What is a Shepherd? – Old Testament
Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 14:21–22
Ephesians Lesson #143
March 27, 2022
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, we’re so thankful that You have revealed Your Word to us, that it is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. It illuminates our thinking to truth, that which is absolute, eternal, and unchangeable. It is the light by which we see all other light; it is the ultimate reference point for us.
“Father, we study Your Word in order to know it, in order to internalize it and assimilate it because as our Lord prayed, ‘Father sanctify them in truth, Thy Word is truth.’ It is Your Word that is powerful and Your Word that You use to mature us, to strengthen us, and to enable us to grow to maturity that we might serve You.
“So we pray that as we continue our study in Ephesians that Your Word would have a tremendous impact upon our thinking, and we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Continuing our study in Ephesians, we’ve come to the fourth (some say fifth, and we will have to decide whether it’s four or five) gifted leaders in Ephesians 4:11 that Christ has given to the church for the purpose of equipping the saints—that’s all of us—to do the work of the ministry.
We’re looking at Ephesians 4:11, then at a variety of other passages as we look at this topic, “What is a Shepherd?” The word that is translated “pastor” is the Greek for shepherd. So, to understand what a shepherd would mean to the readers and writers of the New Testament, we have to understand the background for this, because it gets its meaning from the Old Testament.
That’s one of the reasons it’s important to study the Old Testament, is the language, the theology, the thinking, the vocabulary—everything that the apostles had—came from their understanding of the Old Testament because that sets the vocabulary. So we have to interpret this in light of the whole Scripture.
We recently looked at what the Bible teaches about apostles and prophets, and last week we looked at evangelists. We will review a couple of things there because it transitions well to what we will begin with today.
Ephesians 4:11, Christ, “He Himself gave [there are four categories here] some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastor teachers.”
We saw that an apostle was one who was commissioned directly by the Lord Jesus Christ to perform a specific task.
The word is also used in a non-technical sense to those who were commissioned by local church and sent out as missionaries. But we prefer not to use the word in that way today, because it can be quite confusing. There are no more apostles after those, in that sense, after the last of The Twelve died.
We looked at prophets and saw that prophets must be understood also in terms of what the role of a prophet was in the Old Testament. This was a person who was given direct revelation from God to be then transmitted verbatim to the people.
In many cases in the Old Testament, the prophet’s role was to serve as sort of a prosecuting attorney for the throne room of God, charging the Israelites with failure to fulfill their end of the covenant to apply and obey the law.
In the New Testament it’s also understood that those who received direct revelation from God and passed it on in the period when the New Testament Canon or the Books of the New Testament had not all been revealed or brought together yet. Once that happened, by the end of the first century, the gift of prophecy was abolished, according to 1 Corinthians 13:8–13.
We saw the third gift, which is the first of the four that is still operational today. The word is EUAGGELISTES, and it comes from the verb EUAGGELIZO. The first two letters EU, the prefix, indicates something that is good, something that is beneficial; something that is positive.
It is joined with the word ANGELOS, which is the word for a messenger. So it’s someone who brings a positive message, a good message. In the New Testament it is someone who is a proclaimer of good news, one who proclaims the gospel.
The noun is only used three times: once in this passage, once in Acts 21:8 where it talks about Philip, who was one of the seven that was set aside in Acts 6. He is not Philip the Apostle, he’s Philip of those seven, and he’s identified as the evangelist. By looking at him in Acts 8, which we did last time, then we come to understand the role of the evangelist. The Bible gives us a direct picture.
The verb is an interesting one. I spent a lot of time on this last time. I think it’s important to review and for us to remember, is that the word indicates proclaiming the good news of the gospel.
I pointed out that often we don’t use the word “gospel” when we’re giving people the gospel. We tell them the contents of the gospel, the good news that Christ died on the cross for our sins, and that by trusting in His substitutionary death on the cross, God freely gives us eternal life. But we don’t necessarily use the word “gospel.”
