The Great Shepherd

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We all know that Jesus Christ was born over 2000 years ago in a lowly stable...
the first ones that his birth was announced to where shepherds.
Jesus very well could have had real life shepherding experience…though he was know as a carpenters son, he came from a long line of shepherds.
whether he did any real life shepherding or not, we don’t know..but we do know he was indeed a shepherd of people.
the title bestowed upon Jesus metaphorically was “the great shepherd”
Ezekiel 34:31 KJV 1900
31 And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.
if we take a look at the shepherding that takes place in Israel today, it helps us more deeply understand our own relationship with the one that the apostle Peter called “the shepherd of our souls”

The Soul Shepherd

The story is told of an outstanding actor who was asked to entertain one evening at an immense dinner party. As the great actor arose to speak the room was filled with excitement as the eager guests anticipated his message.The star of the day said that he was going to recite the Twenty-third Psalm. This he did in a dramatic and eloquent manner. As soon as he had finished the chamber roared with applause as the audience arose in a standing ovation.The next speaker of the evening was an elderly white-haired man who was bowed and feeble, worn by many long years of steadfast, patient labor as a missionary. A hush fell over the audience as he arose. After a moment’s silence he said humbly, “I, too, would like to recite the Shepherd’s Psalm.”Then, lifting his face slightly toward Heaven he closed his eyes and began:“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 for ever.”When the servant of the Lord finished, a pin could have been heard if one had dropped on the floor. This time there was no applause. There was no standing ovation. Not a sound was heard. Yet, throughout the room there was not a dry eye. Tears were flowing freely.Shortly afterward, a man approached the outstanding actor and said, “I don’t understand. You both said the same thing. Your presentation was perfect in every way. Yet, when he spoke in his halting, imperfect manner, people were moved too deeply for words. What made the difference?”The actor hesitated and then replied, “The answer is simple. I knew the Twenty-third Psalm and I knew it well, but he, quoting the psalm though not as eloquent or as polished, knew the Shepherd!”
i’m so glad that i don’t just know of the great shepherd, but that i know him personally....as the shepherd of my soul.
John 10:4 KJV 1900
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
shepherding is all about calling and listening.
many of the sheep in Israel today are know as “fat tailed sheep”
this breed of sheep instinctively follow the voice of their shepherd.
it is this act of following that keeps them alive.....
you see, sheep don’t know where to find good pasture or to find water or shelter.
only the shepherd knows where all the needs of his flock can be met
therefor he calls to them and they follow him to food, drink and shelter.
we see that, metaphorically this is what a relationship with Jesus looks like.
human souls following the only voice that knows where to lead them.
John 10:27 KJV 1900
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
Matthew 16:24 KJV 1900
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
for alot of the year in Israel food can be very scarce....
so the shepherd must at times lead their sheep great distances to keep them fed.
for a short time after the rainy season, pasture are lush where the food is plenteous.
only during these conditions can well fed sheep lay down and rest.
metaphorically, in the bible, food represents Gods’ truth
Jesus taught that the food that the soul lives on is every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God
John 6:35 KJV 1900
35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Matthew 11:28 KJV 1900
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
we see in psalms that the shepherd David wrote about his own relationship with the Lord in this regard.
Psalm 23:1–3 KJV 1900
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
he was saying that following our great shepherd (the Lord)....we shall not be in want or need....
In Hebrew, the words for ‘still waters’ in Psalm 23:2 are “Mai Menochot”, meaning literally, “restful waters”.  Our Shepherd wants to lead us to a place of rest, a place of trust, a place of confidence, a place where you rely on Him and focus on Him without anything that will distract you.  He wants to take the “heavy load” from your life and replace it with His everlasting peace and rest.
much of the water in Israel is found in deep wells.
therefor, sheep must completely rely on their shepherd to give them water.
metaphorically, the bible refers to water as the Holy Spirit.
Jesus called it “Living water”…promising that whosoever drank of it would live forever.
who ever wanted this living water had to rely completely on Jesus because he was the only one that could give it to them.

Enemies of our Soul

sheep are completely helpless against their enemies.....
in Israel the number one enemy of the sheep has always been the wolf...
the bible refers to them as being savage and ferocious.
Matthew 7:15 KJV 1900
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Gazel are animals that are known to be fast and alert…but all to often, they have fallen prey to the wolf.
therefor a sheep has literally no chance at all for survival against a wolf.
this brings about the big question of how sheep are protected from the wolves.
even though wolves could potentially overcome a human in a, so to speak, hand to hand confrontation or face to face....
the reality is that wolves are actually afraid of humans.
therefor the only thing that protects sheep from wolves is that they are under the protection of a human shepherd
David wrote about this is Psalms....
Psalm 23:4 KJV 1900
4 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.
in other words, David is protected from his spiritual enemy because he is in the presence of the Lord his shepherd.
metaphorically, the wolf represents our spiritual enemy
John 10:10 KJV 1900
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
though the devil may not be afraid of us, we know that the devil and his demons are terrified of Jesus
so it is by being in the presence of Jesus, our shepherd, that protects us from the evils of this world and our adversary.
there is also something else that shepherds use to protect their sheep from wolves.
it is at night time that sheep are most vulnerable to wolf attacks..
so before night fall, a shepherd gets his sheep into a sheep pen
these sheep pens protect the sheep from wolves throughout the night.
metaphorically, a sheep pen represents heaven and eternal life.
so understanding how a shepherd uses a sheep pen, we can understand how souls go to heaven.
sheep pens are made by creating a wall made out of stone....that comes together down to a single narrow opening.
once the sheep are in the sheep pen....the shepherd himself will serve as a gate to the sheep and put himself in the opening as a gate
this ensures that nothing can come in or go out of the pen unless it goes through the shepherd.
John 10:7–11 KJV 1900
7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
just as sheep are protected throughout their life by their shepherd, so the human soul is protected and preserved in life with God.

