He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40:11).
I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd layeth down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect (Hebrews 13:20-21).
When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away (I Peter 5:4).
To remove the teaching of the shepherdhood of God from the Bible, would rob the Scriptures of one of the greatest disclosures of the divine disposition, and certainly deprive mankind of one of the choicest expressions of assured care and comfort. Through the medium of this gracious ministry God guarantees the maximum of guidance and guardianship, sympathy and security, that is known in any literature. That form of skepticism which attempts to deny revealed truth cannot suggest a substitute that would in any wise replace this beneficent vocation of the divine shepherdhood, which is so interrelated to saviorhood, priesthood, and kinghood in Christ Jesus. The three descriptions that are given of Christ as being the good, great, and chief Shepherd, declare His sympathy as a substitute (John 10:11), His sufficiency as a Sustainer (Hebrews 13:20), and His supremacy as a sovereign (I Peter 5:4). This threefold vocation of the virtuous Savior, which is represented in His cross, His crook and His crown, includes and incorporates all that can be desired of a true Shepherd, as a purchaser to possess, as a proprietor to provide, and as a promoter to perfect.
Christ possesses qualifications which exemplify His absolute fitness to fulfill the functions required of a trustworthy shepherd. The secret of His suitability to surrender His life in sacrifice for the sheep consists in His virtuous character as the good Shepherd. The strength of His sufficiency to safeguard and sustain is signified by His having gained a victorious triumph over death and the destroyer as the great Shepherd of the sheep. The stateliness of His superiority, by virtue of which he sways the scepter of sovereign supremacy over the flock of God, devolves upon His veracious coronation as chief Shepherd, at the right hand of the majesty on High. These three characteristics supply a complete picture of His credentials. Hereby we perceive His boundless goodness and perfect right of claim, His measureless greatness and permanent rule of control, and His matchless genuineness and pre-eminent royalty of character. How is it possible to write of the wisdom of such a Shepherd and the worth of His work, seeing He is from everlasting to everlasting? Who among us is qualified to frame estimates of His excellencies that are eternal, or to appraise the value of His virtues that are age-abiding? The Gospels give us glimpses of the sweetness of His sympathy, as he wept with the sorrowing; the kindness of His care, as He sought the lost sheep; the tenderness of His touch, as He raised the widow of Nain's son; and the gentleness of His grace, as He stood still in answer to the plea of a blind beggar at Jericho; but how little a portion is known of Him (Job 26:14). This Shepherd is perfect in His pity, loftiest in His love, chiefest in His compassion, sturdiest in His support, firmest in His friendship, and comeliest in His constancy.
When our Lord linked the "I am" title to His claim by saying, "I am the good Shepherd," He was declaring Himself to be the continuous one continually, the constant one constantly, and the abiding one abidingly, the One who always is and always will be. This feature bespeaks His omnipresence. His knowledge of the names of the all stars (Isaiah 40:26), as the Shepherd of the same (Isaiah 40:11, 27), and of all His sheep, which is twice affirmed (John 10:3, 14), constitutes a witness to His complete comprehension and betokens His omniscience. His statement concerning the security of His hand and that of His Father, attests His omnipotence. This threefold cord of His omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence overwhelmingly assures guidance, sustenance, and maintenance for His sheep everlastingly. He Himself said, "They shall never perish" (John 10:28).
For a preview of the range and resource of this remarkable Shepherd, we need but revert to the pilgrimage of Israel in the wilderness, and consider the provision made for the journeys, the protection given, and the ultimate possession of the inheritance, with its many resting places. "He made His own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. And He led them on safely, that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies" (Psalm 78:52-53). The next psalm states, "So we Thy people and sheep of Thy pasture will give Thee thanks for ever: we will show forth Thy praise to all generations (Psalm 79:13). To this is added, Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock" (Psalm 80:1).
In the great panorama of this pilgrimage of life, with its forty-two encampments listed in the book of Numbers, the Lord expressed Himself to the pilgrims variously in forty-two different environments (Numbers 33). Each encampment was in a different setting, which was of set purpose, and the Lord's dealings under these diverse conditions is very instructive. In like manner, when the Good Shepherd tabernacled among men as recorded in John Gospel, we obtain a fresh view of Him at every turn of the way. Of the forty-two given in the twelve chapters of His public ministry, we shall refer to fourteen of them.