It is an explanation of the gospel that we’re born sinners that we are born spiritually dead, separated from God. And that the only way to receive new life, spiritual life, what the Scripture calls regeneration or being born again, is by trusting in Christ as Savior, and then we receive new life. That is proclaiming the good news, telling people, explaining to people the gospel.
Paul uses it this way in Romans 1:15. It is often translated with the word “preach,” which I explained last time is a really poor and ambiguous term, especially as the word “preach” has developed in its understanding in the English language, in the history of the development of Christianity.
In its usage today, mostly people understand it as a certain rhetorical or oratorical form that you find in a lot of churches. I would say that’s really what the Bible refers to as exhortation, and it really isn’t what the Bible refers to as preaching.
The reason is that many of the times that we have it translated as “preach” in Acts, it is translating this verb which means to proclaim the gospel. In that sense, the translators were close because I think that preaching, which comes from a really different word, KERUSSO, really has as its object that you are proclaiming something.
That something most of the time, nearly all the time in the New Testament, is the gospel, the good news. You are proclaiming Christ, you’re proclaiming eternal life. That’s in contrast to the word “teaching,” which we will get to.
What is the Gospel?
“Gospel”, the old English godspel, comes from a combination of words meaning to tell news or to tell a story. It was used to translate the Latin bona annuntiatio, which is a good announcement, or bonus nuntius, which means to give good news, a good announcement, used to gloss ecclesiastical Latin evangelium, from Greek EUANGELION, “good news.”
Even the English word was understood initially to come from a word that meant to proclaim the gospel, to proclaim—not the English word preach. But it’s changed its meaning in the English language over the years.
a. Phrases like “preaching the gospel,” “preaching the Word,” or “preaching Christ” come from EVANGELIZO, which means to proclaim the good news.
In fact, one of our listeners is an assistant to Morris Proctor, who’s the trainer for LOGOS Bible software, and he showed me a little trick he did last week. Everywhere we have EVANGELIZO in the New Testament, by setting up this visual tool, it has EVANGELIZO on the top of the English word, and underneath it says, “To proclaim the gospel.”
It’s a reminder anytime I’m looking at my Bible and LOGOS, of the word that’s there, because you don’t always look at the English and know what it’s translating in the Greek.
b. KERUSSO has a sense of making a proclamation or making an announcement.
That comes from a noun that refers to a herald, someone who would be sent out to go from village to village to make public announcements from the governor of the region, or from the king.
The role of that proclaimer—and he really wasn’t there to answer a lot of questions, was just to state the announcement itself. That’s the word from which we most often see the translation “preaching.”
Acts 9:20, “Immediately [referring to Saul of Tarsus who is now Paul] he proclaimed the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.”
That makes it clearer than “he preached the Christ” because the object there is a different word, and that’s important to understand.
We looked at Philip’s evangelism in Acts 8:35, “Then he opened his mouth, and beginning with the Scripture, he told him the good news about Jesus [ESV].”
“… told him the good news about Jesus” translates that verb that I have in the second part EVANGELIZO.
When you read it in the New King James, he “preached Jesus to him,” you may have a different image of what he’s doing, than in the more accurate translation in the ESV, that he “told them the good news about Jesus.”
In English “preach” gives the idea that he’s standing there preaching a sermon to one individual, as opposed to just walking him through Isaiah 53 and explaining what it meant.
Acts 8:40, “But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached—he gave the gospel—in all the cities until he came to Caesarea.”
One verse that seems to be different is 2 Timothy 4:2; it begins with, “Preach the Word …”
That was the motto of Dallas Theological Seminary. But it is translating KERUSSO, which has the idea of convincing, rebuking, exhorting, as it’s described in the rest of the verse, which is parallel to what Paul tells Titus 1:9, except it’s different there; it’s “holding fast the faithful Word as he has been taught, that he may be able—that is, that the elder may be able—by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict …”
These are all elements that relate to the teaching of God’s Word. In the Greek it’s KERUSSO TON LOGON. TON LOGON is LOGOS, which can mean word or message; can mean any number of things. Probably Paul is saying “proclaim the message,” because he goes on and defines what that proclamation includes in the remainder of that verse.
