The Go(o)d Shepherd

By David A. Liapis

Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

When Jesus told the Jews repeatedly in John chapter 10 that He is the “Good Shepherd,” He was not just making a nice statement about His character using a pastoral (in both senses of the word) analogy. He was’t just contrasting Himself with the religious leaders of the time whom He called “blind guides” and who neglected their duty to faithfully lead the people – to the point of evoking compassion from the heart of Christ when He looked at the Jews who were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

If you’ve read much of the Bible at all, you probably know this shepherd/sheep theme runs throughout from the Law to the Psalms to the Prophets to the Gospels and even to Revelation – so, basically the whole book. In order to more fully comprehend what Jesus was saying in John chapter 10, we need find Jesus in the Old Testament. In this instance, Ezekiel 34 will do much to illuminate not only John 10, but also many of the passages in the New Testament that refer to Jesus as a shepherd, or us, His people, as sheep.

To sum up Ezekiel 34 in a few sentences, God is basically condemning the leaders, or “shepherds,” of Israel because rather than feeding and caring for the sheep, they have been killing and neglecting them. They were treating the sheep harshly and failing to seek and save the lost. Because of this gross neglect and abuse, God says in verse 10, “I am against the shepherds … I will rescue my sheep from their mouths.” He goes on to say in the subsequent verses that He, God Himself, will seek, rescue, gather, feed, protect and bless His sheep. He will “feed them with justice” and “make them lie down” and “dwell securely.” 

Why does God do all this for His sheep? So that “…they shall know that I am the LORD [Yahweh] their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God. And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.” (vv. 30-31) There are two things to note in these verses. The first is that God intends for us to know Him by means of His all His shepherdly care and blessings. The second is that we can find Jesus not only in this whole chapter, but even right here in this verse where it says “…God with them,..” That’s Emmanuel – God With Us! 

The final point I want to make about Ezekiel 34 and all the references in the New Testament about Jesus being the Good Shepherd is that when Jesus called Himself such, he was saying unequivocally that He is God. The “Lord God” is the “God” shepherd in Ezekiel who will “seek, rescue, gather, feed, protect and bless His sheep” as stated above, and we see Jesus Christ fulfilling every single one of these things and more when He came to Earth as Emmanuel. There are some who try to argue Jesus never claimed to be God. These passages, and so many others, so easily refute that argument and give us all the more reason to know and believe that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who is worthy of unending praise, and yet He is also the Go(o)d Shepherd who lays down His own life for His sheep. 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Therd oval

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