THE SHEPHERD and the shepherds

There were shepherds in Israel who had been given the power, the ability to feed the people of God with a living word....

- to gather the strayed,

- to heal the sick ones,

- to hold them together under God's Spirit.

But instead of feeding the sheep these shepherds exploited them, fleeced them, devoured them. And so the shepherds of Israel fell under the judgment of God.

"Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; therefore you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them."            Ezekiel 34:7-10

When people are given a ministry, which always means serving people, and turn that thing into a service to themselves to feather their own nest, to fatten their own egos, God allows it to go on for a while, but in time God always calls them to account.

"For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the fountains, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and upon the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on fat pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the sleek and the strong I will destroy; I will feed them in justice."                                                            Ezekiel 34:11-16

- I will seek the lost.

- I will bring back the strayed.

- I will bind up the crippled.

- I will strengthen the weak.

And God did this through prophets like Ezekiel, Haggai, and Zechariah. God will shepherd his sheep … he will always find someone to do it even if he has to raise up shepherds out of stones.

But the supreme fulfilment of Ezekiel 34 appeared centuries after Ezekiel's death.

If there's any word that Jesus used to describe himself and the work he came to do it's the word shepherd.

When he saw the crowds he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.

They were the sheep ... he was the shepherd. He had come to seek the lost, to bring back the strayed, bind up the crippled and strengthen the weak.

And if we look at our own lives and at what has happened to us since we first heard the call of Jesus, there is no better word to describe what Jesus is to us than shepherd.

- We were lost.

- We we're strayed.

- We were crippled.

- We were weak....

...and he came to us.

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep."                John 10:11-15

It cost this shepherd much more than we can grasp with our minds to bring us back and restore us. He had to cross over into the territory of sin to get hold of us.... he had to enter this kingdom of evil ... he even had to descend into the region of the dead in order to cut our chains and set us free.

- He laid down his life for us.

- He rose again.

- He came for us ... called us by name...

and now fills us with his life.

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand."                                                                  John 10:27-28

Our  assembly, like thousands of others all over the earth, is a gathering of sheep around the Shepherd. He found each of us out there in some wilderness,

- lifted us up,

- brought us home,

- fit us together as his Body,

and feeds us now in this feast of victory ... this foretaste of heaven.

But what we need to see is that the instant we become part of his flock, part of his Body, immediately his purpose begins to work itself out through us, so that now we are not only his sheep we are also his under-shepherds ... every one of us. Jesus' search for the lost sheep who are still out there, his bringing back of the strayed,

his binding up of the crippled,

his strengthening of the weak,

is done through us.

"And I have other sheep; that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd."         John 10:16

"I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd."


- his bringing of these others,

- his call going out to them,

- his healing power,

- his warning voice,

- his unspeakable love,

all this flows, not through the angels, but through us.

"Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you," He said to him, "Feed my sheep."

And that's exactly what he says to every one of us... "Do you love me? ... Feed my sheep ...You're my under-shepherd."

Many of us still find it hard to think of ourselves as shepherds ... as our Lord's under-shepherds. But that's exactly what we are, and the time has come for us to get the vision clear.

This is why we're here.

- This is why we gather at this location.

- This is why we have the jobs we have,

            why we live where we live.

This is why we have the relatives, the in-laws, the friends we have.

There are sheep out there that the Shepherd intends to reach through us.

"I must bring them also and they will heed my voice."

 - He does this through us.

Jesus is the Shepherd: He is the one who causes his sheep to hear his voice. All we do is abide in him: fit in with him. And as we fit in with what the Shepherd is doing among us, these other sheep are drawn, and the Body of Christ fulfils its purpose.

He is doing four things among us.

- "I will seek the lost.

- I will bring back the strayed.

- I will bind up the crippled.

- I will strengthen the weak."

1. "I will seek the lost."

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? .... Or, what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?"          Luke 15:1, 8

He leaves the ninety-nine in the wilderness and goes after that lost one until he finds it...she leaves the nine coins on the kitchen counter and turns the house upside down until she finds the lost one.

"Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

If there is any strategy in the kingdom, this is it:

"Go after the rejects, the lost, the forgotten."

"Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick."

"Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and the maimed and the blind and the lame."

Don't tell me the church in your city is concerned about the lost in Africa or Asia or Latin America if it ignores the lost sheep who are cluttering its path right here where you are. It stumbles over these "outsiders" and doesn't even see them.

"Oh, but they're not our type."

Those people who are not our type are just what we need. And don't tell me you can't think of one friend or relative, neighbor or fellow worker who fits into the category of lost sheep.

The Good Shepherd is saying to this Body,

"I will seek the lost. I will seek the lost with or without you, I'm inviting you to join me. I will put them on your mind. I will restore them to your memory. I will walk with you as you go to them. I will empower you as you call them and write to them. I will anoint you as you pray for them."

2. "I will bring back the strayed."

".....And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.' ...

And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.' ...

 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him."                                                                     Luke 15:5-6, 9, 20

There may be people who have made it clear that they want no part of the Kingdom of God. There may be people who as far as we can tell have renounced Jesus and rejected his forgiveness with their eyes open, knowing what they're doing. But don't confuse them with those sheep who have strayed, who are still his sheep and need to be brought back.

The older brother wrote off the prodigal as if he were beyond the pale of grace.

"He went off and did this thing and now he's out ... he's a son of perdition!"

A dangerous attitude for the older brother and his modern Christian counterparts to take.

That prodigal was still his brother, still his father's son. The father stood and looked down the road every day so that when the prodigal appeared he could run and bring him back. There are people known to us that we need to go and find and bring back.

"I will bring back the strayed with you or without you ... I'm inviting you to join me. I will lead them across your path. I will give you a chance to welcome them ... I will put words in your mouth if you will shepherd them with me."

3. "I will bind up the crippled."

And he went on from there, and entered their synagogue. And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" so that they might accuse him. He said to them, "What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And the man stretched it out and it was restored, whole like the other. But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him, how to destroy him.                         Matthew 12:9-14

These Pharisees weren't upset because Jesus broke the Sabbath, they were upset because Jesus put them to shame. He did what they should have been doing....

- he bound up the crippled sheep,

- he restored the wounded and the halt.

"Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory; and in his name will the Gentiles hope."                                              Matthew 12:18-21

Instead of breaking the bruised seed, he bound it up so it could grow. Instead of quenching the smoldering wick, he helped it burst into flame and give light ... it's called encouragement.

The major job of every shepherd is to encourage the sheep...

- even when they need a rebuke,

- even when they need correction.

Somehow to impart hope to help them walk.

There are specific people we need to encourage. We've demoralized them, now we need to help them to walk the walk.

"I will bind up the crippled with you or without you. I'm inviting you to join me. I will anoint you with healing if you will shepherd them with me."

4. "I will strengthen the weak."

"I will strengthen the weak with awesome power. I will put my strength into their weakness."

And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this that it should leave me; but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.                                            II Corinthians 12:7-9

Christendom operates on the opposite principle. It says,

"Look for the sheep with shining abilities, fat wallets, organizational skills, well-known names. Butter them up. Cater to them. Use them to turn your flock into a success."

But the Good Shepherd says,

"Give me some sheep who are weak and know they are weak and who are willing to turn even their weakness over to me, and I will fill them with my strength."

Whatever power we have as under-shepherds is his power made perfect in our weakness.           And now we bring that power to bear on the sheep he draws to us. We strengthen them with the strength of heaven ... the Spirit of the living God.

"I will strengthen the weak, with you or without you. I'm inviting you to join me. I will make your hands as my hands, and your hands will strengthen the weak and fill them with my power."

"For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness .... I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak."

He will do it through us or through others, but he will do it.

God give us the wisdom to surrender to his purpose, that Jesus may shepherd his sheep through us.