NOT as famous as Psalm 23
In the conversation for the most famous verses in all of the Bible is Psalm 23. In it contains one of the most iconic phrases in all of Scripture: the Lord is my shepherd. King David is the author of this famed chapter. He describes the Lord as a compassionate shepherd. The words are familiar. In fact, they may be too familiar. The words have been uttered on so many different occasions (for good reason) that the significance of the word picture penned by David may be lost today.
What do we really know about shepherds? As a 38-year-old man who was born in India, raised in Southern California and lived (for the last sixteen years) in Southern Oregon – I have little to no exposure to sheep or shepherds. By all accounts (and internet research) sheep are rather unimpressive. They aren’t smart. They aren’t intelligent. They aren’t attractive. They lack common sense. They’re constantly getting into trouble. They have no sense of direction. They eat things that aren’t good for them. They (unknowingly) put themselves in harm’s way. Oh – and they’re also compared to us numerous times in Scripture. It’s understandable, isn’t it? We’re sheep. That’s a given. But what about God being depicted as a shepherd?
In the New Testament, in John’s Gospel, Jesus is called the ‘good shepherd’ and the ‘gate (or door) of the sheep’. The reference to being the ‘good shepherd’ is easier for us to grasp, but the ‘gate of the sheep?’ In biblical times, the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem was important and well-known. The sheep and lambs that were to be sacrificed were brought through the Sheep Gate to the temple. They went through the Sheep Gate and as they did they provided a way for the sins of the people to be covered. Jesus would become – through his death and resurrection – a better gate (or door), showing himself to be the gateway to an eternal forgiveness and salvation for all who would trust Him.
There’s another passage of Scripture, not as famous as Psalm 23, that depicts God as the good shepherd. It’s found in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel in chapter 34. It’s a beautiful chapter detailing how God himself will be our shepherd. In this chapter he makes three distinct promises to his sheep:
- He will search and rescue sheep. (Ezekiel 34:11-12) I love the image this paints for us. God, the good shepherd, searching and rescuing us in the midst of our darkness. He keeps his eye on us and even though we have no sense of direction and we got lost easily, he looks after us and finds us.
- He will lead them to a good pasture. (Ezekiel 34:13-14) He knows what’s best for us. Sheep don’t know what’s best for them. They get lost easily as we have discussed but oftentimes will put themselves in dangerous situations. They will eat things that are harmful to them. They don’t know how to take care of themselves. Guess what? We’re the sheep. We get lost easily. We put ourselves in dangerous situations. And God leads us to good pastures.
- He will tend to their needs and strengthen them. (Ezekiel 34:15-16) On their own, sheep aren’t strong. They’re unintelligent, weak animals. The good shepherd knows this and He tends to their needs and strengthens them. He brings back the strays, He binds up the injured and strengthens the weak.
It’s not as famous as Psalm 23 but Ezekiel 34 contains some life-changing promises for us.
By the way, I’m ok with being sheep. Because He’s my shepherd.
Until next time…