I am the good shepherd; I lay down my life for my sheep.
One of the most widely used metaphors in all the scriptures is the imagery of sheep and a shepherd. God and the writers of scripture often refer to leadership and overseers as shepherds and the people as sheep and/or flocks. When God appointed men to lead, He often used the imagery of a shepherd leading, loving, serving, and protecting their flock as way to address how they were to lead, love, serve, and protect their people, ultimately on His behalf. It doesn't take much reading to discover the great need and dependance the sheep had on their shepherd. Perhaps the powerful line from the great hymn, "Come Thou Fount" sums up this reality we know all too well, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love."
We see vividly the unflattering picture painted that reflects sheep. Sheep are relatively dumb, prone to trouble, easily led astray, defenseless, and vulnerable. Simply put, sheep are needy, anxious, and desperate creatures. Thus our great need for a good shepherd.
I Am the the good shepherd; I lay my life down for my sheep.
God's grand design was love.
The truth is that we were designed with an insatiable and relentless desire for love. John writes that "God is love." We are designed for God. Our desire for God is fierce. God's love for His beloved is ferocious.
Vulnerable, created from more and for more, the adversary set out to deceive the man and the woman. He offers the illusion of more. He seduces them with the appearance of control, power, and authority. It arrests their attention and stirs their affections. He weaves the narrative that their trusted creator, their loving and sovereign King, their good shepherd is holding out on them.
They take the bait.
The hook is set.
They lost sight of love.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
God never stopped pursuing.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
"For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep
and will seek them out.
As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land,
and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down,
declares the Lord GOD.
I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
God pursues. He puts on flesh, enters the depravity of the human experience, and lays His life down for His sheep. Jesus is the good shepherd who Ezekiel prophesied about. God is the good Father who keeps His promises. And His sheep can declare...
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
We were deceived into thinking there was more beyond our creator, into thinking that our primal longings and deep desires could be fulfilled and satisfied outside of intimacy from our Good Shepherd. We forgot that He alone always does what is good, right, and perfect; that He is completely and fully sufficient, in and of Himself; that He is unchanging, completely consistent; that He is holy, righteous and just; that He is powerful and present; that He is matchless in His glory; that He is good, great and provocatively gracious; that He is patient and kind; that He is faithful; that He is magnificent, full of splendor and awe; that He is king; that He is a promise maker and promise keeper; that He is father. As a perfect father, He provides, protects, and is perfectly present with His family. He loves with perfect precision; nothing is ever outside of our good, and everything is always for His glory. He has adopted us as his own and reminds us that, "you are mine." He is our good shepherd.