Our conclusion was that the words EVANGELIZO, to proclaim the good news, and KERUSSO, to make a proclamation or announcement, predominantly focus on proclaiming the good news of the gospel, explaining the gospel to people and how they can have eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ because of His substitutionary death on the Cross.
He’s the One who redeemed us from sin, provided forgiveness, and on whom we should believe that we might have eternal life.
John 20:31, “but these are written [that is, these signs that John described in the gospel of John] that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
What does the Bible say about teaching?
What’s the difference between teaching and preaching? Because the Bible makes this distinction in various places.
In English history culture, we have a distinction between preaching and teaching, but it’s an oratorical or rhetorical style. In preaching it is often related to telling stories; it’s related to encouraging people to live the Christian life.
It’s not related so much to teaching, although there is what is referred to as “expositional preaching,” which tries to do both at the same time. But when we find these words in the Bible, they’re not talking about different styles of oratory, they’re distinguished by content.
The Greek verb DIDASKO is “to teach” or “to give instruction.” In the Gospels this word’s used 55 times. Eight of these refers to others who are teaching, one of them refers to the Father teaching the Son, and one refers to the Holy Spirit teaching. So that gives us an idea of the emphasis there. I don’t think there’s a single reference of the Father or the Holy Spirit preaching, but They teach, They instruct.
KERUSSO is the verb that’s often translated “to preach,” and it has the idea of making a proclamation. In the Gospels the object of preaching, KERUSSO is often the phrase “the gospel of the kingdom.”
“The gospel of the Kingdom” is not the same as “the gospel of the Church Age.” A lot of people don’t understand that. “The gospel of the Kingdom,” which we covered in our Matthew study, refers to the message of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples in the early period of Jesus’ ministry before the Jewish leadership rejected Him as the Messiah. It had to do with the announcement of John the Baptist.
Initially when he came on the scene, his message was “Repent—or turn back to God—for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That’s the gospel: if you will turn back to God at this point, to the nation Israel, then the Messianic Kingdom promised in the Old Testament will come. That was gospel of the Kingdom. So that phraseology was used quite a bit until the rejection of Jesus as Messiah.
For example, after Matthew 12, you don’t see that phrase anymore except one time, and that’s in Matthew 24 in the Olivet Discourse when Jesus refers to the fact that in the future—in Daniel’s 70th week in the Tribulation period—that message will be proclaimed again, because the kingdom will be again at hand. And of course, the Lord returns to the Earth at the end of the Tribulation and establishes His Kingdom.
Matthew 4:23, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming—New King James translates it ‘preaching.’ It’s KERUSSO—the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.”
It summarizes Jesus’ ministry as doing three things: teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom, and performing various miracles that authenticated that He was Who He said He was, and that would include healing all kinds of sickness.
Matthew 11:1, “Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach.”
It’s KERUSSO; He is again doing two things—there is a distinction between the two. Teaching is explaining the Scripture to your hearers what it means and how to apply it. Preaching relates to the content of the gospel of the Kingdom. We’re deriving an important distinction here in these words. They’re not based on oratorical styles.
KERUSSO: to announce, to make known, to proclaim from the Lexicon.
1. In the Gospels, John and Jesus and the disciples proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. Matthew 4:23; 9:35
John the Baptist, Jesus and His disciples proclaimed that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. Matthew 3:1; 4:7; 10:7; Mark 1:17, 38–39; Luke 4:44; 8:1; 9:2.
This gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world during the period of the Tribulation, Matthew 24:14.
2. In the Gospel of Mark, John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins in connection with his proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom.
3. This proclamation of repentance is related to turning to God for the worldwide regathering and establishment of the Kingdom. Deuteronomy 30:1–3.
In that passage, God predicts that in the future after the Jews had been scattered to all the nations of the world, that when they turn back to God, He will then recover them, restore them from where they have been scattered, back to the land that God had promised them, which occurs at the end of the Tribulation period.
