Plague Number Five

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”’” And the Lord set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” And the next day the Lord did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died. And Pharaoh sent, and behold, not one of the livestock of Israel was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go. – Exodus 9:1-7 ESV

Moses prayed and God removed all the flies from the land. But Pharaoh remained unmoved by the Hebrew God’s gracious and miraculous act. While he had pleaded with Moses to intercede with God on his behalf, the divine deliverance failed to soften his hardened heart.

“…the Lord did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go. – Exodus 8:21-32 NLT

So, God sent Moses and Aaron back to the palace with instructions to restate their request one more time.

“This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me.” – Exodus 9:1 NLT

The same God who had turned the water of the Nile into blood, produced an infestation of frogs and overwhelmed the land with gnats and flies, was still demanding that Pharaoh release the Hebrew people. And God reiterated the one-of-a-kind relationship the Israelites shared with Him. They were His people. They belonged to Yahweh.

This was a battle of sovereignty and ownership. Pharaoh believed the Hebrews belonged to him. He viewed them as little more than squatters and illegal aliens who had been living off the fruitfulness of the land for too long. They didn’t belong in Egypt, but if they were going to stay, they were going to have to pay their way. That’s why he turned them into a source of free labor and demanded that they do something to earn their keep.

But God wanted Pharaoh to know that the Hebrews were not his personal property to do with as he wished. They were the sons and daughters of God and, as such, were obligated to worship Him as their Heavenly Father. But to Pharaoh, this so-called God of Israel was just one more god in a long line of powerful and equally influential deities. And as before, God determined to prove His transcendence and unparalleled uniqueness by launching a direct assault on the gods of the Egyptians. In this case, He took aim at the Egyptian gods whose visible forms resembled those of bulls, cows, and rams. More resistance from Pharaoh would result in additional judgment from God. And, once again, it would become clear that the false gods of Egypt were no match for Yahweh, the all-powerful God of Israel.

God didn’t mince words or leave anything up to Pharaoh’s imagination. He provided Moses with a very clear description of what was going to happen.

“If you continue to hold them and refuse to let them go, the hand of the Lord will strike all your livestock—your horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats—with a deadly plague.” – Exodus 9:2-3 NLT

Every domesticated animal that the Egyptians depended upon for food, milk, transportation, labor, and clothing was going to be wiped out in a nationwide plague. And many of these animals, like bulls, cows, and rams were worshiped by the Egyptians as representations of their various gods.

Apis was a popular deity that was shown in the visage of a bull. Worship of the Apis bull is recorded as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3150 – c. 2890 BCE). It is believed that Apis was one of the first gods of the Egyptians and among the first animals associated with divinity and eternity. Over time, the Egyptians would use the image of the bull to represent other deities. Apis was originally worshiped as the god of fertility but later came to be associated with the god, Ptah. At one point, Apis was claimed to be the son of the god, Hathor, and was believed to be the divine source of all goodness and bounty.

Another one of the Egyptian gods was Amon-Re, whose form resembled that of a ram. This particular god was closely linked to the political well-being of Egypt. And it is interesting to note that there was a time when this god was simply known as Amon, but he was part of a “trinity” of gods that included Ptah and Re. Together, they formed a single god, of which Amon, Ptah, and Re were manifestations.

Another god of the Egyptians was Nut, who was often depicted as a nursing cow. The ancient Egyptians believed Nut to be a celestial god, whose eyes were represented by the sun and moon, and whose role was tied to creation and new birth. She was considered the mother of all creation and the mother of Ra, the sun god. The Egyptians believed that Ra “birthed” each new day by passing through Nut’s body. At the close of each day, Ra would reenter the womb of Nut, only to be born again the next day.

In considering the significance of these three animal/gods in the Egyptian religious taxonomy, it becomes apparent that they were held in high esteem. This made the animals whose visages they shared equally important to the Egyptians. So, when God announced that He was about to strike all the livestock, herds, and flocks of Egypt with a deadly disease, it would have had spiritual as well as physical ramifications. Not only was the livelihood of the Egyptians going to be affected, but an important segment of their religious belief system was going to come under direct attack by the God of Israel.

