The Good, Chief, and Great Shepherd

The Good, Chief, and Great Shepherd

We find that our Lord Jesus, in consummate glory, will be Shepherding His people for all eternity. The Apostle John tells us that in glory, “the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them [i.e. the redeemed] and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” After all the under-shepherds have come and gone we will see that the Shepherd, who became the Lamb that was slain for the sheep, will continue to shepherd His people by giving them everlasting joy and peace in His presence. 

As we consider the many biblical theological themes that are unfolded throughout the Scriptures, our minds ought to be drawn to many of the passages in OT historical narrative and the prophetic literature in which we discover a synthesis of typological imagery brought under the light of prophetical fulfillment. Ezekiel 37:24-27 is one such passage. There, we find the Lord promising to raise up a Shepherd-King–under the typical name of David–to shepherd His people in the New Covenant–to dwell with them and protect them:

“David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Ezekiel 37:24-27).

This succinct New Covenant prophecy combines the most prominent biblical-theological themes of redemptive-history (i.e. king, land, covenant, descendants, presence of God and dwelling place) in typological prospective. What is striking is that Shepherd is included among the other well known BT themes. On one hand, this ought to be surprising to us; on the other, it ought to be one of the most naturally anticipated. Consider the following biblical-theological developments regarding the Shepherd theme in Scripture:

The Scriptures draw our attention, at the beginning of redemptive-history, to the fact that the very first person martyred for his faith in Christ was a Shepherd. Abel was a righteous Shepherd who was envied, despised and murdered by his brother. Jesus is THE RIGHTEOUS SHEPHERD who was envied, despised and murdered by His brethren (Matthew 21:3827:18Mark 15:10 ). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the Sheep. Additionally, the fact that Shepherding was one of the very first occupations in human history shows us that it was God’s plan to set this apart for an analogy to reflect His relationship to His people.

In his departing covenantal blessing pronounced on Joseph, Jacob addressed God as being his Shepherd when he said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my life long to this day” (Gen. 48:15). One of the chief characteristics of a Shepherd is that he feeds his sheep. God feeds His people with the rich food of His word. He feeds us also with His own flesh and blood in the Person of His Son. In the subsequent blessing on Joseph he spoke of the coming Redeemer by the name of “the Shepherd:” Again, Jacob alludes to the LORD as Shepherd when he pronounced a covenant blessing on his son prior to his death: “But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)” (Genesis 49:24).

The patriarchs are said to have been shepherds. When Joseph is speaking to his brothers about what they are to say to Pharaoh, we read: “Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘My brothers and those of my father’s house, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me.’ 32

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