Interestingly, some years ago, I heard a Rabbi give a sermon on this section of Deuteronomy. He went through a few verses dealing with the various ways God will punish Israel for their disobedience in Deuteronomy 29. Then he talked about how God will regather the people to the land, but he completely skipped over the condition, which is when you turn back to the Lord. He applied it to what is currently taking place with Jews returning to Israel. But he just completely skipped the condition of turning back to God.
4. The gospel is the content of the verb KERUSSO:
- Mark 13:10, “And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all the nations.”
- Mark 14:9, “… wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world …”
- Mark 16:15, “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’ ”
When you have this verb, the content of this KERUSSO proclamation is primarily the gospel,
5. After the demoniac was healed in Luke 8:39, Jesus told him to return to his house and tell what the great things were that God had done for him. Then, “he went his way and proclaimed.” We see a parallelism between the verb “tell” and the word “proclaim.”
When you proclaim the gospel you tell people, explain to people the gospel, so he went his way and proclaimed to “the whole city the great things Jesus had done for him.” In other words, delivering him from demon possession.
- The content of preaching is most often the good news of the gospel.
- The content of teaching is explaining the Word of God, so that people who are believers, who have responded to the gospel can be spiritually nourished and grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to 2 Peter 3:18.
We learn from this that the concept which is related to EVANGELIZO and EVANGELIUM is that the good news of eternal life is offered at no cost. That’s the gospel, and that’s EVANGELIZO and KERUSSO, primarily. It’s not a style.
I’ve often heard from other pastors, “you’re not a preacher, you’re teacher.” Well technically every time I explain the gospel, I EVANGELIZO or KERUSSO the gospel. And when I am explaining the text of Scripture, it comes under the category of DIDASKO.
We will look at this now, as we start to develop the understanding of this last gifted person of Ephesians 4:11 called “pastors and teachers.”
To those who are just looking at English with little knowledge of Greek grammar or grammatical construction, there are five gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. There’s a distinction between the last two, but this isn’t related to the Granville-Sharp Rule. We’ll see that because of the construction there in the Greek, there’s a little word that’s usually not translated, but in this passage, it’s translated with the word “some.”
It’s there before apostles, it’s there before prophets, it’s there before evangelist, it’s there before pastors, but it’s not there before teachers. The fourth “some” qualifies pastors and teachers, which shows that they are linked together, connected together in some way. So will have to understand that; there’s a lot of confusion on that particular thing.
1. In the New Testament, one of the gifted leaders of the local church is described using the noun “pastor,” POIMEN in the Greek word, which literally means shepherd.
But metaphorically it is applied to a leader in the church, a gifted person given to the church, and it has the idea of pastor. That’s how we understand it, and a pastor is basically a shepherd.
1 Peter 5:2 is instructing the saved Jews that he’s addressing, he’s addressing the leaders, “Shepherd the flock—how it’s translated in English—of God which is among you serving as overseers.”
The first word is the verb based on the noun for pastor, so you could translate it “pastor the flock of God which is among you.” It literally has the idea of shepherding and sometimes it’s translated “feeding.”
That really gets at the heart of the meaning of what a pastor does, but we will see that there are some other aspects to that. Then it gives the identity of the function of their office as EPISKOPEO, a bishop or overseer.
Three words here are used interchangeably, each talking about the same individual: pastor; elder, emphasizing his spiritual maturity; and the Greek EPISKOPEO, that is related to oversight of the congregation. They emphasize different functions of the same individual.
What does it mean to be a pastor? What does it mean to shepherd?
In Acts 20, Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, and he stops off to talk to the elders from the churches. I believe it’s congregations in Ephesus, not just one, and there are several places where in the Scripture the singular noun for church refers to a group of churches. So it’s referred to as the church of Samaria, which describes multiple congregations in the region of Samaria.
