The Bible has many calls and echoes that run through it. One of them is ‘shepherd’. This seems strange because it is such a lowly and lonely occupation. It is filled with danger, exposure and exhaustion. A shepherd must be watchful and aware, looking out for sheep who are getting lost and also for wild animals who might attack. They cannot sleep too deeply because nocturnal predators are on the prowl.
Perhaps the clearest report of this aspect of shepherding comes from David. David’s own report about himself appears in 1 Samuel 17:
34But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; (NASB).
It’s hard to imagine a young boy taking out a lion or a bear. It seems like he has a vivid imagination. Perhaps David is trying to “pad his resume” to Saul as he presents his qualifications for killing Goliath.
Of course, we know how the story ends. David not only proves to be lethal, but perhaps more importantly, fearless. David really did take down lions and bears.
David also had the responsibility of feeding the sheep. He had to find pastures for them to graze so they wouldn’t be hungry.
Finally, if the sheep got lost, David had to take the risk of finding the one(s) who were lost. And, he did.
David was a good shepherd.
David was a type. This means his life was a model of what Messiah would be. If you want to check on this, just read John 10. Whereas David was the shadow, Jesus Christ is the reality. David shepherded sheep, Jesus shepherds people.
How is Jesus a shepherd?
1. He “brands” people with his name on our forehead through the waters of baptism (this finds connection to the Old Testament in circumcision; see Colossians 2:11-12)
2. He feeds us His own body and blood (this occurs when we hear from the Scripture and when we receive the bread and wine at communion)
3. He searches for us when we are lost (Matthew 18:12)
4. He searches the world for His sheep: “16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10)
5. He kicks the crap out of the Devil and the world (In fact, at His cross, He already did. Now, we wait for the full consummation of His Kingdom at His second coming. The final victory will be His). The tools of these adversaries include heresy from within and without, persecution, and vain philosophies of every kind.
6. Some of the sheep will be hurt or killed in the field. He heals the ones who are injured and gives eternal life to those who lose their lives in this world.
He does all of this for you. He is all of these things for you. He has not spared his own life, but seeing that lion, the devil approaching you, He went to the cross and ripped his fangs out and tore out his claws. This is most certainly true.
And, He continues His mission as shepherd through the pastor and the church. We are called to continue calling for the lost and bring them into Christ’s sheepfold, the church. Because, we are not just sheep; we have been given this shepherding responsibility too. As Merkens notes, “We are truly saved to serve” (Organized for Action, 1).