Separation from God

the bible describes a soul that is separated from God, is like a sheep without a shepherd.
Psalm 119:176 KJV 1900
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; For I do not forget thy commandments.
sometimes sheep go astray from the flock and the shepherd doesn’t always notice that it is gone.
most of the time a sheep literally decides to stray from the flock and go their own way.
they actually make that choice for whatever reason.
when sheep do this, they don’t actually realize that the things they are leaving behind is the very person it needs to survive.
the very thing it needs for water, food, shelter and protection come night fall.
the penalty for sheep leaving the flock…turning away from its protection that is in the shepherd…for them it is certain death.
Isaiah 53:6 KJV 1900
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
without a shepherd the sheep will be facing certain death....the sheep won’t have to worry about dying of thirst or starvation....the wolves will get it long before that.
this is why the bible refers to lost sheep as food for all the wild animals.
Psalm 49:14–15 KJV 1900
14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave; Death shall feed on them; And the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; And their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. 15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: For he shall receive me. Selah.
Psalm 49:14–15 AMP
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol (the place of the dead); death shall be their shepherd. And the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their form and beauty shall be consumed, for Sheol shall be their dwelling. 15 But God will redeem me from the power of Sheol (the place of the dead); for He will receive me. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
fortunately we serve a loving and compassionate God....who has given to us redemption.
he came searching for us where we were at…even in our state of sin.
Matthew 9:36 KJV 1900
36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
the bible tells us that sin is choosing our own way rather than following God.
and that it is that sin that separates us from God.
and the penalty we face for that choice ....is spiritual death.
the bible tells us that a lost soul is helpless against the wiles of the devil
therefor, the only hope we have, as lost soul to live..is if it’s shepherd will....
seek it out
find it
and rescue it.
the bible says “for i have come to seek and to save that which was lost”
this is the exactly what God did for us…he sought us out to find us and created a rescue plan for us to be saved.
for God so loved the world that he gave......
John 15:13 KJV 1900
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ezekiel 34:1–5 KJV 1900
1 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.
all of these things came about because the sheep had no shepherd.....
and because of this, God made us a promise to do as any good shepherd would do...
Ezekiel 34:7–12 KJV 1900
7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; 8 As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; 10 Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
in response to this…Jesus said of himself “i came to seek and to save that which was lost”
John 5:24–25 KJV 1900
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
you see, shepherding is about a relationship between the many who are weak depending upon the one who is strong.
the one who is able to protect, feed and shelter them
a relationship based on grace, mercy and trust.
strength for those that have none
direction to those that are lost
and shelter from the attacks of the enemy.
we as sheep, put our full faith and trust in the only one that is able to deliver us from the hand of fate.
there are tactics that a shepherd uses in an attempt to try and teach a wandering sheep to follow....but in the end such things can’t be forced.
in the end, every soul must choose to either be with God or without him
in the end, every soul must choose between life and death.
Matthew 25:32 KJV 1900
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
shepherds always separate the goats from the sheep.
the souls that choose God are representative of the sheep, while the ones that don’t are the goats.
Matthew 25:33 KJV 1900
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
the separation of the goats and the sheep we know is what God used figuratively in regard to judgement.
Matthew 25:46 KJV 1900
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
the goats will go into everlasting punishment
but to those who follow the great shepherd things will be completely different
in Hebrews chapter 3 it says.....to day if ye will hear his voice....
the bible says that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Jesus said come follow me for i am the way, the truth and the life
Matthew 7:13–14 KJV 1900
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
we know that narrow way is through Jesus…the bible says no one comes unto the father but by me.
Jesus has become that gate of the sheep fold.
if we have any hopes of making it to glory…to eternity with him, we must go through Jesus Christ.
for he is the way, the truth and the life.
1 Peter 2:24–25 KJV 1900
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
God not only saw our plight, but sought us and found us and through his blood became the shepherd of our soul....
John 15:13 KJV 1900
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus is our supreme example in that he does not drive his sheep, but rather, leads his sheep.
Unlike Western shepherds who drive the sheep, often using a sheep dog, the shepherds of the Near East, both now and in Jesus’ day, lead their flocks, their voice calling them on.
D. A. Carson
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