When people walk into my office for the first time, they immediately notice two things: A yellow coffee table and a framed drawing of a shepherd holding a sheep. While the yellow coffee table continues to remain a mystery, the drawing is something I bought at a garage sale in the summer of 2001 for $1. The image of a Shepherd holding a sheep is one of my favorite images for God and one that I continue to come back to in my own prayer and pastoral ministry.
Now, to be clear, the Shepherd image of God is not my idea. Neither is it a product of someone’s imagination. The Psalmist says, “For he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:7). Ezekiel 34:1-24 contrasts God, the true shepherd from false shepherds. In Isaiah 40:11, God “feeds his flock like a shepherd” and promises that “he will carry the lambs in his arms, and hold them close to his heart and gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”
The image of a shepherd was also taken up by Jesus and applied to himself. Jesus referred to himself as the “Good Shepherd” (John 15) who goes in search of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7). Jesus feels compassion for the people because he sees them “as sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36) and he calls his disciples “the little flock” (Luke 12:32). The apostle Peter calls Jesus “the shepherd of our souls” (1 Peter 2:25) and the writer of Hebrews speaks of him as “the great shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20).
The use of “shepherd” all over scripture makes it very clear that God himself uses the “shepherd” image to represent himself as the shepherd of his people. That is why David confidently states, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).
In Israel, as in other ancient societies, a shepherd’s job was very hard work and was considered the lowest of all jobs. Shepherds had to live with the sheep twenty-four hours a day and the job of caring for the sheep was never-ending. Whether it was day or night, summer or winter, in good weather or in bad, in sickness or in health, the shepherds worked hard to feed, guide, and protect the sheep.
God has chosen to be our shepherd, not because he needs to but because he wants to.
The great God of the universe takes delight in knowing us by name and taking care of us like a shepherd takes care of their sheep.
Friends, it is important that you and I are reminded time and again that Jesus is our Good Shepherd because we easily forget this truth. There may be times when we wonder if God really cares. There may be times when we look at our own life circumstances or at others and ask, “is God interested in the details of my life?” or “will God give me another chance?”
The answer is an emphatic “Yes”.
God cares for you and I every single second of every single day and is concerned about every single detail of our lives. I hope you can come worship with us this sunday to learn more about Jesus as our Good Shepherd.
May you rest in God’s promise for us:
“I created you and have cared for you since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4, NLT).
Samuel Williams is co-founder & content director at Fluid. He is also the teaching pastor at Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Canada.