Shepherd of Israel
“O Shepherd of Israel, do give ear, you who are conducting Joseph just like a flock. O you who are sitting upon the cherubs, do beam forth.”—Ps. 80:1.
1. How is the relationship between Jehovah God and Christ Jesus and His people illustrated?
JEHOVAH, the great Creator, has established a most marvelous relationship between himself and his dearly beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and that relationship is precious. Men and women on earth are invited to come into the same close relationship with Jehovah God and with Christ Jesus and be blessed. This unity is possible by obedience and dependence upon God, which helps all to be at peace and in happy contentment and to be settled in the assurance of Jehovah’s rich provision for them. This blessed relationship, as revealed through the Scriptures and the work of Jehovah God on behalf of his people, is comparable to a shepherd and his sheep. Jehovah God is the Shepherd of Israel, Christ Jesus is the Right Shepherd, overseers in the congregations are undershepherds and Jehovah’s people are the sheep. As we consider these truths together we shall be made happy.
2. In what way do the assurances as expressed in Psalm 23 give comfort?
2 No greater words of comfort are expressed in the Bible than those contained in Psalm 23. The Great Shepherd is Jehovah, the Most High God, the Creator of the universe, and he is the caretaker of his flock. David was the composer of this psalm, and his name, meaning “beloved, dear,” aptly designates the beloved Servant whom God would raise up to be the one Shepherd, namely, Christ Jesus. So the “beloved” one says: “Jehovah is my Shepherd. I shall lack nothing. My soul he refreshes. He leads me in the tracks of righteousness for his name’s sake. . . . I fear nothing bad, for you are with me.” (Ps. 23:1, 3, 4) Those who are of God’s flock now can express the same confidence, for He is our Shepherd. Jehovah is a mighty God, a terrible God, a hater of iniquity; yet he is a God of tenderness and compassion, one keeping constant watch over his flock. He is the Shepherd of Israel, and we are “the flock of your pasturage.” (Ps. 79:13) We shall never want. As mild-tempered, sheeplike members of his drove, let us thoughtfully read the entire twenty-third psalm and meditate upon its sweet and very precious promises.
3. How did Jehovah shepherd natural Israel?
3 Jehovah shepherded natural Israel. “Through the sea your way was, and your path was through many waters, and your very footprints have not come to be known. You have led your people just like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Ps. 77:19, 20) When this flock strayed or was disobedient, God’s displeasure was manifested, but he was still their shepherd. “O Shepherd of Israel, do give ear, you who are conducting Joseph just like a flock. O you who are sitting upon the cherubs, do beam forth. O God, bring us back and light up your face, that we may be saved.” (Ps. 80:1, 3) For Judah’s and Jerusalem’s pride, the Great Shepherd permitted his typical flock to go into captivity. So Jeremiah said of the unfaithful: “Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?”—Jer. 13:20, AS.
4 Following punishments upon natural Israel, Jehovah had comforting words for that flock: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. . . . and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, . . . Behold, the Lord Jehovah will come as a mighty one, and his arm will rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and will gently lead those that have their young.” (Isa. 40:1, 2, 10, 11, AS) What tenderness is expressed in these words, and how pregnant with meaning they are for our times!
5 In these last days the Great Shepherd, by the hand of the Right Shepherd, Christ Jesus, and operating through his “faithful and discreet slave” class, has led his spiritual flock out of antitypical Egypt, the modern world. He has delivered his people from the authority of this old world and its dark and abominable conditions, out of slavery, and has transplanted them into his New World organization of light, liberty and happiness. This wonderful saving power of Jehovah toward his people was displayed by his setting of the chosen King upon the heavenly throne in 1914 and by the victorious war in heaven that effected the expulsion of Satan and his wicked angels. Then in 1918 Jehovah, with his King-Son, appeared at his temple for judgment and commenced the separation of his “sheep” from the “goats.”—Rev. 12:7-9; Matt. 25:31-46.
6. What salvation has been brought about today, and how?
6 The captivity of his flock is ended. They are no longer knocked about and fleeced by the great enemy of God, Satan. Particularly since 1922 the Great Shepherd and the Right Shepherd have been speaking comfortably to the sheep. “He [the Right Shepherd] will send forth his angels with a great trumpet-sound and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.” (Matt. 24:31) All these delivered ones sing the new song of their deliverance from the satanic world into God’s New World society. “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”—Rev. 7:3, 10.
