AND I WILL SET UP ONE SHEPHERD OVER THEM . . . AND HE SHALL BE THEIR SHEPHERD! [Ezk 34:23]
In addition to the prophecies, the Old Testament is particularly rich in the TYPES which foreshadow Christ in the character of a “shepherd.” So far as we have been able to trace, there are five individual shepherds who pointed to Christ, and each of them supplies some distinctive line in the typical picture.
First, Abel, for in Genesis 4:2 we are told that “Abel was a keeper of sheep.” The distinctive aspect of typical truth which he exemplifies is the death of the Shepherd—slain by wicked hands, by his brother according to the flesh. The second is Jacob, and a prominent thing in connection with him as a shepherd is his care for the sheep—see Genesis 30:31; Genesis 31:38-40; and note particularly Genesis 33:13, 14. The third is Joseph: the very first thing recorded in Scripture about this favorite son of Jacob is that he fed the flock (Gen. 37:2). The fourth is Moses. Three things are told us about him: he watered, protected and guided the sheep: “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helpeth them, and watered their flock… Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb” (Ex. 2:16, 17; 3:1).
The fifth is David, and he is presented as JEOPARDIZING HIS LIFE for the sheep—”And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear” (1 Sam. 17:34-36).
There is one other individual “shepherd” referred to in the Old Testament and that is “the idol shepherd” (Zech. 11:16, 17), and he is the Antichrist—how significant that he is the sixth! The only other individual “shepherd” mentioned in Scripture is the Lord Jesus, and He is the SEVENTH!
Seven is the number of perfection, and we do not reach perfection till we come to Christ, the Good Shepherd!
“I am the good shepherd.” This was clearly an affirmation of His absolute Deity. He was here addressing Israelites, and Israel’s “Shepherd” was none other than Jehovah (Ps. 23:1; 80:1). When then the Savior said, “I am the good shepherd.” He thus definitely identified Himself with the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
“I am the good shepherd.” This, like every other of our Lord’s titles, views Him in a distinctive relationship. He was, says Dr. John Gill, “a Shepherd of His Father’s appointing, calling, and sending, to whom the care of all His sheep, or chosen ones, was committed; who was set up as a Shepherd over them by Him, and was entrusted with them; and who being called, undertook to feed them.” In the Greek it is more emphatic than in the English: literally it reads, “I am the shepherd, the good.”
“The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (verse 11). The word for “giveth’ is usually translated “layeth down.” “For the sheep” signifies, on their behalf. The good Shepherd gave His life freely and voluntarily, in the room and stead of His people, as a ransom for them, that they might be delivered from death and have eternal life. The Ethiopic Version reads, “The good Shepherd gives His life for the redemption of the sheep.”
“I am the good shepherd, and KNOW MY SHEEP.” Very blessed is this. The Lord Jesus knows each one of those whom the Father has given to Him with a special knowledge of approbation, affection, and intimacy. Though unknown to the world “the world knoweth us not” (1 John 3:l)—we are known to Him. And Christ only knoweth all His sheep. Ofttimes we are deceived. Some whom we regard as “sheep” are really “goats”; and others whom we look upon as outside the flock of Christ, belong thereto notwithstanding. Whoever would have concluded that Lot was a “righteous man” had not the New Testament told us so! And who would have imagined that Judas was a devil when Christ sent him forth as one of the twelve! “And know my sheep”: fearfully solemn is the contrast presented by Matthew 7:23—”I never knew you”!
“And am known of Mine” (John 10:14). Christ is known experientially; known personally. Each born-again person can say with Job, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee” (Job 42:6). The believer knows Christ not merely as the outstanding Figure in history, but as the Savior of his soul. He has a heart knowledge of Him. He knows Him as the Rest-giver, as the Friend who sticketh closer than a brother, as the good Shepherd who ever ministereth to His own.
“Do YOU know Him as your Shepherd?! It doesn’t mean much to say the Lord is A Shepherd, or the Lord is THE Shepherd . . . until you can say from the heart – “The Lord is MY Shepherd!”
The story is told of a Christian commoner and an unbelieving narrator with a talented voice who were both called upon to narrate Psalm 23. When the narrator got done the crowd cheered and applauded. But when the poor Christian farmer got done narrating the very same Psalm, the people were in tears and greatly moved. A man later came up to the narrator and asked him WHY this was so. Why were the people so touched and even weeping when the illiterate farmer narrated the Psalm. To which the narrator replied – “The Lord is HIS Shepherd, not MINE!”