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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:The Lord is our Shepherd - and we are His sheep!
Text:John 10:11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2015-05-30
Added:2015-05-31
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 Book of Praise

Bible translation: NKJV

Psalm 23:1,2,3

Psalm 106:2

Psalm 100:1,2,3,4

Hymn 64:1,2

Hymn 71:1,2

 

 

Read:  Psalm 23; John 10:1-18

Text:  John 10:11

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the most beautiful documents ever written by man is a document that we hold dear in this Reformed Church, the Heidelberg Catechism.  This catechism begins in Lord’s Day 1 with the following question and answer:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

It is a beautiful question and answer because it takes the truth of God’s Word, the gospel, and applies this truth to our hearts, assuring us that we are not our own but that we belong to Jesus Christ.

  We need to know that.  For all our talk about being independent and needing no one, the truth is that we all vulnerable and we all need Someone.  We need to belong to Someone who knows us, we need to belong to Someone who cares for us, and we need to belong to Someone who loves us.  And we also need to belong to Someone who is both willing and able to help us.  And the comfort that we have is that we who confess the truth of Lord’s Day 1 do belong to this Someone – and He is no other than our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The Catechism does not make this stuff up, but it simply reflects what God Himself teaches us in His Word, the Bible.  It is the truth that we love to confess with the words of Psalm 23,

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

It is the truth that the Scriptures teach us in Isaiah 40:11,

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”

And it is the truth of the Scripture passage that we have before us this morning, where the Lord Jesus declares,

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.”

The Bible uses the picture of a shepherd with his sheep to describe to us the relationship of God, yes of the Lord Jesus, with His people.  He is the Shepherd and we are His sheep.  And He knows us, He cares for us, and He loves us.

And so I preach to you the blessed comfort concerning the Shepherd and His sheep under the following theme:

The Lord is our Shepherd – and we are His sheep!

  1. He is the Good Shepherd.
  2. He is our Shepherd.
  1. He is the Good Shepherd.

In our mind’s eye, we can see him there:  a shepherd in Israel caring for his sheep.  When the Lord Jesus described Himself as the Good Shepherd He used an illustration that the people not only knew from the Old Testament, but they also knew from every day life.  Shepherds and their sheep were are normal part of the landscape in Israel, with the sheep being raised for their wool and their milk and their meat.  It was hard work to be a shepherd but a good shepherd would do his work well and his sheep would love him and follow him.  Each shepherd would have a small flock, rarely over a hundred sheep and every morning he would go to the sheepfold to call them out.  The sheepfold was a holding pen, often built with stone walls, where the sheep would be kept in safety overnight.  It was common that the sheepfold would hold more than one flock of sheep and that a doorkeeper would stay with the sheep overnight to protect them from wild animals and from thieves who would come to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  A good shepherd would know his own sheep, and he would often even have names for them.  And so he would call out to the sheep and then lead them to a place where there would be grass to eat and water to drink.

The Lord Jesus used this illustration of a shepherd with his sheep to describe Himself, who He is and what He was willing to do for His sheep, the men and women and children that belong to Him.  But when He began to speak about the shepherds with their sheep, the Pharisees to whom He was speaking did not understand the spiritual truths that He was teaching them.  They understood the words since they knew all about the shepherds and their sheep, but they did not understand how these things were to be applied.

But there was a reason for what the Lord Jesus said in John 10.  He declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd in contrast to the Pharisees and the other religious leaders in Israel who were not good shepherds but false ones, hirelings, hired workers who had no love or interest in the sheep that were in their care. 

  In John 9 we get to learn what these Pharisees were like and how they were treating the sheep.  In John 9 the Lord Jesus had healed a man born blind but the Pharisees were angry because He had done this on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders wanted nothing to do with the Lord Jesus and John 9:22 says that they were determined to put those who confessed that Jesus was the Christ out of the synagogue.  That is, they would excommunicate them, declare that they had no part in the community of Israel, no part in the kingdom of God.  And with respect to this man who had been born blind but, being healed by the Lord Jesus, could now see, the Pharisees became angry at him for saying that the Lord Jesus was from God and, after a long and hostile interrogation, they threw him out.

