Throughout scripture, there is a common metaphor of shepherd and flock. We find this metaphor in the 23rd Psalm where David speaks of the Lord as his Shepherd. Jesus speaks of himself as the good shepherd, and Peter refers to Jesus as the chief shepherd. The apostles Peter and Paul refer to the elders of the church as the shepherds of the flock of God.
The 23rd Psalm, a psalm of David, is one of the best known and well loved portions of scripture. This psalm speaks of peace, righteousness, comfort, abundance, deliverance from evil, mercy, and communion with God.
David understood well the relationship between the shepherd and his flock. To convince Saul that he is able to fight against Goliath, David speaks of his ability as a shepherd to defend the sheep from harm:
1 Sam. 17:34-36: "But David said to Saul, 'Your servant used to keep his father's sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear;'" ...
Jesus speaks of Himself as the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. He is the door of the sheep; all find salvation through Him.
John 10:7,9 & 14-15: "Then Jesus said to them again, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. ... I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.'
'I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.'"
In the shepherd metaphor, Jesus prophesies about the placing of the Gentile believers into the church, along with Israelite believers. The Gentile believers are the "other sheep" which Jesus brings into the fold so that there is "one flock" -- that is, one church.
Peter speaks of the elders of the church as shepherds of the flock of God, and of Christ as the Chief Shepherd.
1 Peter 5:1-4: "The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away."
Paul also, in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, exhorts them to shepherd the flock of God.
Acts 20:28: "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."
In scripture, we find a common metaphor of shepherd and flock. A special relationship of love, trust, and devotion is here presented to us. Thus, we can better appreciate the 23rd psalm. We can also understand why Paul, both in his letter to the Ephesians (5:18-20) and in his letter to the Colossians (3:16), tells the saints to rejoice in the psalms.
Col. 3:16: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
In addition to the shepherd metaphor presented in the 23rd psalm, there are other parallels between this psalm and the teachings of Jesus:
1. Just as the shepherd finds pasture for the sheep (Psa. 23:2), so the saints find life in Christ, the bread of life:
John 6:51: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
2. The shepherd provides water for the sheep (Psa. 23:2). Christ gives living water to the saints:
John 4:10,14: ... "He would have given you living water. ... but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."
3. David finds rest in the Lord (Psa. 23:3). So the saints find rest in Christ:
Matt. 11:28-30: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
4. Just as the Lord leads David in paths of righteousness (Psa. 23:3), so the saints follow the path of Jesus:
John 14:6: "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.'"
5. The Lord anoints David's head with oil (Psa. 23:5). So the saints encourage the Spirit which dwells in them as they await Christ's return:
Matt. 25:1,4: "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. ... but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps."
6. David finds abundance in the Lord (Psa. 23:5). The saints find abundance in Christ:
Luke 6:38: "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom."
7. David will dwell in the house of the Lord (Psa. 23:6). So the saints will live with Christ in the Father's house:
John 14:2-3: "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
Surely, we can say with David the prophet: "The Lord is my Shepherd".
[All scriptural references are taken from the NKJV.]
Copyright © 1996 by Deborah Cox
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