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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE JESUS AS MY SHEPHERD?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
25 MARCH 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Exodus 15:13, 23-26
Preparation Bible verses: John 10:14-15:
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.
Hymn: He Leadeth Me
Just under the title of this hymn in our hymnal, there is a reference to Exodus 15:13, a verse from the song of deliverance that was sung by Moses and the people after they had passed through the midst of the Red Sea where God had caused the waters to come back over the pursuing Egyptians.
They sang in part –
13. "In Thy lovingkindness Thou hast led the people whom Thou hast redeemed;
In Thy strength Thou hast guided them to Thy holy habitation.
Yet immediately afterwards, the people began to murmur and complain.
Look again at the second verse of the hymn we just sang:
Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine,
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis thy hand that leadeth me!
Just three days after they had come out of the Red Sea, and had sung the song of deliverance, they found themselves in the wilderness of Shur, but with no water to drink.
Let's pick up this story at Exodus 15:23:
23. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah [bitter].
24. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"
The Lord had led the people out of Egypt as a shepherd leads his flock, and He had performed many signs and wonders.
He had appointed Moses as His under-shepherd through whom these signs and wonders were performed.
Yet the people so easily forgot.
Could not the God who had accomplished so much also give the people good water to drink?
But instead of stopping and seeking the Lord through prayer, and trusting in Him to answer, they grumbled.
Think about yourselves and how you feel when you do your very best, yet others complain.
25. Then he [Moses] cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them.
26. And He said, "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer."
But because the Israelites had not truly repented in their hearts, in less
than a month's time they were again grumbling; this time over their food.
And lest we also fall into that kind of a trap, let us take a moment together, in silence, and repent of our own sins before the Lord and ask for His forgiveness and guidance, so that He would lead us all the days of our lives.
Confession and Assurance:
The Lord's Prayer:
Did we really hear what we prayed for in The Lord's Prayer?
Do we really want our Father's heavenly will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, where there is no pain or mourning, or death?
Are we truly willing to let the Lord our God guide us in His heavenly will?
It's very important that our answer to these three questions is, Yes!, for that is the only way we can truly have Jesus as our Shepherd.
In Isaiah 40:11 we see another encouraging promise of the Lord our God leading us as a shepherd.
Let's take a look at this passage, beginning at verse 9, so that we will hear this passage in context; and as we read it, let's also put some emphasis on the assurance words.
9. Get yourself up on a high mountain,
In other words, quit hiding yourself in the valleys and in the caves, and return to the Lord. Or perhaps, quit hiding in your bed of depression.
O Zion, bearer of good news,
Lift up your voice mightily,
O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;
Lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah,
"Here is your God!"
Come on people, stand up! Proclaim the good news about God which you have known from the beginning.
Shout it from the mountain tops.
Don't pay any attention to the false teachings and evil practices that are going on all around us.
You know the truth!
Quit following the lie.
Quit fearing the evil people around you and going along with what they do.
Stand up and tell the truth.
Repent and do it and the Lord will respond.
Live a life that is truly a reflection of the Lord within us, so that all around us will see our Father's heavenly will working in and through us, and know that Jesus is our shepherd.
10. Behold, the Lord God will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His recompense before Him.
11. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs,
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Do you hear the assurance of God's words?
Then act upon them by truly letting the Lord lead you every moment of every day, in everything that you do and say, and hopefully even in what you think.
The words of Isaiah 40:11 also inspired Gloria and Bill Gaither to write a hymn; and as we sing it, let's also keep in mind the assurance of God's words in the Scripture passages we just read.
Hymn: Gentle Shepherd
Did you hear the words of that hymn?
Did you hear the same assurance in the words that we heard in the Scripture passage?
What I do hear are the prayers of weak Christians praying for something that they already have.
Let me give you an example of what I'm saying.
Two weeks ago, when Mary and I were in Brooklyn, we heard the pastor of St. Paul's Community Baptist Church, Johnny Ray Youngblood, say,
"During the civil rights movement of the 1960's, we sang 'We shall overcome.' Today we should no longer sing that, for we have overcome. Our problem today is that we must convince our people that they have overcome."
Come people, wake up!
Gloria and Bill are still singing the song of the 60's, even though they
wrote it in the 70's, and we're singing it right along with them.
These words of God were proclaimed by Isaiah over 2,500 years ago.
Don't you think we ought to start following the original version, and claim the promises of God?
God has promised us that if we would just stand up and proclaim the truth, He will be our strength and lead us, even if we still feel weak.
We just have to learn to trust Him.
The hymn begins:
Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us,
For we need You to help us find our way.
If we have come to know the "Gentle Shepherd," who is not always so gentle, then we should also know the way, just as Jesus reminded Thomas in John 14:6:
6. Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
Jesus is leading us.