This time, the plague would be far more than a nuisance. It would be deadly and devastating to the Egyptian economy. We’re talking about the complete elimination of all their horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats. And to add salt to the wound, God announces that the livestock, herds, and flocks of the Israelites will be spared. The land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, would be designated a death-free zone.

But the Lord will again make a distinction between the livestock of the Israelites and that of the Egyptians. Not a single one of Israel’s animals will die! – Exodus 9:4 NLT

The God of the Israelites was going to protect His own, including all their animals. The plague would be targeted and discriminating in its impact. Only those animals that belonged to Egyptians would suffer death.

And God announced that the starting time for the plague was already on the divine calendar. The devastation was scheduled to begin the very next day. And like clockwork, as the morning dawned, “all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but the Israelites didn’t lose a single animal” (Esocus 9:6 NLT). But, as before, Pharaoh was unshaken by this blow to his country’s economy and his people’s religious foundation. Surrounded by dead animal carcasses, he sent officials to see if what Moses had said was true. This delegation of royal emissaries made their way to Goshen where they were shocked to see that not a single goat, bull, ram, or camel had succumbed to the effects of the plague. All was well in Goshen.

And yet, true to form, “Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn, and he still refused to let the people go. – Exodus 9:7 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Good Shepherd Has Come

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:8-21 ESV

For the third time in his gospel account, Luke records the appearance of an angel delivering a divine announcement. Zechariah and Mary had both received visits from the angel Gabriel, who delivered to each of them the news regarding the pending births of John and Jesus respectfully. But with the actual birth of Jesus, God sends another angelic messenger to earth to announce the news of His Son’s arrival. And this time, the audience didn’t consist of family members or even close relatives. Instead, God sent His messenger to a group of unnamed shepherds who were “keeping guard over their flock at night” (Luke 2:8 NLT).

Everything about this story is intended to display the sovereign will of God. The timing of every event has been according to His will. God sent each of the angelic messengers with a specific message for a particular individual. And as each divine announcement was made, the pieces of God’s redemptive plan began to fall into place. Now, with the birth of Jesus, God sends yet another angel with a message “for all the people” (Luke 2:10 ESV). The timing of this particular message was the middle of the night and the recipients just happened to be a group of lowly shepherds

Because of our familiarity with this story, it’s easy for us to overlook the fact that more than 30 years will separate the angel’s announcement to the shepherds and the actual beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. God chose to have His Son born in the obscure and diminutive village of Bethlehem. He selected an unknown and inconsequential Jewish girl to be the mother of the Messiah. Then He decided to have the “good news of great joy” regarding His Son’s birth announced to a ragtag group of men whose occupation put them well outside the ranks of polite society. Shepherds were the garbage collectors of their day. No self-respecting parent wanted their child to grow up to be a shepherd. It was considered a bottom-rung career choice that was a dead-end when it came to financial or social advancement.

And yet, more than 3 decades before His Son would actually begin His earthly ministry, God made the sovereign choice to send an angel to this nondescript collection of nameless men. And their divine encounter would be far greater and more spectacular than anything Zechariah and Mary had experienced.

As these men were enduring yet another long and mind-numbing night of shepherding sheep in the middle of nowhere, their world was rocked by the appearance of an angel. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the dark night sky was filled with a bright light that Luke attributes to the glory of the Lord. The entire hillside was lit up like a scene from Friday Night Lights, and this spectacular display left the shepherds in a state of shock and petrified with fear. But the angel quickly addressed their concerns.

“Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 NLT

Much to the shepherds’ relief, the angel was there to bring them good news. Based on the circumstances, it would have been easy for these men to assume the worst and to think their lives were over. But the angel was there to proclaim joyful news that even lowly, uneducated shepherds would have understood. The heavenly messenger announced the birth of their Savior, someone he described as the Christ. And this message did not escape the shepherds. The Greek word Christ is the equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah. These Jewish shepherds were being told that their Messiah, Lord, and Savior had just been born in the city of David. The long-awaited Messiah of Israel had finally come.