7. Describe the Great Shepherd’s care of his flock during these last forty years.
7 The Great Shepherd, Jehovah, and the Right Shepherd, Christ Jesus, have led the flock into the blessed condition they enjoy today. They, as Jehovah’s witnesses, have been led, fed and protected through many trials and temptations from within and without, from false teachings, from false brothers, from terrors through those who would devour them. Through these past forty years Jehovah’s witnesses have lacked no good thing. Regardless of the most terrible and fear-inspiring world conditions, Jehovah and Christ have protected their flock. Through world wars, prisons, concentration camps, revolutions, disease, epidemics, famines, strikes and race hatreds, as a flock they have been led, continually conscious of the antitypical cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The presence of Jehovah and his Shepherd-King has been with them. They have feared nothing bad. How favored our lot to have them as our shepherds! “The God of Jacob is a secure height for us.” (Ps. 46:11) Those witnesses of Jehovah who have gone through these forty years have never missed a spiritual meal, nor thirsted for the water of life. In fact, they have had such plenty that they could well afford to proclaim for the benefit of others: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isa. 55:1, AS) Today, after all these years, are not Jehovah’s witnesses out day by day, yes, even hour by hour, still extending to people of good will the gracious invitation: ‘Come, receive food, come to the pools of water. Here are green pastures. The Shepherd of Israel, he is our shepherd. We shall lack nothing. He arranges a table before us in front of those showing hostility to us. We eat and drink, while the Shepherd protects us’? How like sheep His people are! Are you in this blessed and happy fold? Can you say with certainty, “Jehovah is my Shepherd”? If not, then do not delay, but come into the fold, out of the isolation and cold, and meet with Jehovah’s sheep and be at peace.
THE RIGHT SHEPHERD
8. Who is the Right Shepherd, and why do you so answer?
8 The Lord Jesus Christ is the Right Shepherd, for he himself declares: “I am the right shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:14) He is good and true. Yes, he is a faithful Shepherd. This Shepherd is the beauty of Israel, the most glorious one in all Jehovah’s organization. He is the delightful one, “altogether desirable,” “the most conspicuous of ten thousand.” (Cant. 5:16, 10) Who cannot but love and adore him? “And thou, O tower of the flock, the hill of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, yea, the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.” (Mic. 4:8, AS) Truly the dominion has come to him. He is the “bright morning star,” the joy of all peoples. Not only has he been given dominion, but he is now in the throne. Hence his sheep “will hunger no more nor thirst any more, neither will the sun beat down upon them nor any scorching heat, because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”—Rev. 7:16, 17.
9. How do we know the Right Shepherd is true, dependable and faithful?
9 Our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, is a true and dependable one, who has proved himself by being himself a faithful and obedient sheep; and for this reason he is now exalted to the most glorious position in heaven itself. The Scriptures say: “This one was originally with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:2-4) The proverbial word says: “When [God] prepared the heavens I was there; when he decreed a horizon upon the face of the surging waters, when he made firm the cloud masses above, . . . when he decreed the foundations of the earth, then I came to be beside him as a master worker and I came to be what he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time.” (Prov. 8:27-30) In due time this wise Son came to this earth as a man to provide the price for purchasing the flock of God. He himself said: “I have come that they might have life and might have it in abundance. . . . I surrender my soul in behalf of the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I surrender my soul” in behalf of the sheep. (John 10:10-17) The apostle Paul writes: “For you know the undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich he became poor for your sakes, that you might become rich through his poverty.” “He emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake. For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.” (2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:7-9) What a shepherd! He is the one whom we all look up to and joyfully follow. The Shepherd, who is also the Lamb, is adored by all who are God’s sheep. How blessed we are to know these marvelous things!
10. What position does the Lamb of God now occupy?
10 He is now King of kings, the true Shepherd-King, the Lamb on the throne, the “darling” of Jehovah and the Lamb slain: “And I heard a voice of many angels . . . saying with a loud voice: ‘The Lamb that was slaughtered is worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.’” (Rev. 5:11, 12) For doing his Father’s will and being obedient and sheeplike, he has these great honors. The slaughtered Lamb of God raised from death is now the great King and most powerful Ruler under the Supreme Sovereign, Jehovah.
11. (a) Why is a hired man not given the work of shepherding? (b) Show David’s care for his father’s sheep.