It is we who don't always want to follow Him, and so we get lost.
In order to find our way, all we have to do is return to the Lord.
And what about the next part of the hymn?
Gentle Shepherd, come and feed us,
For we need Your strength from day to day.
Why do we have to ask the Lord to come and feed us?
He has already given us a whole storehouse full of spiritual food that will truly strengthen us from day to day.
Our problem is that the church is basically lazy.
We are often too lazy to even eat by ourselves.
We only want to have someone else feed us.
It's time we grow up and begin to feed ourselves.
Example: How many truly read their Bible every day? How many eat food every day?
All the food we could ever want is right here with us in our Bibles, and by that food we will be strengthened.
Then the hymn goes on to speak a great truth:
There's no other we can turn to
Who can help us face another day;
–– if we put our hope and strength in others, in whom there will be no hope or lasting strength.
Jesus is the answer, and He has been trying to lead us for thousands of years. We just have to let Him.
The hymn ends with a repetition of the opening verse, which we have already
Therefore, if we are following the Shepherd, we know the way, and we have been strengthened by the Lord's food, of which there has been such an abundance, that we can share it with each other.
Tell us how the Lord has provided for you, or put it upon your heart to help and pray for others, and to live a life that is a reflection of God's heavenly will here on earth.
Sharing of joys and concerns:
Sheep can become shepherds, too! Parents shepherd their children; teachers, their students.
If we have truly been given the strength and power to overcome all the worldly situations around us, which we have; and if we have been given all the food we need, which we have; then we, like Peter, should be able to accept the challenge of Jesus and to become shepherds, also.
And so that we understand this relationship of shepherd and under-shepherds, hear how Peter expressed it to those shepherds under him in 1 Peter 5:4:
4. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
If we are willing to accept the challenge and the appointment from the Lord, then we will see even more of the Lord's glory here on earth.
But Peter needed to do some growing-up in his life, just as we all require.
Don't forget that Peter also denied the Lord three times, before he was truly ready to grow up and accept the responsibility that was being offered to him and to many of us as well.
First of all, God must come first in our lives.
In our heart there is to be no person or organization or any thing that we feel a prior responsibility to serve.
Our first service must always be to the Lord, and then these others may find a place – but not before.
This is the point that the Lord Jesus was making to Peter in John 21:15-17, after the Lord had risen from the dead:
15. So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend [feed] My lambs."
What Jesus is emphasizing to Peter is the degree of commitment that God desires of us.
He asks Peter if he loves Him more than the fish he and the others had just caught, and Peter responds in the affirmative.
But Peter is saying even more; he says that the Lord knows the intent of the heart, and therefore He knows that Peter loves Him more.
But at the same time, Peter's actions of returning to be a killer of fish, rather than continuing to be life giving fisher of men as Jesus had called them to be, send a different message.
Then what does the Lord say?
He tells Peter to show his love by tending and spiritually feeding the lambs, those who had not matured into becoming disciples but who were still in need of much care.
Then the Lord takes a slightly different direction:
16. He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I Love You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep."
Here Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Him with a reverence that is worthy of the Lord's office.
And Peter's reply is that he loves Him very deeply.
Then Jesus commissions Peter by instructing him to shepherd or tend the sheep so that none be lost from the fold.
In other words, make sure that those who have accepted Me and come into the church do not fall prey to the evil forces that lurk about.
In other words, He is saying: be the pastor of the church, a spiritual leader of your family and community.
Then Jesus adds a final twist to this three-fold questioning:
17. He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep."
In asking Peter about his love, the Lord is asking him specific ways in which he loves Him, the subtleties of which don't translate well into English.
Peter answers the Lord in a more congenial way, correcting the Lord's emphasis.
Thus Peter seems grieved at the repeated questioning, but the Lord wants a greater commitment, as here when He asks him if he loves Him as a steadfast friend.
And when Peter again responds in the affirmative, Jesus tells him to tend or feed the sheep in a way that would lead them to become shepherds themselves.
We are all being called into some kind of service.
We are all being called to eat of the spiritual food that the Lord has provided, so that we, like Peter and the ones who followed him, would help strengthen the church, and community, and even the whole world.
And above all, that we would work together in love.
Are we willing to accept the challenge?
Are we willing to eat of what the Lord has provided, and not wait for the Lord to feed us?
Are we willing to truly love each other as the Lord loves us?
If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, then there is doubt if the Lord is truly your shepherd, and you may likely find yourself in want.
But if your answer is yes, then you have accepted the Lord as your shepherd, and you shall not want.
We should all consider very carefully where we place our priorities, and who it is that truly shepherds us.
Hymn: I Am Thine, O Lord