And as if to put an exclamation point of the night’s proceedings, the angel was suddenly joined by a vast, heavenly army. The night sky was filled with a numberless host of angels declaring:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:14 NLT

The angels declare the glory of God because this news was the result of His glory, grace, and goodness. It was God who had chosen to send His Son (John 3:16). This was all the work of God and it had been part of His plan from the very beginning. And with the arrival of His Son, mankind would be able to know true peace for the first time. Jesus was entering a world plagued by sin and marked by turmoil. It was characterized by darkness and under the dominion of the evil one. Jesus would later declare Himself to be the light that illuminates the darkness.

“…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” – Luke 3:19 ESV

His arrival was meant to be good news. But the sad fact is that many would refuse to accept Jesus as the light of God. They would continue to prefer living in the darkness of sin rather than accepting the sin-exposing, life-transforming light of the world.

The heavenly hosts declare that God is offering peace, but only to those with whom he is pleased. This is a somewhat confusing statement that can easily be misunderstood. Are the angels suggesting that God’s peace can be earned? Can sinful men be restored to a right relationship with God by doing righteous acts? A better translation of verse 14 is “peace to men on whom his favor rests” (NIV). With the coming of the Messiah, there would be those who believed in Him as their Savior, but there would be many more who would reject Him. Not all would enjoy the peace He came to offer, but as Jesus Himself said, “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15 ESV). They can be made right with God through faith in the Son of God. They can enjoy restored peace with God by placing their hope and faith in the Savior sent by God.

Whether the shepherds fully understood what the angels had said is not clear. But they sought to know more and left their sheep in order to verify what the angel had told them. Luke records that the men “went with haste” to Bethlehem where they soon discovered the infant, Jesus. It seems likely that they would have found the surroundings of Jesus’ birth to be a bit incongruous. If He was the Messiah and Savior of Israel, why had He been born in such lowly circumstances? Where were the priests and dignitaries? Why had a host of angels announced His arrival, but no one bothered to show up to welcome Him?

But despite all their questions, these men were impacted by what they had heard and seen, and they began to spread the news of Jesus’ arrival.

the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. – Luke 2:20 ESV

Little did they know that 30 years would pass before anything of significance happened. They probably expected to hear further news of the Messiah’s birth in the days ahead. They must have assumed that word would get out and the arrival of the Savior of Israel would begin to spread. But while their story of the angelic visitation made people wonder, it would do little to change anything about the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel. The people remained in a state of moral darkness. The shepherds went back to their field and flocks. Life went on as usual. And “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 ESV).

Eight days later, Mary and Joseph had Jesus circumcised, according to the requirements of the Mosaic Law. At that time, they announced the name of their newborn son. While His name was a common one, its meaning holds particular significance: “Yahweh saves.” This Jesus would be unlike any other Jesus. His was more than a name, it was His identity and mission. He was the Savior of Israel and He had come to earth on behalf of His Heavenly Father so that He might redeem and restore those who were enslaved by sin and death. But for the next three decades, the Messiah would live in relative obscurity among those He came to save. The Savior had come, but His mission had not yet begun. The arrival of the Good Shepherd had been announced to a group of earthly shepherds, but it was not yet time for His work to begin. But that day would come soon enough.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:11 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson









Pharaoh, Flocks and Famine.

He had sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to show the way before him in Goshen, and they came into the land of Goshen. Then Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.” Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. And the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”

So Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan. They are now in the land of Goshen.” And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.” They said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. And now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.” – Genesis 46:28-47:6 ESV

Sometimes the stories of the Bible become so familiar to us that they lose their significance and we lose our sense of awe at the display of God’s power found in them. The story of Joseph is a case in point. We have already seen so many examples of God’s sovereign, providential hand at work, predestining Joseph for his role as the savior of God’s people. Time and time again, God has displayed His power and undeniable control over the affairs of men and even the realm of nature. The seven year famine was part of God’s plan, just as much as Joseph’s rise to the second most-powerful position in the land of Egypt. Each and every event connected with this story reveals yet another example of God’s sovereign control over everything and everyone.

