The Good Shepherd

Hymn 29 (The Ninety and Nine)

If you look into the Bible, the word shepherd is mentioned 105 times.

I compared this to other professions:

Doctor or physician = 10 times
Scribe or scribes = 14 times
Lawyer = 2 times
Electrical Engineer = 0 times

I kid the electrical engineers...

King = 2127
Priest = 824
Prophet = 454
Judge = 187
Teacher = 136

And if you look at the resumes of workers in the Bible…look at all the great men who began their caeers as shepherds.

Abel…the first good guy in the Bible, was a shepherd

Abram had flocks and herds and became the father of faith

So did his son Isaac, he had so many flocks and herds that he was envied by the Philistings

Jacob was a shrewd shepherd..he ended up being the father of a nation

Jospeh tended the flocks too…ended up being the second in command of Egypt

David…started as a shepherd and became the most successful king of the nation of Israel

The prophet Amos was a shepherd

You'd think that all great workers for God would start life as a scribe, or a scholar, or a theological student. But no, these all started their lives as shepherds. A lower class, dirty job. A job with no career advancement opportunities…


Well, to answer this, let's take a look at Moses.

Perhaps the greatest worker for God in the Old Testament

  • He stood in front to Pharoah and proclaimed the word of God “Let my people go”.
  • At his word, ten plagues defeated the Egyptians
  • He lifted his hands and parted the Red Sea
  • At his request, bread from heaven rained down.
  • He struck a rock, and water came out.

Moses lived to 120 years old.

Moses was 40 years ago when he first had the heart to work for God…he was about a third of the way through life. Today, assuming that our life expectancy is 80, the equivalent is someone who's about 27 years old.

Moses grew up in the household of the Pharoah. But over the years, he came to realize that he was not an Egyptian.

EX 2:11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. [12] Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

The Bible doesn't say much about Moses' motives in killing the Egyptian, but you can imagine what was going through Moses' mind.

I've been watching this oppression for years now

I'm going to do something about it

I'm a young man, I'm at the peak of my strength physically

Intellectually, I've been schooled in the best schools of Egypt

Politically, I grew up in the house of Pharoah…no one can touch me.

If there was ever a time for me to act on behalf of my people, it's now!

[13] The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?"

EX 2:14 The man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "What I did must have become known."

Most young people are idealistic.

In Moses' mind, he saw the injustice

He had a burning desire to help his people.

So in his idealism, maybe he thought that all he had to do was kill this Egyptian and everything would be fine again

What he didn't realize was that there were others who didn't quite agree with him

The Egyptians's didn't

The Israelites didn't

And you'll notice that when the Israelite asked “Who made you ruler and judge over us”? Moses didn't have an answer.

Moses must have realized at this point that there was one other who didn't quite agree either. That was God.

So Moses did what we all do in this situation. He ran and ran. All the way to Midian. Away from the luxury of Egypt and to a desolate land.

The Bible does something interesting next. In 5 verses…chapters 2, verses 21 to 25, it covers 40 years.

Moses did what most young men do. He found a job. He got married. He had kids. He minded his own business.

And we see him again in chapter 3:1, 40 years later. 80 years old. By today's standards, he's around 53 years old. He's past his midlife crisis. His kids are grown. He's probably looking ahead towards retirement. And then he sees the burning bush. We all know what happens after that.

Now when you think about it, why didn't God just show Moses the burning bush the second he got to Midian? The Israelites would have been spared 40 years of suffering and injustice. Moses would have been much more able to handle the load physically and mentally.

Well, God could see what Moses couldn't. Moses wasn't ready yet. He had to learn some things. Even if it took him 40 years.

What happened in these 40 years? These 5 verses?

Well, Moses became a shepherd. And just as God did with so many other great workers, God probably taught Moses much of what he knew through his shepherding.

I came up with 6 things that one learns about serving God by tending sheep. If you have the heart to serve God, either now or some day, be prepared to encounter the same lessons in your own life.

•  You learn how to deal with being despised

Gen 46:[32] The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.' [33] When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, `What is your occupation?' [34] you should answer, `Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.' Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen , for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians."

