“Our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep”
Initially I assumed our English word for great would be inferior to the Greek word used in this text. I thought it would be something more descriptive like wonderful, magnificent, illustrious, awesome, clothed in grandeur. But no, it means great. In fact, its even more plain than the word great. It literally means big. But there’s nothing insufficient about that word when it’s used to describe God. It means powerful. It means preeminent. It means majestic. It means exceedingly abundantly above all we could ever imagine or describe.
- Psalms 145:3; Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
- Psalms 48:1; Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!
- Psalms 86:10; For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
- Psalms 147:5; Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
- Psalms 96:4; For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
- Psalms 135:5; For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
- Jeremiah 32:17-19; Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.
- Revelation 15:3; Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
- Malachi 1:5; Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!
Anyone would be willing to lead from a throne, or an oval office, or a corner suite on the twentieth floor. How many would be willing to lead the way a shepherd does? Instead of sitting on a throne, sitting on a rock. Instead of walking through palaces, walking through mud. Instead of mingling at cocktail parties, living with the sheep.
- Ezekiel 34:15-16; I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
- Micah 5:2-5; But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. …And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.
- Isaiah 40:11; He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
- Revelation 7:15-17; …He who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Understanding Christ to be our Great Shepherd requires us to understand who we are in relation to Him. He is our God, we are His people. He is the potter, we are the clay. He is the Shepherd, we are the sheep.
- Psalms 95:7; For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
- Psalms 79:13; But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
- Psalms 100:3; Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
- Ezekiel 34:31; And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
In Psalm 124, David said, “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side–let Israel now say–if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive;” Psalms 124:1-3. If the Lord was not with us, we would have every reason to sink with dismay; we would have every reason to be disquieted, to be disheartened, to feel dejected, to lose our courage. Without God, we would be swallowed alive.
- Psalms 40:11-13; “As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!”
He is a very present help in trouble. We can run to Him and be safe. We may approach His throne of grace freely and with boldness in our time of need. He is with us to strengthen us, to help us, to uphold us with His righteous right hand.
- Psalms 56:1-4; “Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
- Psalms 56:10-13; “In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”
- Psalms 27:1-5; “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.”
In Jesus Christ we have assurance of God’s perpetual presence. We have the covenant sealed in His blood: the forgiveness of sins, life everlasting. We stand justified–innocent, righteous–before Him and completely sure that He will never abandon us. He who did not withhold His only Son to purchase our redemption–He who did not withhold His only Son in order to reconcile us to Himself–how shall He glibly forsake the sheep of His fold? We know God is for us; so then, who can be against us?
- Romans 8:31-39; “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Fear not, He is with us. He is our God. He will strengthen us. He will help us. He will uphold us.
“These are the inheritances that Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel distributed by lot at Shiloh before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.”
They finished dividing the land
Hundreds of years have passed since God made His promises to Abraham. We get the privilege of reading this testimony of God’s faithfulness as it unfolds. Too bad Abraham didn’t get to read what we are reading! Having the promise of an inheritance in Canaan and of an offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth, he believed God without receiving the outcome. He “died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar;” Hebrews 11:13.
- Romans 4:18-21 “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”
Abraham looked forward to that which was unseen. His faith, we’re told, was reckoned to His account as righteousness. The Lord considered Abraham to be a righteous man because he took God at His word and trusted Him as able to do that which He promised.
We have received promises like Abraham did. With some of the promises we even have their fulfillments written down for us in the book of Revelation. Having witnessed the Lord’s faithfulness to Abraham, and having every reason to believe He is both faithful and able to carry out His promises to us, let us also grow strong in faith.
We have the promise of Jesus’ continual guidance and presence on this earth
- Hebrews 13:5-6 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'”
- Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- Psalms 48:14 “This is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.”
- Matthew 28:20b “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We have the promise of Jesus’ return
- John 14:3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
We have the promise of Jesus’ kingdom
- Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
- Hebrews 12:28 “Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”
- James 2:5 “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”
- 1Peter 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
We have the promise of being brought into Jesus’ presence for all eternity
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
- Revelation 21:3-5 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'”
- Revelation 21:22-23 “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”
- Revelation 22:3-6 “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. And he said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true.'”
I have only mentioned a fraction of His promises and a fraction of the verses concerning the fraction of promises I mentioned! How overwhelming does the Lord need to convince us before we believe in Him wholeheartedly?
- 1 Thessalonians 5:24 “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
“You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
You will not abandon my soul to Sheol
In his first sermon, on the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted this verse saying it speaks prophetically of Christ’s resurrection. Christ, the Holy One of God, was not abandoned to hell nor did He see corruption. He rose again!
Now, since Christ rose again, we know for certain that we who believe in Him will also rise again.
- Romans 6:5 “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:21 “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
- John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.'”
- John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
In your presence there is fullness of joy
The joy we so desperately seek after will never be found on this earth. Yes, we can be joyful in part, we can be happy and content to an extent; but true, full, complete joy will only be found in God’s presence.
- Psalm 17:15 “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”
- Galations 5:5 “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”
- Romans 8:23-25 “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 “For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
In this life we will always groan. We are homesick. We want to be where God is. In His presence there is fullness of joy.
It shouldn’t be necessary to say, but just as a reminder: eternity is forever.
No more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears forever. Not just the numb absence of pain, but pleasure forever. Always joyful, always happy, always content, always in God’s presence.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”