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The Shepherd of The Sheep

by Julius Hovan

(First of Four in this Series)

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

We welcome you to this broadcast of the Words of Life.  A opportunity for you to hear the good news of the gospel about the Lord Jesus and thank you for tuning in.  If you’re a regular listener thank you for coming back.  And if you’re a first-time listener we hope that you stay tuned.

I would like to begin a series of lessons today.  Four in this series dealing with the subject of the shepherd of the sheep.  If you are at all familiar with sheep you are aware that they need to have a shepherd.  For if there are no shepherds, sheep become scattered, they become lost, they become endangered for they cannot defend themselves.  And I believe that pictures us as human beings in our relationship to God.  And because we have been separated by sin we then are in the same condition as those lost sheep.  The Bible says that your iniquities have separated you from God.  An old continued unchanged condition only grows worse and worse.

The days of Noah point that out to us.  The events at the tower of Babel, the history of the nation of Israel or look at the nations of the world today and notice the horrible conditions that exist.  Both the Old Testament and the New Testament scriptures picture this problem and this relationship.

The psalmist in Psalm 119 says that you have gone astray like lost sheep.  The prophet Jeremiah put it this way in the 50th chapter: “My people have been like lost sheep.”  And Isaiah says it like this in Isaiah 53: “All we like sheep have gone astray.”  We have turned everyone to his own way.  We are all in that boat of being sinners apart from the grace and love of God as lost sheep.

Jesus paints the picture for us the beautiful story in Matthew 9, we will not read that in its entirety.  You go check it out if you will.  He says this as he looks at the crowd of people having no shepherd.  There can be no question regarding the condition that man is in when he is apart from God.  He is indeed like sheep that are scattered.  So, there is a very sad condition when there is no shepherd.  But then there are human shepherds.  We see people as sheep and so God provides human shepherds, human leaders, who are to lead, to direct ad help people in the right direction.

The prophet Jeremiah, God said to him in the 23rd chapter: “I will set up shepherds over people.  Those were the priests, those were the prophets, those were the judges, those were the kings.”  And in the book of Numbers, chapter 27, verses 16 and 17 in the Old Testament story says this: “Let Jehovah, the God who gives spirit to all flesh appoint a man over the congregations who may go out before them and come in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in that the congregation of Jehovah be not as sheep which have no shepherd.”

Any group of people need guidance and individuals needs guidance.  This was a very effective method with nation of Israel.  As God provided these various people to be leaders.  The apostle Paul referring to elders in the New Testament church in the 20th chapter of the book of Acts verse 28 refers to those that are shepherd who must guard against the fire that comes into the congregation.  So that this is the best and most effective way of leading people in the way of God today.  Responsible, proven leaders that are mature in the faith that will lead people in the will of God and that people will follow.  But there is another part of this story, that we need to know and that everyone of us will conclude that it is true, even with this good plan to appoint leaders even with such a good proven method, human leaders are in and of themselves inadequate in restoring and maintaining a human being in his responsibility and relationship to God.  And so, we need even a greater shepherd than human shepherds.  As we will see unfolding in this four-lesson series.

And so, there is the condition of no shepherds and the sheep become scattered.  There is the condition of human shepherds who are good and in many cases adequate, but often not as well as they ought to be able to do.                 And then there is the sad story that comes next and that Is when are false shepherds.  Oh, what a sad picture is panted in the Word of God regarding false shepherds.  The writer in the book of Acts chapter 20 verses 29-30 paints the picture in these words for us to consider.  Paul is talking to some elders in the church of Ephesus.  Notice what he says.  “I know that after my departing savage wolves will enter in among you not sparing the flock.”  Oh, and listen among your own selves shall men arise speaking false things to draw away the disciples after them and we might say and draw away the disciples from the truth of God, false shepherds.  This greater need of man is vividly portrayed in the false shepherd picture that we see here.

This was probably an Old Testament problem with the people of God.  Jeremiah says it this way in Jeremiah chapter 50 verse 6 when he paints the picture: “My people have been like lost sheep.”  Why are they in that shape?  Their shepherds have caused them to go astray.  They have turned them away on the mountains.  They have gone from mountain to hill.  They have forgotten their nesting place.  Oh, my friends the sadness of a false leader, a false shepherd, one who would lead one astray from that which is true.  Another prophet close to the same time as the prophet Jeremiah, Ezekiel says this in Ezekiel chapter 4 and the latter part of verse 2: “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah whoa unto the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves should the shepherds not feed the sheep?  These shepherds were looking out for themselves.

And listen to what God says about them in verses 3 and 4.  You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool.  You kill he fatlings but you do not feed.  You do not tend to the sheep.  The disease you have not strengthened, neither have you healed that which was sick.  Neither have you bound up which was broken, neither have you brought back that which was driven away, neither have you sought which was lost.  But with force and with rigor you have ruled over them.  Oh, what a sad picture this is and unfortunately in church pulpits across this land today, there are many such false shepherds leading the people of God astray.

Throughout the New Testament as well as these passages we have read in the Old Testament there are warning against false teachers, especially the writers say that this will occur in the last days.  The days just prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus.  Now if people are already scattered, if they are already lost and if they do not know the way and they need a true shepherd, a false teacher only makes the condition worse and even leads those who are in the fold, those who know the truth can be lead astray by false teachers.  And so, we must constantly conclude this man has a need for leadership about spiritual things and about maintaining his relationship to God.

The Bible puts it this way.  It is not within man to direct his paths and we might add or the paths of others.  We may be able to reach the moon today.  We may accomplish great scientific things, but yet we have not gotten one-inch closer to entering heaven’s gates by all of that scientific knowledge and wisdom.  We have proven these things will not in themselves bring man close to God.  And might just do the opposite and so throughout the ages man has been scattered.  Human shepherds are not able by themselves to adequately lead people to where they ought to be.  False teachers are thus prevalent in the religious and spiritual world of our day.