As Jacob, his sons and their families arrive in Egypt, and are reunited with Joseph, we are provided with yet another example of God’s providence. Jacob was a shepherd by trade. So were his sons. When Jacob had gone through his self-imposed exile in Paddam-aram, he had been a shepherd, tending the flocks of his uncle, Laban. And he had been good at his job, at one point telling his uncle, “You know how hard I’ve worked for you, and how your flocks and herds have grown under my care. You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously. The Lord has blessed you through everything I’ve done” (Genesis 30:29-30 NLT). Jacob eventually left Laban’s employment, but not before he had a few choice words for his uncle and former boss:

“For twenty years I have been with you, caring for your flocks. In all that time your sheep and goats never miscarried. In all those years I never used a single ram of yours for food. If any were attacked and killed by wild animals, I never showed you the carcass and asked you to reduce the count of your flock. No, I took the loss myself! You made me pay for every stolen animal, whether it was taken in broad daylight or in the dark of night.

“I worked for you through the scorching heat of the day and through cold and sleepless nights. Yes, for twenty years I slaved in your house! I worked for fourteen years earning your two daughters, and then six more years for your flock. And you changed my wages ten times! In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. – Genesis 31:38-42 NLT

It had been God who protected Jacob and who increased his wealth – in spite of the efforts of Laban. And it was Jacob who passed on his knowledge of shepherding to his sons. And they too became the owners of great flocks and herds. But then the famine came. Famine and flocks do not go well together. So Jacob and his sons were forced to look for another source of food to provide for their flocks and families. That is what had led them to Egypt in the first place. And now they were returning to Egypt to live, bringing all their flocks and families with them, because there were five more years of famine yet to come. Once again, this had all been a part of God’s divine plan for His people. It had been God who had blessed Jacob with flocks. It had been God who had brought about the famine that had threatened the well-being of Jacob’s flocks. And it was God who had moved the heart of Pharaoh to willingly and graciously accept Jacob and his family and flocks into Egypt, providing for them the best of his land as their possession.

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and go to the land of Canaan! Get your father and your households and come to me! Then I will give you the best land in Egypt and you will eat the best of the land.’ You are also commanded to say, ‘Do this: Take for yourselves wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives. Bring your father and come. Don’t worry about your belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt will be yours.’” – Genesis 45:17-20 NLT

And when they arrived, that is exactly what happened. They came before Pharaoh, explained their plight and pleaded for his help. Verse four of chapter 47 sums it all up.

Then they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to live as temporary residents in the land. There is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. So now, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.” – Genesis 47:4 NLT

What is truly amazing about this is that Pharaoh, as an Egyptian, hated shepherds. Joseph had even told his brothers to say to Pharaoh, “Your servants have taken care of cattle from our youth until now, both we and our fathers,” and warned them that, “everyone who takes care of sheep is disgusting to the Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34 NLT). And yet here were Hebrew shepherds coming before one of the most powerful men in the world, asking him to provide them with land to care for their flocks. And what did Pharaoh do? He gave them the land of Goshen, the best land in Egypt. Not only that, he employed some of the brothers to care for his own flocks and herds. These events should create in us a sense of awe and wonder at the providential care of God. This had all been His doing. The book of Proverbs reminds us, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:12 NLT). Pharaoh’s generous offer had been part of God’s plan, just as much as the famine had been. The unlikely and implausible blend of Pharaoh, flocks and famine was God’s doing. As William Cowper stated so well, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.” An Egyptian Pharaoh, a seven-year famine, and the famished flocks of the people of Israel. What a strange combination. And what a wonderful example of God’s mysterious providence. Which is why Cowper goes on to remind us:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

Numbers 27-28, John 5

A Shepherd For The Sheep.

