Today’s reading: John 9-10.
“What does it mean that the LORD is my shepherd?”
Lynn Anderson, in They Smell like Sheep, told of a tour he took in Palestine where his group listened to a guide explain the ancient sheep-herding practices. The guide spun a heart-warming tale about the gentle way the shepherd cared for his sheep, fed them, led them, and trained them to follow his voice. “He then explained how on a previous tour things had backfired for him as he was giving this same speech about sheep and shepherds. In the midst of spinning his pastoral tale, he suddenly realized he had lost his audience. They were all staring out the bus window at a guy chasing a ‘herd’ of sheep. He was throwing rocks at them, whacking them with sticks, and siccing the sheep dog on them. The sheep-driving man in the field had torpedoed the guide’s enchanting narrative. The guide told us that he had been so agitated that he jumped off the bus, ran into the field, and accosted the man, ‘Do you understand what you have just done to me?’ he asked. ‘I was spinning a charming story about the gentle ways of shepherds, and here you are mistreating, hazing, and assaulting these sheep What is going on?’ For a moment, a bewildered look froze on the face of the poor sheep-chaser, then the light dawned and he blurted out, ‘Man. You’ve got me all wrong. I’m not a shepherd. I’m a butcher.’ This poor unwitting fellow had just provided the tour guide and all of us with a perfect example of what a ‘good shepherd’ is not.”
In the fourth of his seven “I am” declarations, Jesus allied himself with the proverbial gentle shepherd, and also hearkened back to the shepherd of Psalm 23.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:11-15
Jesus, the good shepherd, knows his sheep, cares for his sheep, and gives his life for his sheep. As a result we can claim all the following benefits:
Resources. “I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:1-2). He will meet all our needs, both physical and spiritual, including our need for salvation. A sheep’s needs are simple, however, and ours should be as well.
Route. “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). He guides us by showing us the right way to live. It’s up to us to follow his lead.
Rest. “He refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:3). More than sleep or relaxation, the Psalmist refers to the nourishment of our souls through meditation on God’s word and prayer. If we make time for a daily quiet time, we will find rest for our souls.
Rescue. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). We can be confident and courageous in spite of danger because the Good Shepherd is with us. He has already rescued believers from the greatest danger – an eternity separated from God.
Rejoicing. “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:5-6). There is much of eternity in the Good Shepherds provision, but we can rejoice even now, knowing that he is with us every step of the way.
The Eastern shepherd is generally the owner of the flock, or at least the son of their owner, and so their proprietor in prospect. The sheep are his own…His wealth consists in them. He very seldom has much of a house and he does not usually own much land. He takes his sheep over a good stretch of country which is open common for all his tribe—but his possessions lie in his flocks. Ask him, “How much are you worth?” He answers, “I own so many sheep.” In the Latin tongue the word for money is akin to the word, “sheep,” because to many of the first Romans, wool was their wealth and their fortunes lay in their flocks. The Lord Jesus is our Shepherd—we are His wealth! If you ask what is His heritage, He tells you of “the riches of the Glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Ask Him what are His jewels and He replies, “They shall be Mine in that day.” If you ask Him where His treasures are, He will tell you, “The Lord’s portion is His people. Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.” The Lord Jesus Christ has nothing that He values as He does His own people. For their sakes He gave up all that He had and died naked on the Cross. Not only can He say, “I gave Ethiopia and Seba for you,” but He “loved His Church and gave Himself for it.” He regards His Church as being His own body, “the fullness of Him that fills all in all.” – Charles Spurgeon