheep injured itself (in which case balm, olive oil, or animal fat would be needed as ointment; cf. Isa. 1:6; Jer. 8:22) or stupidly wandered off into hazardous territory (cf. Ezek. 34:5; Mt. 12:11; Lk. 15:4). When "still waters" were not available the shepherd had to provide water for the sheep in a skin-bucket or trough (Gen. 30:38; Ex. 2:16), since sheep have to be watered several times daily - especially at noon (Gen. 29:2-10)."(5)

"For the most part the shepherd's long days and nights in the field made for a lonely life. He entertained himself by talking to his sheep until they all recognized his voice (Jn. 10:4f.), by making music on a readily made reed pipe (Judges 5:16). Often friends with their flocks would meet at a watering spot (Gen. 29:2f., 7f.) and would keep watch at night (Lk. 2:8). When they parted there was no difficulty in separating the animals, for each know its own shepherdís call (Jn. 10:4, 14, 27). Each flock included about a hundred animals (cf. Mt. 18:12;Lk. 15:4). The shepherd was expected to count them, one by one, calling each by its own name (John 10:3), both morning and evening, for he had to render accounting for any that were missing (Gen. 31:39; cf. 1 S. 25:15f., 21). The responsible shepherd did not kill and eat his sheep, no matter how rigorous conditions might become (Gen. 31:38-40; Ezek. 34:2f., 10; Am. 3:12). The shepherd's devotion to his sheep becomes evident when contrasted with the behavior of the "hireling" who "cares nothing for the sheep" (John. 10:12f.): "the good shepherd if need be, "lays down his life for the sheep" (v. 11). That a shepherd might not return alive from his sheep tending was well understood (cf. Gen. 37:33). Shepherding was serious, demanding, and strenuous work. Nevertheless the true or faithful shepherd was thought to have a disposition that was altogether admirable: thoughtful, tender, gentle, strong, resourceful in times of danger, but not hot-tempered". (6)

The shepherd controlled the flock by the sound of his chatter, shout or whistle (cf. Isa.5:26). Ordinarily he led the sheep (Ps. 23:2f; Jn10:3-5), but there might be under-shepherds who followed the flock (2 Sam. 7:8; 1 Ch. 17:7; Am. 7:15) to encourage the weary and aid the heavy-laden and the newborn lambs. (7)

"At night the sheep were gathered into a FOLD for protection against beasts, thieves, and the cold (e.g., Ps. 78:70; Mic. 2:12; Jn. 10:1). Sheep folds were of various types. At times they were located in or near a cave (e.g., 1 Sam. 24:3). Some were permanent enclosures with a roof and stone walls, while others were temporary, consisting simply of an open pen with thornbush sides. The shepherd guarded the single opening with his own body (cf. Jn. 10:7, 9)". (8)

"Sheepshearing took place annually in the spring. It was an important, happy occasion for the sheep breeder -equivalent to harvest time for the farmer. Even when the flocks were some distance away, the owner went out to the site to supervise the work (cf. Gen. 31:19-23; 38:12; 2 Sam. 13:23f.). The "first of the fleece," like the first fruits of the harvest, was given to the Levites (Deut. 18:4). Relatives and friends participated in the shearing and also in the feasting that accompanied it (cf. 1 Sam. 25:2-11, 36; 2 Sam. 13:23-29). (9)

A shepherd must feed and water the sheep, protect them, care for them when they are sick or wounded, find those who wander away and spend much time with them. The shepherd must also lead them.

Jesus is our True Shepherd!

Jesus is the True Shepherd. Letís see what the Apostle John says in John 10: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. {2} "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. {3} "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. {4} "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. {5} "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." {6} Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

The shepherdís life was hard and dangerous. He had to protect the flock from wild animals, especially wolves, and from robbers, who were ready to steal the sheep. The true shepherd had to love his flock.

Jesus is our true shepherd and it is His job to protect His flock from robbers. Who would the robbers be? There are false prophets and ministers who would like to lead Godís people astray.

False Prophets and God's 10 commandments?

Deuteronomy. 13:1-8 (NKJV) says: "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, {2} and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'; which you have not known; 'and let us serve them,'" {3} you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is TESTING YOU to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." {4} You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him." {5} But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst." {6} If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers," {7}of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, {8} "you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him".

Just because a vision, miracle or dream comes to pass, this does not mean it is from God. God allows this because GOD IS TESTING YOU! God wants to know if we will fear Him and Keep His commandments.
Paul said in his day that there were those who preached "another Jesus".
2 Cor 11:3-4 (NKJV) says: "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. {4} For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted; you may well put up with it!"
If Jesus Christ were to return just like He did the first time - Would people accept Him or crucify Him?
Christ would be exposing the T.V. evangelists who preach "another Jesus". He would reprove the politicians, news media and the people

in the entertainment business. Jesus Christ did NOT write the book: "How to win friends and influence people?" He would not win any popularity contests.
This is why, when He returns, he will return in power and in glory and ready to rule as Lord of lords and King of kings.
Letís look at another passage that deals with Godís law.

Isa 8:19 (NKJV) says: "And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?" {20} TO THE LAW AND TO THE TESTIMONY! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
People through the ages have turned away from God during times of great distress, when actually they need Him most, and consulted those who offered false hope. The Lord strictly forbids any kind of divination, fortune-telling, astrology, or necromancy (cf. Deut. 18:10; 1 Sam. 28:7-20; 2 Kin. 21:6). The phrase "wizards who whisper" is a reference to ventriloquists who sought to disguise their voices as representations of ghosts or spirits from another world.
Some ministers claim to "know the Lord," and yet do not keep God's commandments. Notice what 1 John 2:4 (NKJV) says to them: "He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a LIAR, and the TRUTH IS NOT IN HIM."
Many ministers who claim to represent God try to "do away" with God's laws and commandments. They accept part of God's Word and reject the rest.

