The Shepherd

The striking thing about the American “Wild West” was cattle.  In the Bible lands of old there were probably more sheep than cattle.  How do we know that?  Well, there are many little indications.  For instance, we know that Abram [later renamed Abraham] acquired “sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys…and camels” in Egypt [Genesis 12:16] and the animals appear to have been listed in descending numerical order.  People usually owned more cattle than donkeys and more donkeys than camels, even today.  Then Genesis 13:5 tells us that “Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks [of sheep and goats] and herds [of cattle]”. And when Jacob went to the “land of the eastern peoples”, he found three flocks of sheep lying down near a well.  Then Rachel came along with her father’s flock.  Yet another indication is the number of sheep required for animal sacrifices.  We are talking about sheep country, people!

But while the Americans called their cowherds “cowboys”, in Bible lands were the shepherds called “sheepboys”?  Not a chance.  There was no such nonsense even though the shepherds were often young boys like David who slew Goliath, and Joseph the dreamer. The Americans may have had a cowboy culture, but in the Bible lands it was clearly a shepherd culture that prevailed over much of the land.  Thus it is not surprising that the shepherd is featured frequently in the Bible.  And even God and Jesus Christ are spoken of in terms of a shepherd.  Certainly, Jesus called himself the “good shepherd”, or “Good Shepherd”. 

But how far back in the Bible can we trace this idea of God as a shepherd of his people?  Isn’t it a New Testament idea? Would you believe that it goes back to the very first book of the Bible, Genesis?  For when the patriarch Israel [formerly called Jacob] was near death, he gave a blessing to Joseph and his two sons, and said, “May the God…..who has been my shepherd all the days of my life to this day….. - may He bless these boys” [Genesis 48:15].  This was no accidental use of the word “shepherd”, for in Gen 49:24 Israel again spoke of God as “the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel”.

And, of course, we are all familiar with Psalm 23, which begins with: “The Lord is my shepherd”.  These words are so familiar to us that we often fail to think deeply about them, or study them closely.  For instance, although they comprise four or five words in English translations, did you know that in the Hebrew text they comprise two words only: YHWH [Yahweh] and “my-shepherd”?  I like that, the linking of me and my shepherd in one compound word.

But let us think about what a shepherd is.  Is he like the sheep he takes care of?  But perhaps stronger, wiser and more capable?  Isn’t that how most humans, including many Christians, think of God?  Don’t we see God in human terms, as a kind of super-human?

Perish the thought! Just look at a human shepherd and his sheep.  A shepherd is almost nothing like his sheep. In terms of appearance, power, and ability, the human shepherd is far, far superior to his sheep.  And is there not an even greater gap in power, ability, wisdom, majesty and every good quality you can think of, between God the Shepherd and we, His sheep?

Until and unless we realize this truth, we may fail to see the miracles God performs around us daily, as He takes care of us, protects us, provides for us and answers our prayers.  Go to any hospital and as you see how disease can afflict every little part of the human body, and mind, you will realise how much of a miracle it is, that you can see, hear, feel, talk, move and even breathe. A shepherd takes care of his sheep, and God takes care of us minute by minute.

While the concept of God as a Shepherd runs through 15 books of the Old Testament, it is in the New Testament that this concept is developed for us.  First, in Matt 26 and Mark 14:27, Jesus reveals that He is the shepherd referred to in Zech 13:7: “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”   From then on the pace quickens as Jesus is progressively revealed as:

“the good shepherd” [John 10:11, 14];
“the Great Shepherd” [Heb 13:20]; and finally
“the Chief Shepherd” [1Pet 5:4].

One thing to think about:  Wasn’t sheep herding one of the lowly occupations of the ancient Middle East?  Yet Christ chose to call himself the “Good Shepherd”, instead of “Prince of Peace” or some more high-sounding title?  What does that tell us about him?  A man may be a lowly person in the eyes of the world, but God may see him in a different light. Hey, wasn’t David a shepherd before he became a king?  And wasn’t Joseph a shepherd, and a slave, before he rose to become the second highest man in Egypt?  Isn’t it wonderful that God can raise a man or woman from the lowest position to occupy the highest position in the land, if it so pleases Him?

At the end of the age, there will be only one Shepherd.  Revelation 7:17 reveals that in Heaven there will be no hunger, thirst or scorching heat, “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd”.  We sheep can stop bleating and complaining about life on earth, for Jesus our Shepherd has conquered Death and Suffering, and for all who believe in him, everything will turn out well for us in the end.

CHAPEL NOTES

Dr John Lim led chapel on 14th January and shared on “Running the Race of Life”. There are many things in life that slow us down. One of these is worry. Everyone worries. What then is worry? Worry is a feeling of uneasiness, apprehension, or dread. These feelings are usually related to negative thoughts of something that may happen in the future.

But as Christians we can entrust the unknown future to our all-knowing God. And interestingly enough, God gives us an important alternative to worry, PRAYER. In Phil. 4:6-7, Paul gave the believers a specific command: “Do not be anxious about anything.” This was the same command our Lord gave in the Sermon on the Mount. When you are overwhelmed by the frightening prospects of the future, pray. Express your uneasiness, apprehensions of dread to the Lord. Turn your cares to Him for He cares for your (1 Pet. 5:7).

Chapel Speaker next week on 4 Feb will be Dr Dan Jessen.

NEWS BITS

  1. Courses commencing next week:

    • New Testament Foundations I (starting 2 Feb, Mon), by Dr Quek Swee Hwa/Dr Aquila Lee.

    • Counselling Skills: Dealing with Crisis Situations (starting 4 Feb, Wed), by Mr Yam Keng Mun.

    • The Use of Prayer in Worship (starting 4 Feb, Wed), by Rev Ng Seng Chuan.

    • Greek Exegesis I (starting 7 Feb, Sat), by Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

    • Introduction to Biblical Archaeology (starting 7 Feb, Sat), by Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

  2. Closed for Hari Raya Haji. Library and Offices will be closed on 2 Feb (Monday).

A BLESSED 
BIRTHDAY TO ...

Ms Han Huan Mei  26/1

Dr Tee Kim Leong  26/1

Mr Ng Kok Ann  26/1

Mr Yap Giau Peck  27/1

Ms Tan Li Diang  28/1

Ms Lim Fang Ting  28/1

Mr Jonathan Cortes  30/1

Mr Lawrence Low  30/1

Mr Robert Tan Hok Tjai  30/1

Mdm Seah Chiew Kwan  1/2

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