Our scripture reading for today has us reading about the often-used biblical metaphor… the shepherd. For most of us, the idea of shepherd comes only from the books we read, but back in biblical times, most everyone knew what the role of a shepherd was, and its importance. If you were to look it up, it would be defined as ‘a person who tends and rears sheep’ and to ‘guide or direct in a particular direction.’ Listen to Psalm 100:3, “Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” So, let’s take a moment and consider God our Shepherd.
Our first reading brings us to Psalm 22. In the first few verses, the psalmist is distressed, and in anguish. It seems as though God has somehow neglected him. As we continue to read, his tone appears to abruptly change in verse 19. From this point forward, he points out the praiseworthy strength that only the Lord provides. This leads right into the ever-popular and ever-comforting Psalm 23 that announces to us all these comforting words, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). With only six verses, this Psalm simultaneously provides contentment for this life and the promise of the eternal.
Our second reading brings us to Ezekiel chapter 34. In verses 1-10, Israel’s “shepherds” are denounced for only caring for themselves. This truth is found in these penetrating words, “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feeds themselves!” (Ezekiel 34:2). In verses 11-16, the reader is pointed to the true Shepherd who will “search for my sheep and look after them” (34:11). He will be the judge and care for all His sheep, including the weak (verses 17-22). He will make a covenant of peace and protect them from the wild beasts (verse 25), providing blessings (verses 26-30) to them all. Why? Listen to v31, “You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
Now we take this imagery and carry it over to the New Testament. In our final reading, we learn from John chapter 10, about Jesus being the “gate”. He is the only way to salvation. In that same chapter, Jesus calls himself “the good shepherd” (v11). Why is He good you ask? Listen to the next part of the verse, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus, the good shepherd, knows His sheep, and His sheep follow Him. Jesus, the provider of eternal life, came to be the one true shepherd man needs to shepherd the one true flock that He would purchase, His church. Thank You God for being our Shepherd.
Abe & Dennis