There is one commandment that they especially reject, which is GOD'S TEST COMMANDMENT. Which one of the ten commandments is the TEST COMMANDMENT?
What do you do when you take a test? You study before the test and try to "remember" the material for the test. Now which of the commandments are we told to "remember"? Iíll let you figure this one out. (The answer is found in Exodus 20:8-11)!

When God's law is rejected or assumed to be "done away," there remains no standard for good or evil. Every one does what he thinks is right in his own eyes. God tells man what sin is in 1 John 3:4 (KJV) "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
The ten commandments were given to us as a guide to living. There are blessings if you obey them and cursings if you break them (Lev. 26 & Deut. 28). The ten commandments help us to have a right and proper relationship with God and our fellow man.

What did Jesus say about the ten commandments? "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15 NKJV) .

A true prophet will be a commandment keeper - not a commandment breaker.

Do You Know the Shepherdís Voice?

Letís repeat John 10:4-5: "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. {5} "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."

Do you know the Shepherdís voice? How do you know that you know? The only way is through prayer and Bible study. We have to maintain a close relationship with God the father and Jesus His son. We must "Read the Book!" The shepherd spent much time with his sheep. Since we, as Godís people, are compared to sheep, we then must spend much time with our shepherd. How do we do this? We do it through daily Prayer and Bible study.

Read the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5-7 and read the entire book of John and pay attention to His message to His disciples at His last Passover.

Get to know the real Jesus, the one in the Bible, not the "one" that you may see in the movies about Jesus or the "one" that people tell you about.

When Jesus had fasted for 40 days and was then tempted by Satan the devil, He countered Satanís three temptations with the phrase "it is written" (Mat 4:4-10). Jesus placed His faith in Godís written word. We must do the same thing. Place your faith in the Bible, the written word of God, and get to know the real Jesus .

Jesus is the Good Shepherd!

Letís continue in John 10:7 "Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. {8} "All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. {9} "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. {10} "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. {11} "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. {12} "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. {13} "The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. {14} "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. {15} "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. {16} "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is the shepherd who will risk his life to find and save His sheep. He will leave the 99 to find the one who has strayed. "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?" (Mat 18:12 NKJV).

Jesus is the Shepherd and Overseer of His flock. He does not want His sheep to go astray. "For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Pet 2:25 NKJV).

Jesus wants to give His little flock the kingdom: "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32 NKJV).

Jesus has pity on people who have no shepherd. "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd" (Mat 9:36 NKJV).

Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd, He is the "Great Shepherd"!

"Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant" (Heb 13:20 NKJV).

Letsí take another look at John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep".

Jesus did give His life for the sheep. We are all familiar with our John 3:16 memory verse: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Jesus is the savior of the world.

Jesus contrasted Himself as the Good Shepherd with that of the "hireling". The "hireling" would be compared to a false shepherd who was only interested in the job as a means of making money. He was in it for what he could get out of it. The false shepherd hirelings are like wolves. Wolves are vicious predators of sheep. Jesus warned about wolves in Mat 10:16 (NKJV): "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves."

The Church of God has suffered from a double danger. It has been attacked from the outside by wolves and robbers and from the inside by the false shepherds. False shepherds have always been a problem in the "Church" from itís conception on Pentecost in Acts 2. Notice the Apostle Paulís warning: "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29 NKJV). Peter, Paul and Jude warned the Church about apostasy.

Jesus Gave Up His Life Voluntarily!

Jesus said in John 10:17: "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."

Jesus laid down His life because He chose to do so. He did not lose it, He gave His life for you and me.

After Jesusí last Passover, He was in the garden and He prayed fervently saying: "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42 NKJV). For a moment Jesus prayed that there might be another way to work out the salvation of man without Him having to go through with the crucifixion, but He realized it had to be done Godís way, and being obedient even to death, He said "not My will, but Yours, be done".

Jesus was Our Passover Lamb!

John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God in John 1:29 (NKJV): "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

The Passover story is related in Exodus chapter 12. Jesus fulfilled the role as the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed for us to take away the sin of the world. The Apostle Paul said: "Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Cor 5:7 NKJV).

Jesus is our shepherd and our Passover lamb.

The Lord is My Shepherd!

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. {2} He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. {3} He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. {4} Yea, 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. {5} You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. {6} Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever" (Psalm 23:1-6 NKJV).

Jesus is the "Good Shepherd," who loves the flock (vs. 1;John 10:11-15), feeds the flock (vs. 2; John 10:9; 21:15-17; Acts 20:28), "restores my soul," by tending and caring for the flock (vs.3; cf. Isa. 40:11; John 21:15-17; 1 Pet. 5:1-4), with His "rod" He protects the flock (vs. 4; John 10:11-15; Acts 20:29-32), and He seeks the lost and straying sheep.

Even on our death bed, our shepherd is with us, and we donít have worry about the sting of death. "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory" (1 Cor 15:55 NKJV)?

Our victory is in Jesus, through His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5).

Verse 6 gives us the greatest promise of all, we will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

In Conclusion: The Bible has much to say about sheep and shepherds. We have seen that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that He died for the sheep. Letís make Jesus our Lord and our Shepherd and follow Him as His little flock.

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Footnotes: (1,2,5,6,7,8,9): P. L. Garber, "The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia",1956, p. 463 - 464.

Footnotes: (3,4): William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, The Gospel of John, 1975, p. 55-56.