THE GREAT SHEPHERD AND THE NOT SO GREAT SHEPHERDS
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
24 APRIL 1994
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
During the early part of the sixth century BC, the only remaining Israelites were located in and around the city of Jerusalem and in parts of the land of Judah.
There were so few left because the Assyrian and Babylonian armies had come against the Israelites and had carried most of them away into captivity.
This happened because they had not listened to the Lord their God, nor had they followed His commandments.
And for all intent and purpose, the nation of Israel had ceased to exist.
But God had made a promise to the Israelites' ancestors, and He would not break that covenant with them.
Therefore, in that love, God has the prophet Ezekiel speak forth a message concerning what would take place in the future, so that those in captivity would not lose hope and cease to be a people. (Ezekiel 37:24-28)
24. "And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes, and observe them.
David had already been dead for several hundred years. How could it be that the Lord says that he will be king again?
The answer is, he isn't; but that his offspring will be.
And what child are we talking about?
Let's go on and see.
25. "And they shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons, and their sons' sons, forever; and David My servant shall be their prince forever.
As we just said, David was already dead, yet here we are told he will reign forever.
And since all humans live and die, no human could reign forever; therefore, the only One this passage could refer to is Jesus Christ, who was born into the line of David.
It is His kingdom that shall reign forever and ever.
But it also says that the people will all listen to Him and follow Him. When in history has this ever happened?
The answer is that it never has, so we must be talking about a time that is in the future, even for us today.
26. "And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever.
27. "My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.
28. “And the nations will know that l am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever." ' "
That's quite a promise, isn't it?
Jesus Christ came, and the world rejected Him.
Yet even in that rejection, our Lord leaves a place of rest for His followers.
Listen to what Jesus says in John 10:7-21.
7. Jesus therefore said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
It's very interesting that the people are called sheep, for most sheep don't do a lot of independent thinking for themselves; they just follow along.
Only the wise ones know the proper place to be, and the right place to go, and where it is safe to enter.
8. "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
These are the wise sheep.
But as we know from the happenings in the world around us, many follow the thieves and robbers, and become like them.
9. "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The others will not be saved, for they are following the wrong shepherds, if we can call them shepherds, for they don't really care for anyone or anything other than themselves.
10. "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.
11. "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
To lay down your life for those in your care is a sign of true love.
It is this lovingkindness that is the distinguishing characteristic of a true shepherd, and of the sheep that follow Him.
12. "He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them.
The “wolf” is used as a poetic example or a figure of speech for the devil, and those who follow him.
But the wolf kills only for food.
The devil tries to destroy at all times.
13. "He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.
14. "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me,
15. even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
Here we are today, all gathered together as if in a sheep pen.
Are we here because of our one true Shepherd?
Are we trying our very best to live as His sheep, and not as the sheep that follow the not too good shepherds?
16. "And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd.
Jesus is talking to his Jewish "sheep" and referring to the non-Jewish sheep whom He will bring later.
I know the loving nature of this church, and the way you have opened your doors up to many who have felt rejected elsewhere.
But when we leave this flock, after the close of this service, we will find ourselves mingling with other sheep, many of whom are really lost and have no true flock to return to.
Are we doing our best to invite them to join us or another flock of the Lord's?
In the face of the pressures of our everyday life, do we let them know the ways of the Lord?
This is not done by preaching the Bible, but by living the word of God before them.
Are we, in essence, becoming good under-shepherds who are working for the Good Shepherd, and truly laying down our lives for others?
Or are we too embarrassed to do so?
Are we acting as our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers: as ones who do whatever we can to protect them and lead them into safety?
17. "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.
The Father also loves all of Jesus' followers, and we, like Him, will take up our life again when this one is over.
And we shall live with him forever and ever.
18. "No one has taken it [My life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."
We are to accept our share in Jesus' glory and be like Him, and we are to follow His example, all of His examples.
And we are to do this even if others around us don't and ridicule us in the process, just as they did Jesus.
19. There arose a division again among the Jews because of these words.
20. And many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?"
21. Others were saying, "These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?"
Well, can he?
The answer is, no!
For a time, the devil may come looking like an angel of light.
But as we observe this light, we will see that the light is unlike the light of the Lord.
The false light of the devil casts no shadows of love and compassion; it only seeks what it can take and destroy.
The Great and Good Shepherd is a giver; the not so great and bad shepherds are takers.
It is this characteristic that lets us see the real darkness behind the light of outer appearance.
For thousands of years God has shown us the truth.
He has shown us the true and good Shepherd.
He has shown us the rewards that come from following Him.
Many of the Israelite leaders who rejected Him were in their own light, as false shepherds of the Lord, and they had many followers.
Even today we have many not so good shepherds, both in and out of the church, and all of them have their followers.
We must be careful when we are in and among other flocks, at work, at school, at social gatherings, and even in our families; that we recognize the Good Shepherd and reject the not so good ones, and not follow along with them or their sheep.
There are certain things that true Christians should not do and many things that we should do.
But just not doing those certain things isn't enough, for we can still become lost.
The most important thing we are to do is follow along with the things the Lord set before us to do and, in the process, reject the things we are not to do.
Remember that the Good Shepherd always leads us in love and compassion, that we would do the same.
This is the easiest way we can distinguish the followers of the Good Shepherd from those who are not.
I pray that others will always see the presence of the Good Shepherd in us.
Your Comments are welcome
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