So Micaiah told him, “In a vision I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘Their master has been killed. Send them home in peace.'” – 2 Chronicles 18:16 NLT
When it came time for Macaiah to deliver his word of prophesy from God to Ahab, what he had to say was somewhat strange and rather cryptic. God had given him a vision in which he had seen the people of Israel represented by sheep who were wandering without a shepherd. Why? Because their shepherd had been killed. It is a sad image of helplessness and hopelessness. Without a shepherd, sheep are completely defenseless and lacking in any ability to fend for themselves. They lack leadership and end up wandering all over the place, susceptible to predators, injury and death. It seems that from the context of the message, both God and Macaiah are more concerned about the state of the sheep than what happened to the shepherd. Even Ahab gets it that the vision does not bode well for him. He is going to die. And his death will have dire consequences on the people of Israel. But he doesn’t care. All he can think about is himself. He is self-centered, self-promoting, and self-worshiping. His world revolves around himself and his own desires.
But God has a love for his sheep. In fact, He uses that metaphor throughout the Scriptures, often referring to His people as His sheep. When Moses knew that he was not going to be able to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land, he asked God to provide a new leader to do the job: “O LORD, the God of the spirits of all living things, please appoint a new leader for the community. Give them someone who will lead them into battle, so the people of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:16-17 NLT). Years later, when the people of Israel were living in exile in Babylon, God would prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. Though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, along with their right to feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey” (Ezekiel 34:8-10 NLT). The kings and prophets of Israel had failed to care for God’s sheep. He had placed them under their protection and given them responsibility for their well-being. Now the people of Israel were literally scattered, living in captivity in the land of Babylon.
But God would not leave His sheep sheperdless or defenseless. He would intervene. “I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places to which they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in lush mountain pastures. I myself will tend my sheep and cause them to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes — feed them justice!” (Ezekiel 34:11-16 NLT).
God cares for His sheep. He sent His own Son to help rescue and redeem His lost sheep from captivity to sin. When Jesus came, He saw the great need among the people of Israel. “He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36 NLT). He even referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd, saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will leave the sheep because they aren’t his and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he is merely hired and has no real concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11-15 NLT).
Ahab had neglected the sheep. He had abandoned his responsibility as a shepherd of God. And most the kings to follow him would do the same thing. The people of God would suffer for years due to lousy leadership and irresponsible shepherding. But God never abandoned them. He continued to act as their Great Shepherd, watching over them and ultimately rescuing them from captivity. And God has cared for us as well, rescuing us from captivity to sin and leading us back into His fold through the efforts of His Son, the Good Shepherd. Where Ahab and others like him had failed, God would succeed. He would be the shepherd the people needed. He would provide the care, comfort, protection and provision they needed. And He still does.
Father, You are the Great Shepherd and You care for me each and every day of my life. You watch over me in ways that I can’t even see. You provide for me in ways that go unnoticed by me. While men may fail me, You never do. Thank You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men