Now this was before Moses, and even then, the profession of shepherding was reviled by Egyptians. This went beyond looking down on them. This was despising them to the point where they could not even live in the same land as them

Why? Well, because shepherding ran counter to everything that they prized. You didn't make much money being a shepherd. There are no prizes given for best shepherd. You're not even dealing with powerful animals like horses or oxen. You're dealing with little wimpy fuzzy animals.

I started working for church about a month ago, and I've made some observations.

First off, let me say that I'm probably going to just help out with church work for a few months, and we'll see where God leads after that. So my observations really aren't about me, but about the people around me who have made a greater commitment.

All my life I've looked with great respect on those who worked for God. But I had a conversation with a fellow worker, and he said something that shocked me.

He said that it was an embarrassment for some parents to admit that their child worked for church full-time. That the implication was that the only reason people work at church is because they can't get a real job. People with real talent…they go become doctors and businesspeople and engineers. They make six-figure incomes. They buy the big houses, and drive the expensive cars.

And actually, one thing I did was I looked over the resumes of all the people I was working with. Some of them were full-time volunteers…giving up their jobs to serve God. Others were full-time staff…some left bright futures in their career, all had impressive resumes, graduating from the top schools. And I calculated for myself how much these brothers and sisters were sacrificing to work for God.

The figure? It came out to about $300,000 a year cumulatively that these brothers and sisters were donating to church every single year by choosing to work for God. And this isn't counting work they do in their spare time that they aren't compensated for.

So it was pretty heartbreaking to hear what some people said about them.

But you know what? This is God's design.

Because when you work for God, you don't do it for the glory. And you most certainly don't do it for the money. You do it because to you, there's nothing on this earth that's more meaningful than bringing a soul to Jesus Christ.

When people look down on you when you serve God, that's when you have to make a decision. What was the purpose of my serving God in the first place?

And it is interesting that when our Lord was on Earth, he didn't compare himself to kings, or princes, or doctors, or lawyers. He called himself a shepherd.

Luke 16:[15] He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.

So if you have the heart to work for God, be prepared. Be prepared by being able not only to endure, but to embrace those moments when the world looks down on you.

John 15:18

JN 15:18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. [19] If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

•  You learn how to lay down your life for the sheep.

JN 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] 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. [13] The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Notice that the hired hand looks exactly the same as the good shepherd. They both carry a rod and staff, they both stand in the middle of the sheep. The sheep follow both of them.

But once the wolf attacks, you see the difference. The hired hand runs away. He only watches the sheep because he's paid to watch them. But at the first sign of danger, he's gone. On the other hand, the good shepherd stays. No matter how many wolves attack, no matter how big the wolves are, no matter how far the flock is scattered, the shepherd stays. Even at the point where the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, he will stay.

If you wish to serve God, you will encounter difficulties. That's guaranteed. And a lot of people, when they encounter these difficulties, they leave. Oh, some of them, maybe those who are a bit more responsible will stay longer than others, but ultimately, if they are just a hired hand, they will eventually leave.

What is a hired hand? It's not someone who's irresponsible…in fact, there are plenty of hired hands who are responsible. They stay and stay and stay with the flock until they have to leave or be killed. It's just not in their job description to get killed to save a bunch of dumb animals.

But a shepherd will stay, even if it means laying down his life for the sheep.

If you want to work for God, you need to learn what it means to be a shepherd.

I've heard people say this line. “I love God with all my heart. But I don't like the church”.


“I will serve God, but I cannot serve God as long as there is so much hypocrisy and disorganization and miscommunication”

And the reason I've heard people say this line, of course, if because I happened to be one of the ones who used to say them.

But someone who says this line doesn't get it.

It's like saying, I'll tend the sheep, but I will not tend the sheep unless you can guarantee me that there will be no wolves or bears or lions. Or I'll tend the sheep, but I will not tend the sheep unless you guarantee that the sheep will be healthy.