Acts 20:17, “From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.” When the elders came, he addressed them,
Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers—EPISKOPOS; their role is—to shepherd—POIMAINO, the present active infinitive meaning to shepherd or to feed—the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
The function of the elder, the overseer, is related to providing spiritual nourishment to the congregation.
Breakdown of the three offices:
- Elder = the office, referencing the spiritual maturity of that individual.
- Bishop or overseer = the function of the office.
- Pastor = the role and responsibility to feed the sheep through teaching.
To get an understanding of this, I want to look at the idea of shepherding in the Old Testament in order to understand what it means to be a pastor.
I ran across this amusing little advertisement for a pastor some years ago, and it was sort of bittersweet because I served in a church where this would have been close to the truth. That was my first church. Pastors should always have bad experiences in their first church. He learns a lot. It’s horrible to have bad experiences in your last church. This is the ad:
The Perfect Pastor
“The perfect pastor preaches exactly 10 minutes. He condemns sin roundly, but never hurts anyone’s feelings. He works from 8 AM until midnight and is also the church janitor. The perfect pastor makes $40 a week, wears good clothes, drives a good car, buys good books, and donates $30 a week to the parish. He is 29 years old and has 40 years’ worth of experience.
“Above all, he is handsome. The perfect pastor has a burning desire to work with teenagers, and he spends most of his time with the senior citizens. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his parish. He makes 15 home visits a day and is always in his office to be handy when needed. [People are that way; trust me].
“The perfect pastor always has time for parish council and all of its committees. He never misses the meeting of any parish organization and is always busy evangelizing the un-churched.
“The perfect pastor is always in the next parish over [the grass is greener on the other side of the fence]. If your pastor does not measure up, simply send this notice to six other parishes that are tired of their pastor too, then bundle up your pastor and send him to the parish at the top of your list, and if everyone cooperates, in one week you will receive 1,643 pastors. One of them should be perfect.”
The Old Testament Idea of Shepherding
Slide 28 (Repeat)
1. In the New Testament the gifted leader of the local church is described as a pastor.
2. The Old Testament provides the background and content to understand the significance of this shepherding imagery.
The Hebrew verb ra‘ah in the Old Testament, literally means to feed, to graze, to pasture sheep, to tend sheep, to shepherd them. So all of those English words basically have the meaning of making sure that the sheep are nourished and fed literally. That’s his primary job.
This has been applied metaphorically to leadership: it’s that way in the Old Testament, political leaders as well as the spiritual leaders of the nation. The idea is to lead people or to rule over people, so it is a leadership responsibility as well. The shepherd has authority over and leads the sheep.
The literal usage, Genesis 29:7b; at the end there’s a short phrase, “Water the sheep, and go and feed them.” The word translated “feed” is ra‘ah.
In the New King James, it translates it as “pasture them,” take them out where there’s good grass.
In Genesis 30:31; 30:36 and 37:2, Joseph is described as “pasturing” or “feeding” the flock. That’s the literal sense of its meaning, so the metaphorical sense is going to have certain things in common with the literal sense.
3. God is the ultimate pattern for understanding a shepherd.
In Genesis 48:15 Jacob blessed Joseph, “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me on my life long to this day,” the verb ra‘ah.
Genesis 49:24, Jacob gave his prophetic blessings upon his sons, to Joseph he said, “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 Rock of Israel).”
That’s a profound statement. So many times the Scripture, God is referred to as the Rock. He is Israel’s Rock, and that is another name or identification of God used also many times in the psalms. God is the One who has led Joseph like a shepherd leads the flock.
Lamentations 3:2, in exile the Israelites cried out “God led me—same idea—and caused me to walk in darkness.”
In the future, God will provide a perfect, good shepherd to Israel when they are in the land.
To understand shepherds, one of the first things you have to do is understand sheep. We are all called sheep, not just the congregation, but the pastor is one of the sheep also, and it’s not a compliment. Sheep may look nice and cute, and they may not be antagonistic, but it’s not a good term. Let’s look at some characteristics of sheep.
