The Great Shepherd, #3 God promised a Shepherd
The contemporary view of God falls far short of the truth. He is actually against those that masquerade as leaders, imposing conditions upon men that drive them from, rather than to, the Lord. Legion is the name of such people in our day, particularly in the Western world, where they wear the name of Jesus Christ. "As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did My shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not My flock; therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require My flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day" (Ezek 34:7-12). What a glorious promise, and it is answered in the Lord Jesus Christ. A brief review of these texts will confirm to our hearts the traits of a true shepherd. The Lord's indictment of the false shepherds reveals His heart. The qualities they lacked are the very ones He requires in a shepherd. We will find all of the characteristics lacking in the imposters, to be gloriously resident in Christ Jesus.
Of false shepherds it is written, "they are greedy dogs which can never have enough." What a graphic depiction of those charged with caring for God's people--"greedy dogs." This condition is the exact opposite of the Lord's heart. The primary concern of a true shepherd is the sheep. They do not provide an occasion for the shepherd to gorge himself, but for him to feed the sheep. The true Shepherd will not be seeking His own gain, but that of the sheep. In fact, we will find that He humbled Himself to identify with the sheep.
In a vivid description of leaders that imposed themselves upon His people, the Lord said, "they are shepherds that cannot understand." A shepherd that pleases God is one that understands the circumstance of the sheep, and is equipped to do something about it. The Lord Jesus not only loves righteousness and hates iniquity, He knows how to choose the right and refuse the evil. His understanding is employed in the leading of His people.
Keep from going astray
Even though spiritual shepherds were to keep the sheep from wandering into danger, "their shepherds have caused them to go astray." The Lord's shepherd will address waywardness. He will find a way for the sheep to stay in the area of safety and nourishment. Going astray is always wrong, and is never justified. That is why God has appointed a Shepherd to keep us from wandering. We do well to listen to Him.
Feed the sheep
In spiritual affairs, nourishment is imperative. Yet, God declares, "Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?" Nourishing food is essential for sheep, and the true shepherd knows it. He will lead them where they will find sustenance. God's shepherd will see to it that we have something upon which our spirits can feed. He does not ration out the truth, but gives it liberally to those that have an appetite for it.
Protect the sheep
Because the shepherds sought their own selfish interests, the Lord says, "my flock became meat to every beast of the field." The Lord severely indicts such leaders because He cares for His people. Those sent by the Lord will have an interest in the people of God. They will alert them to erroneous patterns of thought, and identify dangerous areas to them. They will aggressively oppose any that endanger the sheep, or attempt to lure them out of the safety zone. This is particularly true of the "great Shepherd of the sheep." He guards the flock from danger, and stands between them and their enemies.
Search for the sheep
The Divine indictment is scathing; "neither did my shepherds search for my flock." God has a deep and abiding love for His people. When they become lost, He sends someone to f ind them. From this perspective, the Scriptures are the history of God searching for His people through prophets, and finally His only begotten Son. Such tenacity is not common in our day, but it is found wherever the true Shepherd is found. Recall that Jesus said, "I am come to seek and save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). The effort required to accomplish this mission, and the extent of the search is staggering. We must never take for granted the great Shepherd!
-- TOMORROW: THE GREAT SHEPHERD --