Well, you know what, if there were no bears or wolves or lions, there really wouldn't be much need for a shepherd. And furthermore, If the sheep weren't sick, and injured, and lost, there's wouldn't be much need for a shepherd.

Zechariah says it clearly:

ZEC 11:17 "Woe to the worthless shepherd,
who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!
May his arm be completely withered,
his right eye totally blinded!"

If you have the heart to serve God, you will encounter problems. But you need to remember that this flock is entrusted to you.

2 tim 3:[12] In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, [13] while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. [14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, [15] and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, [17] so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

•  You learn to find good pastureland

EZE 34:11

[13] I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel , in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. [14] I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel .

One of the most important duties of a shepherd, of course, is to find good pastureland. If you find a good, green pasture, that's great. But if you stay there too long, eventually the sheep will run out of grazing land. You can force the sheep to stay there, but they'll starve unless you keep moving.

The same is true when you work for God.

If you read history, the Pharisees were originally the model Jews. As scribes they studeied, interpreted, and taught the law. At a time when the Jews were being persecuted by the Syrians in 166-142 BC and Judaisam as a whole was in danger of being subsumed by Hellenization, the Pharisees faithfully upheld the word of God and joined the revolt when their temple was desecrated.

Paul boasts of being a Pharisee in Philippians 3:5 in terms of his adherance to the law.

But what happened?

You could go to any Pharisee and ask him to recite to you Isaiah 53. Or Isaiah 9. You could ask him to recite it to you backwards, and he could probably do it.

But if you asked a Pharisee what it meant, he couldn't tell you. He'd tell you that it meant that a messiah would come to the earth, and the government would be on his shoulders, and he would be despised and rejected by men, and that he would carry our infirmities.

But he couldn't, or wouldn't, tell you that the passage was about Jesus Christ.

You see, the Pharisees never moved on. At one point, their preaching was edifying, in fact, it was the Truth. But after a time, they lost connection with the head…and then that's when human thoughts and human ideas started to take the place of God.

MK 7:6 He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

" `These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.

MK 7:7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'

MK 7:8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."

In other words, the sheep they were leading were starving, but they wouldn't move on.

Well, in your church work today, you're going to have successes. You teach a great RE class. You give a great sermon. You cook a great meal.

Thank God.

But be careful that you're not tempted to just lean on past successes. Be careful that you don't fall into the trap of saying “this is how we've always done things…therefore we will continue to do things this way”.

A good shepherd will always know where to lead the flock. And ultimately, that means that the good shepherd always needs to know where the gate is.

10:[9] I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

•  You learn how to defend against the enemy

1SA 17:34 But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, [35] I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. [36] Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. [37] The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine."

Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you."

We already talked a little about the enemy.

If you have the heart to work for God, you will encounter the enemy. Now the Bible says that God will not let you encounter anything more than you can bear, but one thing I have noticed is that generally, God will let you encounter everything up to that point.

Just like with David.

David encountered lions and bears, but never one that was too powerful for him. How do we know that? Well, if David encountered a lion or bear that was more powerful than him, the Bible would probably look a lot different than it does now. For one thing everywhere in the Bible that says "Son of David" would say something like "Son of Jimmy"

Now there were probably times that David was scratched up, or pretty well beaten up. But he survived. And each time he encountered something like that was just another opportunity for him to get stronger.

If David had never encountered a lion or a bear in his life…if he had just stayed inside and watched TV all day, he would never, ever have been able to confront Goliath.

1PE 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. [13] But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. [14] If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. [15] If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. [16] However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. [17] For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? [18] And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"

1PE 4:19 So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

•  You learn how to lead your sheep, not drive them

This was written by Dennis Anderson,
christian youth leader Northern CO and WY

E ver try to get 500 sheep to go into a barn?
One hot Wyoming afternoon when I was working as a shepherd on my family's ranch, I tried to move our stubborn flock toward the barn door to no avail. As I swam through the sea of woolly backs, screaming and shoving, I got more and more frustrated. Finally, I grabbed a docile-looking ewe and dragged her through the open door.
The other 499 followed. At once. I could barely see the barn door for all the dust, noise, wild eyes and churning hooves flying up around it.
I stood back and laughed. One minute no amount of yelling and pushing could get even one sheep through the door. But after just one ewe crossed that black hole, the whole flock was turning at top speed to smash their way into the gate.