And so, a great need exists for a guide, for a shepherd, one who can go to the scattered and draw them back together.  One who can supply that which human shepherds in themselves do not have.  One whose power can overcome false teachers.  One himself being a true and great teacher who has a true and saving message for any who want to hear the truth, for any who recognize that they are scattered and lost and want to be made right with God.

And now this is part of the good news, for as you would suspect if you know anything at all about Jehovah God, guide of the Bible.  He has filled this need.  We are going to see in this four-lesson series, the New Testament speaks of Christ as a threefold shepherd to fill this threefold need of man.  In our next lesson, we will see him referred to as the good shepherd and in the next lesson after that we will see him as the great shepherd and finally we will see that he is indeed the chief shepherd.

It is a hard idea to accept for people that are saved, as well as those who are lost.  We know the need exists.  Someone says that you have a wart on your nose.  Well you already know that but someone points it out to you and so it is when we are in the dire straits of spiritual malnutrition.  When we are weakened by our sinfulness.  When we have been drawn far away from a relationship with Holy God.  We must have pointed out to us that we have this need. And that Christ alone meets the need.  It is he who can deliver us from the power of sin.  It is he who offers us hope when we are in hopeless conditions and oh my friends suicide is on the increase across the land, around the world.  People who are giving up hope for life.  Jesus provides that needed hope.  He offered to us freely a new and abundant life to help us live now and to be joyful but oh to provide for our futures as well.  Oh, if we will come to him, he will reward us as faithful followers for he is indeed a good, and great and a chief shepherd.

As we conclude this lesson, this day the next thing we need to do as we conclude, we need to see the Lord Jesus as the door into this place of safety, we need to enter.  I understand the shepherd in the old days of the Bible would bring his flock of sheep into a little enclosure then he himself would lie down across the door in the gap in the wall and there he would spend the evening and if any sheep would try to get out he could keep them in safely.  If any evil, if any wild animal tried to get in he knew they were coming and he was able to ward them off.

So here is the answer when Jesus said in Matthew they scattered like sheep.  Here is the answer to that dilemma, a shepherd who will lead us safely into the fold and then protect us while we are in there.  The 10th chapter of John tells that story so beautifully and you need to read it in its entirety for there in the 9th verse Jesus says I myself am the door.  If anyone will enter in by me will be saved and he will go in and out he will find pasture.  Notice three simple things from that verse of scripture.  First of all, he shall be saved.  His sin problem will be dealt with.  He will be forgiven.  He will be cleansed and washed white as snow and pure in the sight of God.  He will be saved but then he will go in and go out.  He will find a place of service, he will find himself to be useful to God and the kingdom of God and to his fellow man.

And then he will find pasture, salvation and service.  And then satisfaction as an old farm boy myself many times I have seen the cow go out and graze in the pasture and graze a long time and fill up that stomach and then go lay down in the shade and bring that back up to regurgitate and meditate on that as she chews it again and enjoys the blessing of that.  And so, salvation preceded the blessing.  We would ask you today, do you have God’s free gift of salvation?  God offers it to you.  He wants you to have it and he has provided an open door but you must enter that open door.  Let me remind you about this door.

In conclusion, today the door as we have said number one is an open door but I suggest to you that it is open on street level.  You don’t have to climb, you don’t have to get better, you don’t have to improve, you don’t have to be perfect.  God takes you right where you are and invites you in.  But this door is a low door and you have to humble yourself, you have to confess your sinful need and have to recognize that you can bow yourself and enter this door and be saved.  But then again it is also a narrow door, you are not going to be able to be drug in by someone else and you cannot drag someone in beside you.  You must come and enter alone.  It is a personal decision, it is a decision that each person must make in order to enjoy salvation and the service and the satisfaction that comes from that.

The story is told of a young lady in Scotland who unfortunately decided to leave home and went into the city of Edenborough and there went deep into sin.  As life worsened for her and she became a scattered sheep, she contemplated suicide and before she did that she said I must have one last look at the home that I left behind and so she finally made it at night and crept home and came to the little fence around the home where her mother lived.  She lifted the gate latch and looked at the flowers her mother had planted.  And when she went up on the little porch there she saw the door and the door was open.  She was fearful for the safety of her mother.  She just had to go in and Oh mother I found the door open and the mother answered, Maggie a long time ago when you left home I never closed the door.  I prayed for you and I prayed to God to send you home and when she comes Lord, she’ll see the open door and know that she is welcome.  My friends, God will welcome you no matter what your life has been, his grace is sufficient for you.

I’m afraid many are like Victor Clark and his Indian companion settling our country of America along ago.  They left Fort Bebeen for Hazelton a late December day in the far north, the temperature 40 or 50 below zero, snow, just a bad time to journey.  They found the weather getting worse, through the blowing snow and cold and they were determined that they would get to the fort before darkness.  How far away were they?  Well they thought it must be ten or more miles.  And so, they camped out.  The sun arose and they looked up and there within sight of where they were was the fort to where they were heading.  Just outside the door.  So close and yet so far.

Is that your story?  Will you not move in and enter the door God provided?  Will you not confess Jesus as the Son of God?  Will you not obey him in obedience of baptism?  To be redeemed and washed of your sins?  God is anxious to help you do that.  We at Words of Life will help you as well if you will get in touch with us, we will help you make that important decision.  God bless you today and we hope you will come back for the second lesion in our series.

                             Julius Hovan is minister of the Bohon Church of Christ, Bohon, KY.

 




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10