Numbers 27-28, John 5

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd. – Numbers 27:16-17 ESV

I always find it fascinating how many times God chooses to use the metaphor of sheep when referring to His people. While that idea may conjure up an idyllic image of lush pastures filled with fluffy white sheep peacefully eating their fill of green grass, the real message behind the metaphor seems a bit less flattering. Sheep are not the brightest of animals. In fact, they are quite dumb, requiring someone to lead them and protect them. Sheep are herd animals with no built-in protection mechanism, other than flight. They are driven by their appetites. There are stories about flocks of sheep so intent on grazing that they literally walked off the side of a cliff one by one, so focused on feeding that they were oblivious to the danger. Sheep are easily led astray. Sheep are easy prey to predators. They spook easily and are prone to both disease and injury. And even a cursory reading of the Scriptures will reveal that so many of the characteristics of sheep really do apply to the people of God, including those in Moses’ day all the way to the Christians living during the days of Paul’s ministry. When Moses was informed by God that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his actions at Meribah, he asked God to appoint a successor. “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:16-17 ESV). HIs concern was that the people not be “as sheep that have no shepherd.” Moses knew from personal experience that the people of Israel would be helpless and hopeless without someone to lead them. They had proven themselves to be driven by their passions, prone to wander, easily spooked, and susceptible to a herd mentality. They needed a strong leader who could help guide them and, when necessary, discipline them.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God’s people have always needed strong leadership, and all along the way, God had provided men like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David, Samuel, and Paul. Left to our own devices, and without strong godly leadership, we are always prone to trouble. Even Jesus saw the plight of the people of God in His day. “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36 ESV). God’s people, His sheep, were in a sorry state. They were shepherdless and helpless. They needed someone to lead them. They needed a shepherd. And while they had no shortage of religious leaders, Jesus saw them as harassed and helpless. The Pharisees, priests, Scribes, and other so-called leaders of Jesus’ day were guilty of the same sin as the “shepherds” in Ezekiel’s day. Read what God had to say about those who were responsible for the care and leadership of the people of God during the prophetic ministry of Ezekiel. “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them” (Ezekiel 34:4-6 ESV).

God was not happy. His sheep were being neglected and even abused. He expected those men who had been given the responsibility of leading His people to take their role seriously and to lead according to His terms, not their own. God cared for His sheep and He expected those whom He had appointed as shepherds to act as His undershepherds, providing the same level of care and concern as He would.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Just as sheep are prone to wander, shepherds are prone to walk away from their God-given responsibilities. It is so easy for a shepherd of God’s people to allow selfishness and self-centeredness to distract him from what God has called him to do. Far too often, the leaders appointed by God to shepherd His flock, ended up abusing their roles and neglecting those under their care. God puts a high value on good shepherding. It was written of David, “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds;from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance.With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand” (Psalm 78:70-72 ESV). David was the kind of shepherd God was looking for. He had a heart like God’s. He cared for God’s people with the same passion that God had. He was far from perfect, but he was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 ESV). When it came to the people under his care, he was ready to do the will of Go. He understood that God’s people needed to follow God’s will regarding their lives. They needed strong direction and steady leadership. Without it, they would find themselves in trouble. And in time, after the death of David and the demise of the kingdom of his son, Solomon, the people would suffer under a long line of insufferably poor shepherds. So that by the time Jesus showed up on the scene, He would encounter a people who were shepherdless, helpless and hopeless. Even Peter would say of those who had come to Christ in his day, “Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 ESV). Ultimately, God was going to have to send His Son, as the one true Shepherd, to rescue His sheep. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 14 ESV). Mankind has always been in need of a shepherd and God eventually sent the only one who could rescue them. Isaiah reminds us, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus was the true Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, who laid down His own life for the sake of His sheep. He sacrificed Himself so that His sheep might be safe and sound. There was a selflessness and humility about Jesus that should be reflected in my own life. His life is the ultimate model of what it means to be a shepherd. Paul tells us, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 NLT). Humility. Sacrifice. Submission. Obedience. Those are the characteristics of a shepherd of God. May I learn to shepherd as He did. May I be willing to lead by following His example.

Father, make a shepherd like Your Son. Give me the heart of David and the passion to feed and care for Your sheep, even if it requires the ultimate sacrifice of my life. Don’t let me become selfish and driven by my own desires. Constantly remind me that I am Your shepherd and have been given the responsibility of caring for Your sheep. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men