1. The believer, like a sheep, is helpless and has no sense of direction. The sheep must be guided by the shepherd. The pastor guides the sheep with the Word of God.
The sheep is one of the great evidences against evolution, because the sheep cannot survive without the shepherd. So how could sheep have evolved hundreds of thousands of years before there were any human beings? The first wolf to evolve would’ve devoured the sheep, and we would have no more. So, you can’t explain it. That’s one of several things like that in reality. The believer is helpless has no sense of direction. He must get it from the Word of God.
2. The believer, like sheep, can’t cleanse himself. The pastor needs to teach how believers are cleansed using confession, 1 John 1:9.
A lot of animals will clean themselves. If you have a cat, you know cats frequently clean themselves. There are other animals who will clean themselves, but sheep will not clean themselves. They will just get filthier and filthier. The shepherd has to clean them.
3. The believer, like a sheep, is helpless when injured; he has no idea how to take care of his own wounds. Believers are the same way spiritually; they’re injured by the various adversities of life. But the Lord provides solutions through His Word, and God’s Word is sufficient for everything.
God gave us the tools we need to handle any difficulty problem, heartache in life, and since the creation of the world until about 200 years ago, people looked to pastors to help them deal with personal issues such as anger or resentment or bitterness or depression or discouragement.
All of the things that are now considered to be the domain of the psychologist or psychiatrist, and so many pastors (I’d almost called them pseudo-pastors) have bought into this lie. Back in the late 60s and early 70s Dallas Seminary would send out these surveys, “What is it that you didn’t get enough of when you were in seminary?” “What could we do better in our curriculum?” The vast majority said, “I wish I’d learned more about counseling.”
That just showed they didn’t learn much about theology either, because counseling is advice from the Scripture, and you have to have a good biblical theology and a good biblical anthropology and a good biblical hamartiology (the study of sin) in order to guide and direct people. 98% of that should come from the pulpit. Counseling is done through teaching the Word of God, and then people can apply it to their lives. This is very important to understand.
Psalm 23:1 states, “The Lord is my Shepherd …” He is the One who ultimately is our Shepherd and He is sufficient.
4. The believer, like a sheep, cannot protect himself spiritually, so the shepherd must teach how the Lord, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, protects the believer as our Shield, Fortress, Rock, and Deliverer.
Sheep are too slow to get away from their attackers. They are not able to camouflage themselves. If you stick a sheep out in the desert, it’s very obvious where the sheep is, he stands out, he can’t protect himself. He has no natural protection, except the shepherd.
5. The believer, like the sheep, cannot find food or water on his own. A sheep can be standing 2 feet from water and die of thirst. There are a lot of Christians who go through a carnal death, standing 2 feet from their Bible, but they have no idea how to use it or anything about it because their pastor has not taught them. We must learn how God is our Shield, Fortress, Rock, and Protector.
At the end of John 21, Jesus in three different ways of stating it tells Peter that, “if you love Me, you will feed My sheep.” He doesn’t say if you love Me, you will become the worship leader and lead people in meaningless choruses. Unfortunately, that’s how it’s understood today.
It is the role of the pastor to feed the sheep. Not only that, but we have passages like Colossians 3 which says we are to teach and admonish each other through the hymns that we sing. You have to have some really good content in your hymns if you’re going to be taught and to admonish.
6. The believer, like a sheep, is easily frightened or panicked, so the shepherd must calm the sheep with songs in the night. Our Shepherd calms us with the truth of God’s Word. Philippians 4:6–7 is a great promise related to be anxious for nothing, turning to the Lord in prayer.
7. The believer, like a sheep, does not own his production—his wool. He produces wool and is shorn of that wool, but the wool belongs to the shepherd, not the sheep. The production in our life is produced by God the Holy Spirit, and God is the One who gets the glory, not us.
8. The believer, like sheep, can become ill and lose the will to recover. The further a believer goes into extended carnality or sin, he can enter into a spiritual lethargy that loses all motivation toward spiritual recovery and growth. But it’s only the work of the Shepherd through the teaching of God’s Word that the sheep is enabled to recover.
