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May 20, 2016

Text: And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,  the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” Genesis 48:15-16

Tell me, when you read the title did you think first of the twenty-third Psalm?  That’s ok! But I  wanted to use something else. It was not at all difficult, for there are many passages which describe the admirable character of the lowly shepherd as one of Israel’s folk heroes. Shepherds are lauded for their wisdom, judgment, forthrightness, patience, persistence, tenderness, etc. Leaders of God’s people have been called shepherds. The twenty-third chapter of Psalms is a wonderful assessment of God’s leadership of his people as individuals.

The New Testament identifies Jesus as the shepherd for his flock (the church) of sheep. The apostle Peter calls him the “chief shepherd” (I Peter 5:4). The fisherman-cum-apostle also states that Jesus is the “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25)  The Lord Jesus said of himself, I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11) He also graphically portrayed his depth of devotion to his flock, The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:15b)

With such wonderful recommendations of our Shepherd, consider a few results that we can see the benefits of his leadership.

As our shepherd God makes us firm promises.  God began his formal relationship with Abraham by affirming a future of great blessings in a land to be given to Abraham’s descendants. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites,20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”   Genesis 12:15  This pledge became an overarching anticipation of the Israelite people. Did God keep his promise to his Old Testament flock? “Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” Joshua 21:45 The promises of God, our shepherd, toward us are just as assured. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” II Corinthians 5:1

Our God displays providence as our shepherd.   He is interested in our earthly happiness and our eternal well-being.  Certainly, this is displayed in the parable of the shepherd who went in search of one lost sheep. The young Joseph, son of Jacob, suffered much abuse at the hands  of his brothers and from the wife of a rich man in Egypt, but this was essential to God’s plan. From prisoner to Egyptian  bureaucrat, his life was directed by God to save his starving family in Canaan. When his brothers feared reprisal from him, he explained to them:  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20  Surely, God intends to use you for the good of his kingdom. Just have faith and let God fit you into his flock.

The shepherd has acted for our salvation. Outside the flock  our souls are in the gravest danger. We have wandered from safety and solace. Sadly, we are in peril because of the wolves who snatch  the sheep and the hired hand who disdains them.  (cf. John 10:12-13)  But the heavenly shepherd took expiatory action to provide us with forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”  I Peter 2:13-14 

But what kind of sheep ought we to be in relation to our Shepherd? Obedient! Faithful! Loyal! Loving! Staunch! Persevering! etc.



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