Jesus knew this and the actions of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders both grieved Him and angered Him.  The Pharisees were to be the shepherds of Israel but they were not true shepherds; rather, they acted like hirelings.  And even worse, they harmed the sheep and scattered them.

  The Bible describes these false shepherds and the harm they cause not just in John 10 but also in the Old Testament, in Ezekiel 34.    In Ezekiel 34 the LORD declared Himself to be the true shepherd in contrast to the false shepherds, the priests and leaders of Israel.  It would be good for us to turn to Ezekiel 34 to read about these false shepherds as well as about God, the true shepherd. 

Ezekiel 34:1–4

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.

And verse 7-10,

‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live,” says the Lord God, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock”—therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord! 10 Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.”

And now what the Lord Jesus was saying in John 10 to the Pharisees is that these words applied to them.  They were the false shepherds, they were the hirelings, they were those who had come to steal, and to kill and to destroy.

But that is not all.  Because in contrast to the Pharisees, the Lord Jesus did not point to God the Father in heaven, but He pointed to Himself!  He said “I am the good shepherd”!

And so reading on from Ezekiel 34, verse 11-16, the Lord Jesus was effectively saying, “What you read there is fulfilled in Me!”  Ezekiel 34:11-16,

11 ‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God. 16 “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”

Do you see what the Lord Jesus is doing then when He declares that He is the good shepherd?  He was telling the Pharisees that not only did He come from God, but that He Himself is God!  He was telling the Pharisees that the Shepherd the Old Testament spoke of had now come to gather His sheep.  The Pharisees did not believe it, but they now understood what the Lord Jesus was saying to them.  That is why the Jews said to Him in John 10:33,

“For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being Man, make Yourself God.”

But do you understand it?  And more, do you believe it?

We read together from Psalm 23, from those well known words,

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

But to whom do these words refer?  Who is this LORD who is my shepherd?  It is the LORD with capital letters, that is, the One who in the Hebrew language was known as Yahweh, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.  He is the God who had revealed Himself to Moses and to the people of Israel as “I AM WHO I AM”.  He is the God who chose a people for Himself, who made His covenant with them, declaring to them and saying, “I am your God and you are My people.”  This is the God of whom it says in Psalm 100:3,

 “Know that the LORD [capital letters], He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

And now in John 10 the Lord Jesus is saying, “Those Old Testament passages that speak about the LORD as your Shepherd, these passages are speaking about Me!”  Jesus Christ is the I AM WHO I AM – He and the Father and the Holy Spirit, the One only True God. 

Brothers and sisters, do you believe that?  Do you believe the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ that He is the good shepherd?  Is it your only comfort in life and in death that you belong with body and soul, both in life and in death to your faithful Saviour Jesus Christ?

In John 9:35-38 it says that the Lord Jesus found the man who had been blind but was healed by Him.  He found the man after had had been cast out by the Pharisees, those false shepherds, and He said to him,

“Do you believe in the Son of God?”  He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”  And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”  Then  he said, “Lord, I believe!”  And he worshipped Him.

Jesus said in John 10:14,

“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”

We know Him.  We believe that He Himself is God, the great I AM.  We believe that He, the Lord, is our shepherd and that we are His sheep.

But there is more, for this Shepherd is the Good Shepherd.  Whereas the Pharisees and other religious rulers of Israel were the hirelings, the bad and false shepherds, the Lord Jesus is good.  He knows His sheep and He calls them by name.  He tends to His flock and He cares for them.  He leads His flock and He feeds them.  To apply the words of Psalm 23 to our Lord Jesus Christ,

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.”

And Psalm 23:4,5

“Yea, 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.”

Do you see the difference between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees, the difference between the Good Shepherd and the hireling, the one who does not truly care about the sheep?  And Jesus says, “I am that Shepherd!  I care for you.  I protect you.  I am always with you.  And I love you.”