11 Do you want to be a true and faithful undershepherd and also an obedient sheep? If you do, then you must follow the Leader, Christ Jesus. Consider further now his course, so that his steadfastness, humility and courage may become your example. Said he: “The hired man, who is no shepherd and to whom the sheep do not belong as his own, beholds the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and flees—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them—because he is a hired man and does not care for the sheep.” (John 10:12, 13) In ancient days sheep were preferably entrusted to the care of the sons or the daughters, and not to hirelings. For example, David cared for his father’s sheep and on one occasion reported on his assignment, saying: “Your servant became a shepherd of his father among the flock, and there came a lion, and also a bear, and [each] carried off a sheep from the drove. And I went out after it and struck it down and made the rescue from its mouth. When it began rising against me, I grabbed hold of its beard and struck it down and put it to death.” (1 Sam. 17:34, 35) David was a true shepherd. His foremost consideration was to protect the sheep. The Lord Jesus Christ did just that for the flock of his heavenly Father, endangering and finally giving his own life for them.
12, 13. Explain, with examples, how the Right Shepherd protected his sheep.
12 From the false leaders in his day he protected them. Here are two examples in point. One, recorded by the apostle Matthew, was the occasion when the Pharisees and scribes endeavored to hurt Jesus’ disciples with a smear campaign by finding fault with their breaking with the traditions. They asked Jesus: “Why is it your disciples overstep the tradition of the men of former times? For example, they do not wash their hands when about to eat a meal.” Note how he watched for his sheep and gave them protection. In answer he said: “Why is it you also overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition?” He further rebuked them by quoting Scripture from Isaiah. These false religionists knew they were being set back in their attack, for the disciples came to him and said: “Do you know that the Pharisees stumbled at hearing what you said?” Yes, the Right Shepherd was on the job, looking after the interests of the sheep.—Matt. 15:1-4, 12.
13 The other occasion was when he was in the garden of Gethsemane, on his last evening with his little flock. He had been offering prayer in their behalf, and now his own disciple Judas proceeded to betray him there in the garden. “Judas took the soldier band and officers of the chief priests and of the Pharisees and came there with torches and lamps and weapons. Jesus, therefore, knowing all the things coming upon him, went forth and said to them: ‘Whom are you looking for?’ They answered him: ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ . . . Therefore he asked them again: ‘Whom are you looking for?’ They said: ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ Jesus answered: ‘I told you I am he. If, therefore, it is I you are looking for, let these go’; in order that the word might be fulfilled which he said: ‘Of those whom you have given me I have not lost a single one.’” (John 18:3-9) Here we witness the Right Shepherd in action protecting the sheep. Even at this time he was thinking more of them than of himself when he said, ‘Take me, but let them free.’ He came to surrender his life for the sheep, and he did. Not one of them was lost.
14. To attend to his Father’s business, what roles did he fill?
14 Just why did he say that? First, we must understand that he was not on earth for private business, but as Jehovah’s great agent and ambassador. Yet he is the key to all world affairs, for what he says and does affects every person living and every authority and power. He can keep alive, he can destroy. He is the new world’s very foundation. Yet Jehovah’s will was the beginning and the end of everything to him. He was completely obedient. He said: “Because I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me. This is the will of him that sent me, that I should lose nothing out of all that he has given me but that I should resurrect it at the last day. For this is the will of my Father.”—John 6:38-40.
15. What perfect example does the Right Shepherd give to all other shepherds?
15 The true Shepherd lost none of his Father’s sheep: “When I was with them I used to watch over them out of respect for your own name which you have given me, and I have kept them, and not one of them is destroyed except the son of destruction, so that the scripture has been fulfilled.” (John 17:12) A perfect record! While we cannot attain perfection we can certainly go a long way toward it, if we follow his example. His constant concern was with doing one thing, namely, “the will of him that sent me.” (John 4:34) Notice that he too was under instruction to look after, lead and feed sheep. He must not lose any. To understand this very close relationship between Father and Son should make our hearts overflow in gratitude. Jesus serves Jehovah in love and in fear. “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the one who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.”—Heb. 5:7.
16. Did the Right Shepherd perform his work in the fear of Jehovah?
16 In the hour of his greatest trial, standing alone, with none on earth to help, he prayed: “Father, if you wish, turn this cup aside from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) Again he said: “Rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matt. 10:28) He lived in the fear of Jehovah God, recognizing his responsibility toward the sheep. Think! Are we as much affected, anxious to render a good account of our work as a shepherd caring for the sheep of God? He is the perfect example. Do we desire, above all things, Jehovah’s approval? Are we putting the care of God’s flock above every other consideration today?