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Shepherd | Jesus

Shepherd | Jesus

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

The evening sun splashed brilliant colors across a meadow where a thousand sheep grazed. The grass was so thick, the air so peaceful, that none noticed a wolf pack gathering at the edge of the clearing. One ram lifted his head, sniffed the air, and pawed the ground. At his bleat, a thousand sheep lifted heads and two thousand eyes widened. Sleek grey bodies raced toward them and pounced. Chaos erupted as terrified sheep scattered, bleating, racing in every direction. But within seconds, wolves were yelping and limping for cover. The shepherd stood where the sheep had been, panting, his arms dripping blood as he kept swinging his heavy rod. “Out of here!” he shouted. Two wolves lay dead on the ground while the rest snarled but drew back. The huddled flock watched as their shepherd fought for them. He was wounded, but he’d win. He always won.

Most of us don’t know any shepherds, but in Jesus’ day everyone knew what shepherds did. They knew every lamb by name. They knew which ones were rowdy, weak, or wanderers. So when Jesus called Himself a good shepherd, they made an instant connection. He was offering to make them His flock. He would love them like a shepherd. He’d be their defender, their source, and their guide. He would fight their battles and their enemies. Even wounded, He would win. He’d always win.

Challenge:  A good shepherd will sacrifice his life for the sheep. That’s what Jesus did for us.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for being my Shepherd. My battles are not mine alone. You will wade into the danger and fight for me. All I need to do is stay close to your side. Thank you for being my defender, my source, and my guide. Amen.


Tuesday—He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. Is. 40:11

“Your God is a monster!” screamed the woman with a picket sign in her hand. “He’s a baby-killer! If there is a God, He’s sadistic and cruel. I hate Him!” Unfortunately, we’ve seen demonstrations like that. Thousands who don’t know what they’re talking about take to the streets to spew hatred toward a God they declare doesn’t exist. They may soften up a little when they’re asked about Jesus. But in their minds, the God of the Old Testament is a meanie while the Jesus of the New Testament is a softie. But take another look at the above verse. That’s not talking about Jesus; it’s from the Old Testament.

God described Himself as a Shepherd long before Jesus came to earth because most of His original audience understood sheep and shepherding. Sheep are extremely vulnerable—and not very smart. With no natural defenses, they’re easy prey for predators. They wander off, get into messes, and their thick wool can trap them in thickets. Without a shepherd to untangle them, they become a predator’s snack. Sometimes, when a lamb refused to follow, the shepherd would break one of its legs so it had to be carried. As the leg healed, the lamb learned to trust the shepherd and rest close to his heart. Sometimes, God has to let us be broken so that He becomes our only source. Habits and baggage entrap us and without Him to untangle us, we become Satan’s snack. But as we heal, we learn to trust our Shepherd as He carries us close to His heart.

Challenge: When we refuse to follow our good Shepherd, He must wound us so we learn to rest close to His heart.

Prayer: Father, thank you for never giving up on me. I’ve sometimes fought your attempts to draw me close and ended up wounded because of it. Help me learn to rest in your arms, your promises, and your goodness. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Wednesday The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.  Psalm 23:1-3

We’re angered by news stories about neglected animals. Scenes of emaciated horses, mangey dogs, and even filthy, matted sheep infuriate us because the people who should have cared for the helpless didn’t. Contrast that with the description of the sheep in Psalm 23. They’re peaceful and content because they have all they need. They lie down in lush grass because they’ve eaten their fill. Sheep won’t drink running water, so the Shepherd finds them still water.  Even when grass is sparse or the terrain rocky, they trust the shepherd and continue to follow Him because He will always provide what’s best for them.

Following our Shepherd is not always peaceful. He sometimes leads us into rocky situations. Wolves attack. Ponds dry up. Grass is burnt to a crisp and we start to fear our Shepherd isn’t paying attention. But Psalm 23 reminds us that a good Shepherd never stops caring for the sheep. He is not taken off guard by the dangers facing us. He knows the way around the landmines and if we stay close beside Him, we’ll be safe. A sheep that stops trusting its shepherd takes off on its own and is soon devoured by its enemies. But those that stay with the flock will enjoy the rich provisions the shepherd promised.

Challenge: Suggested reading/listening: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23  by Phillip Keller.

Prayer: Father, I want to be the lamb that stays right beside the Shepherd. Help me not wander away or take off on my own. I won’t think you’ve left me when life is hard. Help me listen for your voice and rest in your provision. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Thursday—  …Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4

Kim’s words were barely discernable: “In high school, I envied envy the kids with curfews,” she mumbled. “I even envied the rowdy kids who got spanked for skipping school. No one cared enough about me to set curfews. I pretty much raised myself.” Allie touched her friend’s shoulder. “Then you can understand Psalm 23:4 better than most. You understand why both a rod and a staff are comforting, even when they’re painful. God is a good Father so He disciplines us for our own good and uses the rod to beat away the enemy of our souls. And His staff yanks me back into line when I act stupid. That comforts me.”

A shepherd in the first century carried two tools everywhere he went: a rod and a staff. The rod was a protection against wild animals that tried to steal a lamb. The shepherd didn’t beat the sheep with it, but might use it to break up fights between rambunctious rams. A staff was a long stick with a hook on the end. With his staff, the shepherd would snatch a lamb that was about to fall over a cliff. The hooked end drew the lamb back into the flock—whether he wanted to be drawn or not. The shepherd was not a pushover. He bore the responsibility for his master’s sheep and would make sure they were all safely accounted for, no matter what it took. Both rod and staff are necessary to make sure God’s sheep are safely accounted for.

Challenge: If you’ve felt the sting of a rod or His staff redirecting you, thank your Good Shepherd for loving you that much.

Prayer: Jesus, I love the idea of you as my Shepherd. A good shepherd did what was necessary to keep the sheep safe, even if it was temporarily painful for a wandering lamb. Thank you for both your rod and your staff. They comfort me. Amen.


Friday The hired hand runs away because he’s working for the money and doesn’t care about the sheep. John 10:13

A shepherd and a hired hand were vastly different in Jesus’ day. A shepherd would give his own life for his sheep while a hireling clocked out at the first sign of danger. A shepherd cared about the sick, the weak, and the wandering lambs. The hireling couldn’t care less about dumb animals. The shepherd’s actions were motivated by love and responsibility. The hireling cared only about money. But Jesus was not giving a lesson in shepherding. It was a warning to His newly-forming church.

Pastors and elders are referred to as shepherds who have charge of a local flock of believers (1 Peter 5:2). But not all of them have the right motives. With the proliferation of internet preachers, this problem has skyrocketed. Local church attendance is plummeting due to unscrupulous internet hirelings posing as shepherds. Consider these contrasts as you evaluate the ones you listen to: Shepherds teach the whole word of God; hirelings cherry-pick verses to increase viewership. Shepherds do without in order to reach people; hirelings focus on money. Shepherds find ways to minister to people who can do nothing for them; hirelings go after the big-givers and the influential. Shepherds care enough to rebuke erring sheep; hirelings tell people what they want to hear. Shepherds never compromise God’s word; hirelings follow popular cultural trends. Shepherds prepare the flock to suffer for righteousness’ sake; hirelings assure the flock that they should seek their best life now. Shepherds give selflessly to the flock; hirelings expect the flock to give selflessly to them. Shepherds know God; hirelings know about God.

Challenge: Be sure the teachers you follow are true shepherds.

Prayer: Father, thank you for planting me in this church led by a true shepherd. Guard my heart against listening to hirelings posing as shepherds. They won’t take me where you want me to go. Help me spot the difference. In Jesus’ name, amen.