THE GOOD SHEPHERD

In his book, “The Bush Is Still Burning” Lloyd John Ogilvie describes an experience he had in Israel as he sat on a hillside watching shepherds and their sheep in the valley below. As the sun began to set, he saw something remarkable take place. The shepherds began to call out to the sheep, each walking in a different direction. After milling around a bit, the sheep divided and a separate group followed each shepherd.

What a sight, the shepherd in front and the sheep faithfully following. They knew their Shepherd and he knew his sheep.Each shepherd led his sheep to a different sheepfold, an enclosure with four walls and a man sized opening on one side. The shepherds stood inside and called their sheep to enter.

Then they built a fire just inside the door and prepared their evening meal. Before long the fires would be banked and the shepherds would curl up in their blankets for a night of watchfulness inside the doorway of the sheepfold. No sheep could go out and no predators or invading danger could come in past the shepherd.

The imagery of shepherds and sheep is used all through the Bible, depicting God and His relationship with His people. Psalm 100:3 “Know that the Lord Himself is God. It is He Who has made us and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” God is frequently referred to as the Shepherd and Israel as His flock.

He is the Good Shepherd Who provides everything for His sheep as Psalm 23:1 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Often Jesus spoke of Himself as the Shepherd and the disciples or followers as His flock and when He said He was the Good Shepherd, He identified Himself with God.

In John 10, we have the words of Jesus teaching His disciples. He compares His relationship with them as that of a shepherd and his sheep. When He spoke using figures of speech, they didn’t understand so He began to speak more directly. In verse 7 and 9, Jesus tells them, “I am the door of the sheep.”

Then He says, ” I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Not only am I the protector of my sheep, the only way to go in and out of the sheepfold, but I willingly lay down my life for my sheep.”I am the good shepherd and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Vs17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.” Vs18 “No one takes it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

But there were other people who heard the words of Jesus and they argued all the time about His words and whether He was the Christ or not. Jesus pinpointed their questioning attitude by saying to them, “You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.”

So, not everyone is a sheep who is following Jesus, the Shepherd. There are those who are not interested in what He has to say except to find some fault. There are some who hear His voice and seem to be one of the sheep but they do not really want to follow Him and obey Him.

All through Scripture there are solemn warnings not to harden our hearts to His voice. In Psalm 95:6-7 “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts -,”

Hebrews 3 says. “Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts,” God requires our obedience if we truly hear His voice and desire to follow Him. Proverbs 29:1 “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.”

In his book, “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23” Phillip Keller talks about a beautiful ewe he had which he really loved. She was healthy and bright eyed, and she had sturdy lambs which matured rapidly. But she had one fault, she was restless, discontented.

He named her Mrs.Gadabout. Because she was a fence crawler, she produced more problems than all his other sheep. No matter what field or pasture the sheep were in Mrs.Gadabout would search for a loophole to craw through and feed on the other side.

Often she would end up feeding on bare, brown, burned up pasturage that was inferior to the place she was in before. She never learned but continued to fence crawl time after time. Not only that but she taught her lambs the same tricks and soon they were skilled at fence crawling too.

Even worse was the example she set for other sheep. In a short time she began to lead others through the same holes and over the same dangerous paths down to the sea. After putting up with her perverseness for a summer, he came to a conclusion. In order to save his flock from becoming unsettled, she would have to go.

He could not allow one obstinate, discontented ewe to ruin the whole ranch operation. It was the only solution. It was a difficult decision to make because he loved her as much as the rest. One morning her fence crawling career was cut short. He took the killing knife and he butchered her. In spite of the good care he had given her she always wanted something else.

To quote Phillip, “She was not like the one who said, The Lord is my Shepherd – I shall not want. It is a solemn warning to the carnal Christian¬† – backslider – the half Christian – the one who wants the best of both worlds. Sometimes, in short order, they can be cut down.”

There is another type of sheep Jesus mentioned, those who are not a part of the fold yet. Vs16 “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one Shepherd.” Jesus, the Good Shepherd is calling the lost.

In Luke 15 we have a parable Jesus told to illustrate the great love He has for lost sheep. The shepherd who has one hundred sheep finds that one is missing. He leaves the ninety nine and searches for the lost one until he finds it. He calls his neighbors to rejoice with him because he found his sheep that was lost.”

“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety nine righteous persons that need no repentance. Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

At Easter we remember the death, burial and the resurrection of Jesus. Isaiah tells us He bore our iniquity, our sins. We were disobedient, like straying sheep and Jesus laid down His life for us. If we hear His voice and follow Him we will never want or lack any necessity of life. He promises to care for us forever, in this life and the next.

Vs27-30 “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (essence).”

HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN

How long has it been since you talked with the Lord,
And told Him your heart’s hidden secrets?
How long since you prayed? How long since you stayed
On your knees till the light shone through?

How long has it been since your mind felt at ease?
How long since your heart knew no burden?
Can you call Him your friend? How long has it been
Since you knew that He cared for you?

How long has it been since you knelt by your bed
And prayed to the Lord up in heaven?
How long since you knew that He’d answer you
And would keep you the long night through?

How long has it been since you woke with the dawn
And felt that the day’s worth the living?
Can you call Him your friend? How long has it been
Since you knew that He cared for you?

 

Song by Mosie Lister

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