Saturday, July 4, 2015

Confessing Jesus Before Men: I AM the Good Shepherd

"And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. "(Luke 12:8-9 NASB)

"Confess before men" is a phrase that, in Greek, means to say the same the same things about Jesus that He says about Himself. In this series, we have reviewed the I AM's, including I AM the Bread of Life, I AM the Light of the World, I AM the Door, and I AM the Good Shepherd. (We started Good Shepherd in yesterday's post but I had a moment of distraction and we covered pastures instead.) Today, we're looking at Good Shepherd, part 2.

After a quarter century of caring for livestock, I learned a very important bit of information. The shepherd is critical to the health, comfort, and survival of the sheep. It is the shepherd that chooses the pasture when the livestock grazes, assures their safety, provides their grazing and grain, finds clean water, and grooms their coats and feet. A herd animal, left to its own devices, will not have the same quality of life, nor the same length of life, as an animal cared for by a loving shepherd.

Scripture is replete with images of God's people as sheep that are in desperate need of a compassionate and consistent shepherd. The images of Jesus as a shepherd are some of my favorite in Scripture. A shepherd defends his flock against all enemies, including wild enemies and marauders intent on stealing the sheep away. Our Good Shepherd, in His fight against the enemy of our soul, laid down His life for us, then rose again to conquer the one who would destroy us.

"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." John 10:11 NASB

It is the image of the shepherd leading the sheep that helps me understand the tenderness with which our Lord cares for us. I've had animals that followed willingly with little training and I've had animals that wouldn't follow, no matter how carefully I tended them. The ones who followed made life easier and more pleasant for both of us. The good news is we have a Shepherd who guides us with skill and cares for us with integrity. He never fails. He is never distracted.

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands. (Psalms 78:72 NASB)

My favorite image of Jesus, however, is that of a shepherd gathering the lambs into his arms. When a lamb is born, it must be trained to know the shepherd. Gentle handling will accustom the lamb to the shepherd and teach the lamb that the shepherd is the "hand that feeds". When the lamb knows the shepherd, it is easier to teach the lamb to follow. 

In that same way, we have a Shepherd who gathers us into His arms, holds us close to His heart, so that we can know Him, so that we will follow Him when He sits up down and allows us to stand.

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. (Isaiah 40:11 NASB)

It is only when the sheep follow the shepherd that they enjoy the tender care he provides. Just as David wrote, "The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want," (Ps 23:1) we can count on our Shepherd to recognize and meet every need. Can our Shepherd count on us, the sheep of His pasture, to follow? 
Our Father and Shepherd, help me to follow close behind You. Keep me from straying away and protect me from all my enemies. Thank you for your tender care and abundant provision. In Jesus' name, amen.