Sent To Shepherd His Flock
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
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
". 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
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
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
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.