The Shepherd is less likely to blame the sheep than we are.
As established in the beginning, the kingdom of God consists of the whole earth under heaven’s management, with humans as God’s agents providing his care to the rest of creation. How we care for the animals is therefore a great analogy for how God cares for us:
Matthew 18:12-14 (original translation, compare NIV)
12 What do you think? Say someone had a hundred sheep, and one was misled from the others. Wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hills, head off, and search for the misled one? 13 And if it can be found, I tell you truly that his joy over this one is greater than over the ninety-nine that were not misled. 14 None of those who gather around your Father in the heavens want any of these little ones to come to ruin.
This is God’s heart for the whole human family. Neither the Sovereign himself nor any of the angels who gather around his throne and read in his face how he feels when humans mistreat each other (18:10) want any of God’s children to come to harm.
Continue reading “The shepherd’s heart (Matthew 18:12-14)”
Jesus is the good shepherd? What does that mean?
Open John 9:40 – 10:18.
In our culture, religion is an optional religious experience for those who like that kind of thing. It’s good clean fun, time with friends, decent music, more inspiring than Ted Talks. Australia views church as a recreational activity, a time of being refreshed after the work and political struggles of the week, a bit like binging on Netflix except you have to dress up and go out.
So when we read Jesus talking about the kingdom of God, we can’t make any sense of it. We copy the Psalms and sing, “God reigns,” but we don’t think of ourselves as a kingdom.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), but we don’t understand what that meant to Israel. A shepherd was a ruler, one who led the herd. In Jesus’ day, the Sanhedrin had that responsibility. So if he claimed to be the good shepherd, what was he implying about Israel’s other shepherds? Continue reading “The good shepherd (John 10:1-18)”
Our Shepherd empowers us to care for his people.
Open Matthew 10:5-8.
“Sheep without a shepherd” — it’s a disturbing image for a ruler who cares for his people (9:36). One man cannot round up the scattered sheep (9:37-38), so Jesus commissions twelve undershepherds (10:1-4), sending them to the lost sheep to announce his kingship (10:5-8).
Continue reading “How the Shepherd gathers his sheep (Matthew 10:5-8)”
What does it mean to be a leader in God’s kingdom? God desires “Shepherds After My Own Heart.”
The best study on Christian leadership I’ve ever read is Timothy Laniak’s book, Shepherds after My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible (IVP, 2006). Where many leadership books derive principles from business or bureaucratic settings, Laniak derives his from the heart of God, as expressed in the Biblical narrative. Continue reading ““Shepherds After My Own Heart””
We have a shepherd, so you have a place to belong.
Open Matthew 9:35-38.
Matthew 9:36 (my translation)
Seeing the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and thrown down like sheep with no shepherd.
What do we mean when we call Jesus our shepherd? Do you imagine yourself as a fuzzy little lamb being stroked by the shepherd? If so, you’ve missed the powerful metaphor.
For Israel, shepherd was a metaphor for a ruler, a leader of the nation. Occasionally a priest or prophet could be called a shepherd, but it was usually the king. David literally was a shepherd until God chose him to shepherd Israel: “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler” (2 Samuel 5:2).
Sheep without a shepherd is therefore a picture of a nation that’s lost its ruler. As Moses reached the end of his life, he asked God to appoint a successor “so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:17). When the prophet Micaiah saw a vision of Ahab dying in battle, he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd” (1 Kings 22:17).
The last king of Judah was Zedekiah. The Babylonian invaders slaughtered his sons in front of him and then gouged out his eyes. From that moment in 586 BC, Israel had been sheep without a shepherd.
Among the scattered sheep in exile, Ezekiel explained that God had to remove the bad kings; yet he also promised that God would raise up a son of David to rule over them again: Continue reading “Jesus our shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38)”
You have people in your care? See yourself as an under-shepherd.
Open Psalm 23.
If you like mysteries, how about the clue above verse 1 in Psalm 23? The compilers who arranged the Psalms after the exile added some clues about how the Psalm was used or understood. Some of these headings are musical instructions. Some provide a historical setting. Almost half the Psalms are labelled “Of David.” What does that mean?
Continue reading “Voice of an under-shepherd (Psalm 23)”