Eight points of similarity as to why the sheep needs the shepherd.
The Responsibilities of the Shepherd, Psalm 23
This is talking about God is our Great Shepherd and what He provides for us. We read through the chapter earlier, so I won’t repeat it, but look at some of the things that we learn here.
First, the shepherd makes the sheep lie down. It’s interesting when you look at these verbs, Psalm 23:2, "He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
Notice he doesn’t say “With your permission, I’d like to suggest that maybe you need to lie down in this particular pasture.” God makes them lie down in green pastures where there is spiritually nourishing food.
Psalm 23:2, “… He leads me …”
Psalm 23:3, “He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness …”
All of these are very active verbs. God is the One who does that.
1. He makes the sheep lie down, a verb meaning to lie down or to rest, to be in a secure and safe place. God provides us with that security and safety.
Isaiah 14:30, “The firstborn of the poor will feed, and the needy will lie down in safety; I will kill your roots with famine, and it will slay your remnant.”
This is a judgment on Israel, but he talks about how the sheep will lie down in safety.
Ezekiel 34:15, God says, “I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down.”
Lying down in green pastures is a picture of safety, a picture of security, a picture of rest and relaxation.
2. “He leads us.” The word here means to lead or to guide. He leads us and guides us through the still waters. This is a place of refreshment, and God leads us to places where we are refreshed and we are nourished
3. He restores our soul.
There are times when we go through things in life that are very distressing and discouraging, and we are very upset by a lot of things, but it is God who restores our soul. God is the One who enables us to recover, to heal. Maybe it’s sin in our life, maybe it is just events and circumstances that have disrupted us, but God is the One who restores our soul.
That’s part of the responsibility of a pastor. He restores the soul through the teaching of God’s Word.
4. God guides us beside the still water for refreshment and in paths of righteousness through the Word of God. He makes our paths straight.
That’s part of the application of Proverbs 3:5–6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
It doesn’t say you have to search for the way in which He is directing you. He will automatically do that. He guides and leads us.
Psalm 31:3, “For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.”
It is his character that’s at stake in some sense.
5. Paths of righteousness. The word for path is a tract, a course, a route.
If you’re in Israel some time and you’re driving along a hillside, you’ll see what looks like horizontal lines, and they are the paths of the animals that are going around the hillside. That’s the same word that is used there.
Psalm 17:5, “My steps have held fast to Your paths.”
Scripture defines how and where we should walk and where we should not walk.
6. The rod: protection and correction, Psalm 23:4b, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
- He will discipline or hit the sheep to get them away from something that’s dangerous
- He guides and directs them in the direction they should go.
Micah 7:14, “Shepherd Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your heritage, who dwell solitarily in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel; Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.”
We are shepherded by that which corrects and protects us.
This brings us to the way in which God does that, and that’s with Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for instruction, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
That’s why pastors are to teach the Word of God.
Next time we will finish our study of the shepherd in the Old Testament, as a way of introducing what we understand to be the role and function of a shepherd or pastor in the New Testament.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things this morning, to reflect upon how You provide for us, You as our Great Shepherd. You are the One who sustains us, that You are our Shepherd and we lack nothing.
“Father, we pray too that we might understand what the role of a pastor is, a shepherd, who leads and guides, directs and does this through the Word of God.
“Father, we pray that any who are here who are not saved, or any who are listening who are not saved or uncertain of their salvation, that they would understand this great news, this gospel, that Christ died for our sins, and that He has paid the sin penalty, taken it upon Himself, so that by trusting in Him we receive that free gift of eternal life that is ours through Christ our Lord. Father, we pray that You might make this clear to all who need to understand it.
“For the others that we need to grow. We need to grow, as Peter says, in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This comes from study, this comes from good Bible teaching, and it comes from the instruction, and it comes from internalizing Your Word into our lives.
“Father, we pray that You would continue to strengthen us by the Holy Spirit in our inner man, that we may grow to spiritual maturity. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”