The Comfort of the Shepherd

By John Thiel

Under the reformation message and the time in which we are living there tends to develop a mentality of duty instead of joy and pleasure. I see this frequently in the leadership thrusts upon the church. We must do this we should be doing the other thing. There is a tendency to place upon the shoulders of the congregation a sense of responsibility instead of a sense of joyful service.

I’m aware of many ministers and servants of God who have become weary in keeping the pressure on in doing the Lord’s work and it becomes a chore to them. There is no more joyful energy left in people. I always reflect back for my own edification at the great joy I found when I first found my saviour. By doing that, everything I study in God’s word and every responsibility I’ve had to pick up on and persevere against all the odds, I keep refreshing myself on love and joy. This is why Jesus says I have somewhat against you that you have lost your first love. We don’t want to lose that because if we do Christianity becomes a chore. The great joy that animates me is the joy of John;

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my [sheep], and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd. 17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. 19 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. 20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? 21 Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? 22 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. 25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

This is a beautiful endearing image, a shepherd caring for his sheep. He has a fold that he enfolds and protects and you have someone who is shepherding in such a way that he gives his life for the care of those sheep. Here is a relationship between shepherd and sheep;

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand.

This relationship has a very important ingredient of great joy and comfort and that is security that no man will be able to pluck them out of my hand so no matter what ghastly circumstances come upon the flock. As the flock becomes disturbed by danger, it gathers around the security, the shepherd from whom no body plucks out of his hand.

The relation of Christ to his people is compared to a shepherd. He saw, after the fall, his sheep in a pitiable condition, exposed to sure destruction. He left the honors and glory of his Father’s house to become a shepherd, to save the miserable, wandering sheep who were ready to perish. His winning voice was heard calling them to his fold, a safe and sure retreat from the hand of robbers; also a shelter from the scorching heat, and a protection from the chilling blasts. His care was continually exercised for the good of his sheep. He strengthened the weak, nourished the suffering, and gathered the lambs of the flock in his arms, and carried them in his bosom. His sheep love him. He goeth before his sheep, and they hear his voice, and follow him. “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.” Christ says, “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. {3SG 122.3}

Can you see the endearing sentiments that are communicated? This is wonderful to embrace and meditate on. How does this actually relate to us when we are constantly under the stressful experiences of responsibilities of things going wrong around us in church? Some very distressing circumstances. Where is the shepherd? What is meant here?

Are we finding some sort of visible repose what this is? Immediately my mind turns to the statements in Corinthians which is the testimony of Christ which is given in the last days to secure us – the Spirit of Prophecy. The testimony of Jesus is around us. As we meet the negatives we need spiritual mental succour. It gives us the answers to our problems.

Jesus has not left us without shepherding. He has given us the Spirit of Prophecy and therein we can find the answer to our bewilderments. The bible is wonderful but many times its not spelt out in detail but in the Spirit of Prophecy it is spelt out and the shepherd has given us all these beautiful writings which go into detail saying I’m here with you, you’re going into church difficulties and there are two opposing forces and he says I am with you.

He enlarges the conflicts and we can see the help and the comfort is wonderful so we can see through the perplexities as they are all laid out in the Spirit of Prophecy and the ways we can survive them. There is the shepherding. This beautiful shepherds Psalm becomes a practical spiritual reality.

Psalm 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

When I am in difficultly and I need something he gives the answers for it. This is not necessarily a physical reality. It is a cooling balm beside still waters to have the precious whisperings of Jesus Christ of his testimonies to our soul. We will go through deathly experiences in the time of Jacobs trouble and we will be thinking life is out I’m finished, I’m dead. We can look to him in the information we receive. He feeds us with spiritual food. Oil. What’s that? The Holy Spirit. We will remain consistent because we have the precious answers given to us.

The relationship, the comforting security is a tangible reality but in reference not so much of the physical surroundings but the spiritual nourishment and the spiritual care that is given to us so vividly for these last days. If we go astray from those things and we find ourselves in trouble, immediately the comforting word regains us. Here is this wonderful concept that we may go astray but never fall for the thought that it’s too late, it’s too bad.

Matthew 18:11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that [sheep], than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Isn’t that a tremendous comfort? How many times have we found ourselves going astray and thinking it’s too bad? No, he is the shepherd who will seek for that person and draw them back into that security. These things warm the heart and give joy. This is what must warm us in all of our perplexities. Another comfort even though we may go astray we don’t have to feel hopelessly forsaken. Here is the description of him going for that stray soul.