This story is a good illustration of one point: The biblical image of a leader is not of a cowboy, after all, but of a shepherd. Cowboys drive and push their herds from behind. Shepherds lead their flocks from the front.

If you work for God, sometimes your instinct is to drive the flock.

In your mind you feel something is right so you push it through. Never mind trying to understand why others may not agree with you. Rather than communicate with them or understand their side of the story, you close your ears and pass them off as rabblerousers or troublemakers or unholy.

Some weaker sheep fall away right away, and you let them go. Some sheep grow tired and can't go further, and you leave them behind. Some sheep follow you, but the flock is much smaller and much weaker. By the end, maybe you've walked far enough that the whole flock is gone, and it's just you left.

This is the way God leads us. This is from

God knows our pace. He knows when grief, pain, and loneliness overwhelm us. He knows when the full realization of our limitations comes home to us. He knows when we're shamed and broken and unable to go on. God does not drive His sheep, He gently leads them. He allows for hesitation and trepidation. He gives credit for decisions and resolutions that are strenuously tested. He understands courage that falters in the face of terrible odds. He can accommodate a faith that flames out under stress. He takes into account the hidden reasons for failure. He feels the full weight of our disasters. He knows our pain as no one else knows it. Our bleating reaches His ears. He even hears our inarticulate cries.

When we lag behind, He does not scold us. Rather, He gathers us up, encircles us with His strong arm, and carries us next to His heart. The essence, the central core of God's character, lies here: He has the heart of a tender shepherd.

A good shepherd won't lead by shouting loudest or pounding his fist the loudest or quoting the right bible verses.

A good shepherd will lead by example. He will stand firm and do what's right, no matter what others do around him.

And while he's doing what's right, He will still have compassion for those who are weak, he will have patience for those who lag behind, and as long as they're on the right path, he will even trust the sheep to lead him once in a while.

•  You learn how to love those who are helpless and have no one else to love them

I looked on the Internet and I found a little background about sheep. This was from the web site of Grace Bible Church in NY.

I need to give you a little background about sheep and shepherds. First, you need to understand that sheep are not very intelligent. It is reported that Dr. Bob Smith, retired professor of philosophy at Bethel College one said that sheep were prima facie evidence against the theory of evolution, for there is no way that sheep could have survived! I once said that sheep were dumb, and a lady that had sheep objected saying that they were just helpless. The truth is that they are both. Philip Keller, in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, describes the nature of sheep. They are creatures of habit that will follow a path through a desolate place and ignore excellent forage even though it is not far away. They are given to listless wandering. They have even been known to walk into an open fire. They can be timid and stubborn. At times they can be frightened by silly things and at other times they cannot be moved. They can be quite helpless. If a sheep accidently rolls on its back, it will be stuck there with its feet in the air. Someone has to roll it back over. Sheep are also defenseless and have no way of protecting themselves.

Now, let's turn to

ISA 40:11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:

He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

How in the world can a human being love something so helpless, defenseless and a bit stupid.

How in the world can a human being love someone who forgets to listen to them, who wanders off thoughtlessly, who goes astray and gets lost, and even runs into danger and harm?

Well, we of course turn the question around.

How in the world could Jesus Christ love us?

How is it that Jesus Christ knows us each by name?

If you have a heart to serve God, chances are that God will show you how to love others by letting you realize how much you are loved yourself.

By showing you that there was one who left his glory and became despised for your sake.

By showing you that there was one who laid down his life for you.

By showing you that there was one who always brought you to fertile pastureland to eat

By showing you that there was one who bore attacks from the enemy for your sake

By showing you that there was one who led you all the way to where you are right now.

And by showing you that even when you were helpless, and unloved, and sick, and dying, that there was one who loved you like a shepherd.

Sing hymn (his sheep am I)



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