And the reason why we know this to be true is because of what He, the Good Shepherd has done.  It says in the second half of John 10:11,

“The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

And there we see that the Lord Jesus is no ordinary shepherd.  A regular shepherd, a good one that is, would love his sheep and he would care for them.  And to an extent, when thieves or wild animals came, he would even risk his life for the sheep.  But He would never lay down His life for His sheep.  He would never choose to give up his own life in the place of the lives of his sheep.  But that is what our Lord Jesus Christ had come to do.  He had come to lay down His life for the sheep.  John 10:15,

“As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

And verse 17,

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.”

And John 10:18,

“No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.”

That is what the Lord Jesus had come to do, and that is what He would do:  His death would not be an accident, nor would it take the Lord Jesus by surprise.  Rather, the Lord Jesus had come to this earth, and now He was on His way to Jerusalem, in order to lay down His life, to die for the sake of His people.  All that Jesus said and did during His life here on earth was with that end goal in mind: to lay down His life for His sheep.  It is in this way that

“He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.” (Lord’s Day 1)

The Pharisees were angry at the Lord Jesus, angry that He called them hirelings and announced that He was the Good Shepherd, making Himself equal with God Himself.  But if the Pharisees – and we – were to follow the Lord Jesus from that point to the time that went to the cross of Calvary, the time that the Shepherd was seen to also be the Lamb, then they – and we – would see that truly this is the Son of God, He is the Good Shepherd.  And not only that, but He is also our Shepherd.  We will see this further in our second point.

 

2. He is our Shepherd.

The most wonderful thing about the Lord Jesus being the Good Shepherd is that this Shepherd belongs to us!  He is our Shepherd – yours and mine and the Shepherd of all those who have received Him, who believe in His name.  We confess this and embrace this whenever we sing from Psalm 23.

“The LORD is my shepherd.”

That is what we believe and hold on to in faith.  For true faith is

“a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.”

He gives this also to me because I belong to Him, because He is my Shepherd and I am one of His sheep.

And He knows us, and He guides us, and He cares for us, and He loves us individually, one by one.  It says in John 10:3,

“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The Good Shepherd says that He knows your name!  He knows who you are!  He cares for you, He makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside the still waters.  He is not a hireling but He is the Good Shepherd.  And the Good Shepherd loves you.  He cares for you.  He will never leave you.  He will never forsake you.  He will be there in every circumstance and in every situation.  Indeed, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He will be with you, His rod and staff will comfort you.  To quote further from Lord’s Day 1,

“He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.”

And how do we know that?  It is, John 10:13 teaches us, because He cares for His sheep.  Yes, He cares so much that He has laid down His life for His sheep.  Indeed, it was when we were still sinners that Christ died for us.  That is how much He loves us!  That is how much He cares for us!  And as it says in Romans 8:32,

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

And therefore we need not fear.  The Lord is our Shepherd and we are His sheep. It is true:  in the providence of God accidents happen and God’s children may even die.  But nothing can separate the sheep from their Shepherd!  John 10:27-29,

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one.”

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.  He leads His sheep, He cares for His sheep and He loves His sheep.  Yes, even foolish and stubborn and disobedient sheep such as you and I.  He will lead us on and He will be with us even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death itself. 

But there is one other thing that I wish to point out to you from John 10 and that is that the Lord is not only our Shepherd personally but He is also our Shepherd collectively.  The Lord Jesus did not simply die for one or two stray and wandering sheep, but He lay down His life for His flock.  And that means that we not only belong to the Lord Jesus as our shepherd but we also belong to one another.  We are a part of the flock, a part of the fold, a part of that covenant community that God was determined to have from the very beginning.  And that is also the work of the Good Shepherd.   John 10:16 says,

“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.”

And what a blessing it is that we, God’s sheep, have been gathered together as one flock under the one Shepherd.  And we know that one day the Shepherd will come back for His sheep.  And then it will be, Revelation 7:15-17 says, that we will be together, before the throne of God, and He who sits on the throne will dwell among us.

And we shall never hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike us, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd us and lead us to living fountains of waters.  And God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

What a glorious truth it is that the Lord is our shepherd and we are His sheep.  Yes,

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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