With what relief he hears in the distance its first faint cry. Following the sound, he climbs the steepest heights, he goes to the very edge of the precipice, at the risk of his own life. Thus he searches, while the cry, growing fainter, tells him that his sheep is ready to die. At last his effort is rewarded; the lost is found. Then he does not scold it because it has caused him so much trouble. He does not drive it with a whip. He does not even try to lead it home. In his joy he takes the trembling creature upon his shoulders; if it is bruised and wounded, he gathers it in his arms, pressing it close to his bosom, that the warmth of his own heart may give it life. With gratitude that his search has not been in vain, he bears it back to the fold. {COL 188.1} Thank God, He has presented to our imagination no picture of a sorrowful shepherd returning without the sheep. The parable does not speak of failure but of success and joy in the recovery. Here is the divine guarantee that not even one of the straying sheep of God’s fold is overlooked, not one is left unsuccored. Every one that will submit to be ransomed, Christ will rescue from the pit of corruption and from the briers of sin. {COL 188.2}

As one feels that he has strayed too far and he still has the cry of yearning in his heart. This is so important to take this on and believe it for one’s own personal sense of despondency.

Desponding soul, take courage, even though you have done wickedly. Do not think that perhaps God will pardon your transgressions and permit you to come into His presence. God has made the first advance. While you were in rebellion against Him, He went forth to seek you. With the tender heart of the shepherd He left the ninety and nine and went out into the wilderness to find that which was lost. The soul, bruised and wounded and ready to perish, He encircles in His arms of love and joyfully bears it to the fold of safety. {COL 188.3}

Everyone that will submit to be ransomed Christ will rescue from the pit of corruption and the briars of sin. I have gone through experiences where I though I’ve been so entangled that I can’t see my way out anymore.

He is not a shepherd that sees us in our depravity and who says it’s too late. If there is a sheep bleating, he will rescue from the pit of corruption. He will disentangle the web we have woven and in his time if we will be patient he will see us through out of that situation.

These fill the heart with loving response and make us want to sacrifice anything and everything because we have been so treated by this wonderful shepherd. As soothing as it is to the soul is especially valuable for us living now. The difficulties are more severe now than any other time. The moment you want to pursue the pure path with the Lord, you are plunged into the most awkward circumstances. Satan makes sure of that. Now more than any other time, we need to embrace this picture and know it to be to be true. At this time, how does the shepherd work with his flock with each sheep while he is with his father in heaven? We have a wonderful picture here of someone who has gone astray and denied his Lord and we see how the Lord has reached in as his shepherd and restored here.

John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

What was Jesus doing? Remember what Peter said to Jesus before the whole drama took place? If everyone forsakes you I will never. So Jesus says to him, do you love me more than these? Peter realised he’s reminding me here of my total failure but look at how wonderful this shepherd is. What does Jesus say in reference to how he is continuing his work with the sheep in the last days? Without Jesus on earth but with Jesus up there with his father as he was leaving the disciples. Jesus was speaking to Peter and said, you who have been cared for by the tender shepherd and the way I have just cared for you, as I have drawn you from the depravity of your denying me, feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Do to them what I have done to you. That is how Jesus continues to care for the flock. Apostle Peter expressed this to those who were chosen in the church to be shepherds;

1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being Lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Jesus has produced shepherds in the last days who they themselves have gone astray and the Lord has redeemed them.

Christ is the chief Shepherd. He has intrusted the care of his flock to under shepherds. He requires these shepherds to have the same interest for his sheep which he has ever manifested, and to ever feel the responsibility of the charge he has intrusted to them. Ministers, who are called of God to labor in word and doctrine, are Christ’s shepherds. He has appointed them under himself to oversee and tend his flock. He has solemnly commanded these to be faithful shepherds, to feed the flock with diligence, to follow his example, to strengthen the weak, nourish the fainting, and to shield them from devouring beasts. He points them to his example of love for his sheep. To secure their deliverance, he laid down his life for them. If they imitate his self-denying example, the flock will prosper under their care.. {3SG 123.1}

Peter who has seen the care of his shepherd in his experience can go forward as Jesus says go feed my sheep. These are the things that animate and keep me joyful as I reflect upon his wonderful care for me. How can I see the work of God as burdensome? I see souls who look deplorably hopeless but know that Jesus the chief shepherd can use his under shepherds to recover them. That is a joy. As we each one have our several experiences, we can all be in some way or another rejoicing in the team work of the flock and rejoice that we have something to do to safeguard. Not as Lording over the flock, because if you see someone going astray and you have tried to shield them from going astray and they still do and they begin to weep and bleat in the distance, instead of saying I told you so, that’s not what Jesus did.

We want to learn of Jesus how to deal with the negativities of humanity. Keep on looking at the shepherd and learn from him the gentle way of dealing with people who go astray and with our own straying ways that we know as I begin to cry for help from the depth of my heart that he will not neglect me. These are the joys that we need to keep fresh before the mind’s eye. We can then see how we become shielded from the beasts because those shepherds that are hirelings are beasts and we have to learn how to be shielded from them. Thank God for the Spirit of Prophecy. I love the tender shepherd who has spoke to us through the Spirit of Prophecy. If only the people would submit to the tender shepherd as there is security.

Amen.

Posted on September 6, 2009, in Prayer Meeting Sermonettes, The Spirit of Prophecy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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