Thursday, September 07, 2017
Psalms 80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
The imagery of a shepherd is used consistently throughout Scripture to describe the nature of God’s care and leadership of His people.
When blessing his sons Jacob declared that God has been my shepherd all my life to this day.
Moses proclaimed that the Lord would faithfully lead the people of Israel so that they would not be like sheep without a shepherd.
King David, a man after God’s own heart, was a shepherd, and when called to be the King God said to him, You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.
The prophets of God use the imagery of a shepherd some 35 times as they write about the leadership of God and the responses of the people to His leadership.
When Jesus was born, it was shepherds who were given the privilege of first hearing the good news of His birth. In His ministry on earth, Jesus saw the lost people of the earth as sheep without a shepherd, and became the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for them.
The writer of Hebrews declares Jesus to be the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
When declaring the return of Jesus for the saints Paul calls Him the Chief Shepherd.
And in describing the scene in Heaven when we arrive, John sees the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
One of the many attributes of a good shepherd is faithfulness, and in Psalm 80 Asaph is contemplating the faithfulness of the Good Shepherd. Let me illustrate it for you.
Paul Gerhardt was a hymn writer in the 17th century in Germany. John Wesley translated some of his hymns into English and we still sing them today.
Gerhardt’s family was very poor. He was the shepherd boy who cared for a small flock of sheep and goats on the edge of the forest. One day a hunter came out from among the trees and asked the lad how far it was to the nearest village.
“Six miles, sire,” he replied, “but the road is only a sheep track and can easily be missed.”
“I have lost my way, and I am very tired,” replied the hunter. “Leave your sheep and show me the way. I will pay you well.”
“No, sire,” said Gerhardt. “I cannot do that for they would stray into the forest and be stolen or eaten by the wolves.”
“Never mind; your master would never miss one or two, and I would pay you more than the price of one or two sheep.”
“But sire, my master trusts me with these sheep, and I have promised not to leave them.”
“Well,” said the hunter, “let me take care of the sheep while you fetch me food from the village and a guide.”
“I cannot do that either, sire. The sheep do not know your voice and would not obey you.”
“Can you not trust me? Do I not look like an honest man?” asked the hunter with a frown.
“Sir,” said the boy slowly, “You tried to make me break my master’s trust, and my word to him. How do I know that you will keep your word to me?”
The hunter could not help laughing. “I see you are an honest lad, and I will not forget you,” said the hunter. “Which is the path? I will have to find my way for myself.”
But young Gerhardt would not let the man depart hungry, so he gave him the humble contents of his pack which was to be his own lunch. Just at that moment several men came hurrying through the forest uttering shouts of delight as they caught sight of the two of them. It turned out that young Gerhardt had been talking to the Grand Duke, and these were his attendants who had been much alarmed at his disappearance. This was the beginning of Gerhardt’s future career of honor and success. Pleased with the lad’s honesty and faithfulness, the Duke had him well educated and thus gave him a good state in life.
O that we would be as faithful to the Master as that young shepherd. But consider this – Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, sits enthroned between the cherubim because He was faithful to the Master’s task of saving the sheep, and He will continue to be faithful to the Master’s task of leading and caring for His sheep.
What peace that brings to us, knowing that Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, is faithful and true, and can be trusted to never leave the sheep.
Understanding His faithfulness adds new beauty to the Shepherd’s Psalm. Read it in a fresh light today and be blessed by the words of faithfulness I have highlighted.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.