In previous blogs I have covered the top ten teachings according to the frequency with which Christ taught (seen on page 133 of the download ‘What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus’). We are now going to cover the ‘I AM’s’ of Jesus. Jesus came to reveal the Father and show the way to salvation. Over 20 times in the Gospels He uses the declaration ‘I am’ in explaining who He was. In so doing He was affirming His divinity and His relationship to mankind. The next of these is ‘I am the Good Shepherd’.
Sheep are curious animals. They are known for their strong herding instincts, grouping together against predators. When one goes one way all the rest follow. So strong is this instinct that in 2005 in Turkey one sheep tried and failed to jump a 15-metre ravine. 1,100 sheep followed with more than 400 perishing, their bodies cushioning the fall of the rest.
The Shepherd feeds them
They are always hungry, chewing cud for several hours each day. Apart from the flock, sheep will follow someone they know and trust. They are familiar with the shepherd who feeds them. Essential to the old shepherd are his rod and staff. The rod, shorter and thicker of the two used for warding off predators. The staff with a crook used for firmly pulling the sheep back into the fold and away from harm.
A good shepherd is always aware of the welfare needs of his sheep. He is fully capable of safe-guarding them under all foreseeable conditions. The good shepherd is one who watches over the sheep. He herds them, guards them and tends to his sheep. A good shepherd shows the way to good pastures and away from predators.
Jesus said, I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His own life for the sheep… I am the Good Shepherd and I know and recognise My own, and My own know and recognise Me—John 10
Like sheep without a shepherd
When sheep have no shepherd their unsheared wool is heavy, dirty and full of parasites. They are infected with worms stumping their growth and survival. Their feet are infected and hooves so long they cannot walk. Ewes don’t have enough milk for their lambs who often die of malnutrition and overexposure. When He saw the throngs, He was moved with pity and sympathy for them, because they were bewildered (harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless), like sheep without a shepherd, Matt 9:36.
Sheep and goats are often separated in the flock. This is because they are different. Sheep separated from their shepherd become nervous, whereas goats follow no one and go their own way. Grazing for hours on low cut grass is the preference of the sheep, whereas goats forage and eat whatever strikes their fancy. Sheep are gentle, goats are stubborn. At the end of time all nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them [the people] from one another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats, Matt 25:32.
Sheep hear the voice of the Shepherd
Henry says – Sheep need man’s care, in return for it, they are serviceable to man (1 Cor. 9:7 Who tends a flock and does not partake of the milk of the flock?). They clothe and feed those by whom they are tended and fed.
The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. He speaks familiarly to them when they come into the fold. The shepherd calls his own sheep by name, so exact is the notice he takes of them. He leads them out from the fold to the green pastures. (John 10:4 When he has brought his own sheep outside, He walks on before them, and the sheep follow Him because they know His voice. They will never [on any account] follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not know the voice of strangers or recognise their call.)
When he turns them out to graze he does not drive them, but he goes before them, to prevent any mischief or danger that might meet them, and they, being used to it, follow him, and are safe. They will not follow a stranger but, suspecting some ill, will flee from him, not knowing his voice.
The sheep of His pasture
Here is the key to it (Ezek. 34:31 And that you, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are [only] men and I am your God, says the Lord God). Good men are fitly compared to sheep. Men, as creatures depending on their Creator, are called the sheep of His pasture. Good men, have the good qualities of sheep, harmless and inoffensive as sheep. Meek and quiet, without noise. Patient as sheep under the hand both of the shearer and the butcher. Useful and profitable, tame and tractable, to the shepherd, and sociable one with another, and much used in sacrifices.
The church of God in the world is a sheepfold, into which the children of God that were scattered abroad are gathered together (John 11:52 And not only for the nation but also for the purpose of uniting into one body the children of God who have been scattered far and wide), and in which they are united and incorporated (Ezek. 34:14 I will feed them with good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be, there shall they lie down in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel).
Wolves in sheep’s clothing
This fold is well fortified, for God himself is as a wall of fire about it, (Zech. 2:5 For I, says the Lord, will be to her a wall of fire round about, and I will be the glory in the midst of her). This sheepfold lies much exposed to thieves and robbers, crafty seducers that debauch and deceive, and cruel persecutors that destroy and devour. There are grievous wolves (Acts 20:29 I know that after I am gone, ferocious wolves will get in among you, not sparing the flock). Thieves that would steal the sheep, to sacrifice them to devils, or steal their food from them, that they might perish for lack of it. Wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you dressed as sheep, but inside they are devouring wolves).
The great Shepherd of the sheep takes wonderful care of the flock and of all that belong to it. God is the Great Shepherd, (Ps. 23:1 The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack..) He knows those that are His, He calls them by name, marks them for himself. The sheep are led out to fat pastures, He makes them both feed and rest there. The Lord speaks comfortably to them, guards them by His providence, guides them by His Spirit and Word, and goes before them, to set them in the way of His steps.
They follow their Shepherd
Those who are truly the sheep of Christ will be very observant of their Shepherd, and very cautious and shy of strangers. They follow their Shepherd, for they know His voice, having both a discerning ear and an obedient heart. The sheep flee from a stranger because they do not know his voice. It is dangerous to follow those in whom we do not discern the voice of Christ. Those who would draw us from faith in Him. Those who have experienced the power and efficacy of divine truths upon their souls, and have the savour and relish of them, have great perception in discovering Satan’s wiles, and in discerning between good and evil.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures, He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life (my self), He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake. Though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me. Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over. Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days [His presence] shall be my dwelling place. Psalm 23
The Lord anoints His sheep
In hot climates to protect themselves from extreme perspiration they would rub oil into the body. Mixing this oil with perfume was refreshing and invigorating. The body then so anointed is protected and perfumed and ready for action. The Lord also anoints His “sheep” with the Holy Spirit who equips us to engage more freely in His service and run in the way He directs—in heavenly fellowship with Him.
Now may the God of peace [Who is the Author and the Giver of peace], Who brought again from among the dead, our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood [that sealed, ratified] the everlasting agreement (covenant, testament). Strengthen (complete, perfect) and make you what you ought to be and equip you with everything good that you may carry out His will, [while He Himself] works in you and accomplishes that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (the Messiah), to Whom be the glory forever and ever (to the ages of the ages). Amen Heb 13:20
Here comes the Good Shepherd Out in the open Surveying the land Just a job for the hired hand Simply a means To earn his keep There’s more important things than sheep And so he lives From day to day When danger comes He runs away Here comes the Good Shepherd Secure and bold There part of me Part of my fold I know My sheep I am their rock They will listen to My voice And become one flock I gave up My life To draw them in Those on the outside Lost in their sin Yes, My Father has sent Me Here I am I come to rescue My wayward lamb. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father, You are my Good Shepherd. May I hear Your voice more and more and follow only You. Anoint me afresh with Your Holy Spirit this day that I carry Your presence and be Your witness wherever I go. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.