In the fourth of a series about the many different ways God loves us, today’s post is about how God loves us as a good shepherd loves and cares for his sheep.
Over and over in the Old Testament, I found references to the people of Israel (when they had stopped following God) as scattered sheep with no shepherd. A few times I found men of God describing God as their shepherd (Israel in Genesis 48:15 and David in Psalm 23 for two main ones). I also found many prophecies of God coming in the future as a shepherd to gather His sheep back together. My favorite is Isaiah 40:11: “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, / In His arm He will gather the lambs / And carry them in His bosom; / He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” I love this picture because it is such an intimate and sweet picture of God.
Jesus was the fulfillment of these prophecies. After Jesus started His ministry on earth, He looked at His people with a shepherd’s eyes: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). At another time, He declared Himself to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament passages, when He said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14).
How does a good shepherd care for his sheep? I’m not around shepherds and their sheep much, but from Scripture I can say that a good shepherd knows each one of his sheep–there is a relationship between them, as they know their shepherd, as well. This relationship is so important to the shepherd that he will leave his flock in a safe place while he goes looking in dangerous places for even one lost sheep, telling all his friends about it when he brings it home safely (Luke 15:4). In today’s terms, he would be posting it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I can picture the selfie of him holding the sheep on his shoulders, grinning. Caption: “I found him!”
Not only does a good shepherd travel in dangerous places to seek out missing sheep, but he also protects his sheep from ravenous wolves that come to take out (John 10) and worse. When David (who was himself a picture–although imperfect–of Christ) was a shepherd, he even protected his sheep from a lion and a bear (I Sam. 17). In other words, a good shepherd takes care of his flock so well, he is willing to die for them.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He gave His life for us silly helpless sheep because He loves us that much! On top of that, He treats us kindly. He has us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside quiet waters. He restores our souls and guides us down paths of righteousness. He prepares a table for us, keeps us safe from evil, and makes our cup overflow (Psalm 23). How else could we respond but to act like the sheep we are and follow our Good Shepherd wherever He says we should go?