Sent To Shepherd His Flock

Micah 5:1-5a

Rev. Bryn MacPhail

It is quite common, particularly in the United States, to be driving along on a major highway and see a giant billboard that reads, 'Jesus Is The Answer'. More than once, on these billboards, I have noticed that beneath the proclamation, 'Jesus Is The Answer', someone has scribbled 'What's the question?'.

Philip Yancey, in his book, The Bible Jesus Read , proposes that we understand the question to be, 'Do I matter to God?'. 'Does God care?'(Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read , 201).

Scientists tell us that our sun is one of 500 billion stars in the Milky Way, a medium-sized galaxy among 200 billion others, all swarming with stars. Can one person, on a speck of a planet, in a speck of a solar system, in a medium-sized galaxy, make a difference to the Creator of that Universe? (Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read , 202). Does God really care about me?

The celebration we call Christmas answers this question for us. God cares for us so much that He sent His Son to save us from our sins and from the penalty our sins deserved. Jesus is indeed the answer.

You have heard me say previously that Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission. He came to bear our sins. He came to forgive and cleanse us from our sins. But there is more. Jesus did not simply come to offer us a 'Get out of hell for free card'. Jesus did not simply come to pardon us. Jesus also came to care for us. Jesus came to care for us as a shepherd cares for his sheep .

Isaiah portrays the Messiah in this way in chapter 40, verse 11: "Like a shepherd He will feed His flock, in His arms He will gather the lambs, and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing sheep ".

The shepherd imagery of Isaiah provides us with 3 characteristics of the Messiah. The first characteristic of the Messiah is that, "Like a shepherd He will feed His flock ". Jesus fulfills this in John 6:35, calling Himself, "the bread of life ", and promising that "he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst ". To the woman at the well, Jesus promises, "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst "(Jn. 4:14). Jesus not only came to pardon us, He came to satisfy our deepest hunger and thirst--He came to feed His flock.

The second characteristic of the Messiah we learn from Isaiah 40:11 is that "Like a shepherd . . . He will gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom ". This is an image of protection. Just as a shepherd protects his sheep, so will the Messiah protect those who are His. Jesus fulfills this in John 10:11, saying, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep ".

The third characteristic of the Messiah we learn from Isaiah 40:11 is that "Like a shepherd . . . He will gently lead the nursing sheep ". The Messiah is to provide direction for sheep that would otherwise go astray(Isa. 53:6). Jesus fulfills this in John 10:27, saying, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me ".

The Messiah, the Good Shepherd, came to lay down His life for His sheep once and for all, but He is also concerned with their ongoing care. The Messiah is eager to feed His sheep. The Messiah is eager to protect His sheep. The Messiah is eager to lead His sheep and to have His sheep follow.

The shepherd imagery employed by Isaiah is also employed by Micah in the well known passage of his book, chapter 5, verses 1 through 5.

The passage begins with the word "Now "(v.1) indicating that the present situation is about to be described. The present situation is that Assyria has "laid siege against (Israel); with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek "(v.1). The "ruler " described here is presumably Hezekiah if we date the writing of this passage at around 701 BC. In the movement from verse one to verse two, we clearly see the oracle moving from present distress to future salvation. We see a shift from the humiliation of Jerusalem's present king to the victory of the coming Messiah(Alexander, Baker, Waltke, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah , 181).

The contrast between Jerusalem's failing king and their future Messiah is further enhanced by announcing that "Bethlehem of Ephrathah " will be the birthplace of this Messiah(v.2). The kings born in proud Jerusalem failed, but the "One who is to rule in Israel " would come from the lowly town of Bethlehem(v.2).

Micah, when describing how the Messiah would rule in Israel, also utilizes the imagery of shepherding when he says that "(the Messiah) shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they shall live secure, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and He shall be the One of peace "(v.4, 5).

The shepherding imagery employed by both Isaiah and Micah should be a source of tremendous comfort to us, for they describe a Messiah who provides ongoing care for His flock. Jesus did not simply come to save us from the penalty of sin, He came to help us in the daily struggle to overcome the power of sin. "Feed(ing) His flock " is the image of God's continual care for us.

We tend to thank Jesus for coming to earth, dying for our sins and saving us, but what we often fail to recognize--what we often fail to thank Christ for--is His daily involvement in our lives. Jesus, by His sacrificial death on the cross, saves us from certain spiritual death. That, on its own, would be good enough. That would be reason enough to devote ourselves to living for Him. But there is more. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, not only saves us, He also protects us. Micah promises that the Messiah's flock "shall live secure ". Jesus, in John 10:28, says, "I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand ".

The Messiah was not to be some super hero who saves the day and then leaves. The Messiah was to be like a shepherd, intervening daily in the lives of His flock in order to feed them and protect them from harm.

To those who have already heeded the voice of the Good Shepherd, you should find tremendous comfort in this message. Once you have trusted in the sacrifice of Christ, once you have been cleansed of your sin, your eternity is secure. Jesus does not save us only to abandon us to our own devices later. Jesus saves us, and then He daily "carries (us) in His bosom "(Isa. 40:11).

It is impossible to lose one's salvation . Jesus, referring to His flock, promises that "no one shall snatch them out of My hand ". Similarly, Micah's prophecy regarding the Messiah's flock is that "they shall live secure ". The security of one's salvation is, again, confirmed by Jesus in John 6:39, "this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day ".

The reason we can be so secure in our salvation is because our salvation depends not on us, but on God . If my salvation depended on me, I would have no security. If it were possible, because of sin, for me to fall away, I would have by now. The only reason I can sleep at night, secure in my salvation, is because Jesus assures me that my salvation depends on Him and not me.

If Jesus was only a Saviour, someone who got us out of trouble once, we might have cause for concern. The wonderful truth is, however, that Jesus is more than a Saviour. Jesus is our Saviour and our Shepherd. Our shepherd feeds us and protects us, and because of His ongoing care we know what it is like to "live secure ".

After saying all of this, I recognize that we all probably know individuals who appear to have fallen away from the faith. We all, likely, know individuals who began in the flock only to leave the flock later on. What do we make of them? Did they not lose their salvation? No. The stark reality is they never had it. They were never true members of the flock. Jesus gave us clear warnings about tares growing among wheat, and about wolves appearing in sheep's clothing. Admittedly, it is difficult to know which is which--only the Lord can read a person's heart.

We may point to the fallen person's previous faithfulness to every part of church life, yet Jesus reminds us, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of the Father "(Mt. 7:21). In other words, Jesus is promising that the real sheep will keep following . Listen again to John 10:27, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me ".

If the humanity's fundamental question is, 'Does God care?', Jesus is indeed the answer. The first coming of Jesus was a rescue mission motivated by love(Jn. 3:16). And God's care for us did not cease when the disease(sin) became healed. God's continuing care for us is manifest in Jesus who came to earth to be our Shepherd . He came to feed our deepest longings. He came to protect us from the ongoing assaults of sin and evil. And He came to lead us into righteousness.

Can we have assurance that we belong to His flock? Can we have assurance that our eternity is secure? Yes, you can have assurance. In a society that welcomes many voices, the Good Shepherd requires that you listen for His voice. The Good Shepherd who feeds, protects, and leads, requires that we follow . If we follow Him above all else, we show ourselves to belong to His flock. And if we belong to His flock we shall live securely--now and forever more. Amen.