Jehovah, the Great Overseer and Shepherd of His People
“You were like sheep, going astray; but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls.”—1 Pet. 2:25.
1. Who in the universe is very interested in man’s welfare, and this in spite of what condition of man?
ARE you aware that there is someone vitally interested in mankind’s welfare and that this someone is no ordinary person, but is, in fact, the Creator of the universe, the all-wise and omnipotent one whose name is Jehovah? Yes, as a Great Shepherd of his people, Jehovah the Creator is interested in the welfare of mankind, and this in spite of the fact that his lofty throne in heaven is apparently countless millions of light-years away from this earth. Mankind concerns Jehovah even though he is a God of dynamic energy, one who is ever using that energy in a constructive way throughout a universe so vast that to him all the nations of this earthly globe are as the film of dust on the scales. (Isa. 40:15) In spite of the fact that mankind is born in sin and shaped in iniquity, still Jehovah God, Creator of the universe, truly does care for mankind.
2. How great is the interest that God has in man, and to what is Jehovah likened by Isaiah?
2 This interest on Jehovah’s part is more than just a passing or casual thing. Rather, it is an intense interest. Isaiah, speaking of Jehovah, says: “Like a shepherd he will shepherd his own drove. With his arm he will collect together the lambs; and in his bosom he will carry them. Those giving suck he will conduct with care.” (Isa. 40:11) We can well understand why King David so confidently could say: “Jehovah is my Shepherd. I shall lack nothing.”—Ps. 23:1.
3. How has Jehovah shown that he means to give close attention to the supervision of man?
3 How very true it is that mankind truly lacks nothing when the First Person of the universe cares for him. And, to ensure that mankind is properly cared for, Jehovah has appointed a fine shepherd to give close supervision for mankind’s protection and guidance. Jesus himself said: “I am the fine shepherd; the fine shepherd surrenders his soul in behalf of the sheep. I am the fine shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:11, 14) With such care from on high mankind is, indeed, favored. Just imagine! It is possible to know Jehovah God and his Son Christ Jesus and to be known by them.
4. What have the majority of mankind done to show they are not interested in Jehovah’s caring for them?
4 However, a problem arises with mankind in that the great majority have turned their hearts and minds away from Jehovah and his Son, Christ Jesus. This great majority has concluded that it can live as it desires without any need of direction and care on the part of Jehovah God. This turning away from the care and concern of Jehovah began very early in man’s history. Adam and Eve by their course of action showed that they did not want Jehovah to care for them, but, rather, that they wanted to act independently and not have to answer to anyone concerning their conduct. From Adam and Eve has sprung the entire human race; and, because of being endowed with free moral agency, that is, freedom to choose to do right or to do wrong, mankind during his existence of almost six thousand years on earth has been choosing whether he will come under the direction and care of the Great Shepherd or will direct his life independently without the oversight of the Creator of the universe.
5. Though the majority of mankind have left Jehovah’s loving care, how has Jehovah reacted?
5 Though the great majority of mankind has turned its back on Jehovah and his loving interest in man’s welfare, still Jehovah, as a Great Shepherd, has patiently put up with man and has seen fit to continue to give care and love to those from among mankind who turn to him for help and who desire to have him as their Shepherd. The Bible record shows that, while Adam and Eve were desirous of acting independently of Jehovah, one of their first offspring, Abel, desired to know Jehovah and serve him and be directed by him. The Bible book of Hebrews speaks of him as a “righteous” man. (Heb. 11:4) However, the early history of man from the days of Adam and Eve until the days just prior to the flood in Noah’s time shows that there were not many who desired to come under the protective care of Jehovah.
6. What were conditions like just prior to the flood of Noah’s day?
6 By the time that the flooding of our earth in a global inundation took place (about 2370 B.C.E., or some 1,656 years from the placing of man and woman in the Garden of Eden), there were only eight persons (Noah’s family) living on earth who desired to come under the loving care of the Great Shepherd, Jehovah God. In fact, the Bible record tells us: “Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.”—Gen. 6:5.
7. What began to develop shortly before the flood of Noah’s day?
7 Because Noah and his family loved Jehovah they were preserved through the flood that God brought upon this earth, destroying wickedness. From these flood survivors mankind once again got a start as they multiplied and began filling the earth. It was only after some one hundred years following the flood when Nimrod, a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah, founded the city of Babel. Nimrod and his followers wanted nothing to do with the leadership and care offered mankind by Jehovah. They wanted to exist independently of the Creator, Jehovah God. Nimrod founded his own religion and formed ideas separate from the right worship of Jehovah. As history shows, the great majority of mankind have preferred the religion of Babylon to the right worship of Jehovah.
8, 9. How did Jehovah make a start toward eventually having a nation of people he would shepherd in righteousness?
8 About two thousand years after man’s creation in Eden there was a child born in the Mesopotamian valley, in what is today known as Iraq. His name was Abram (Abraham). As this child grew to manhood he showed that he wanted to come under the guidance of the Great Shepherd Jehovah God. Because of his showing the right heart attitude toward Jehovah this is what Jehovah said to Abram: “Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you; and I shall make a great nation out of you and I shall bless you and I will make your name great; and prove yourself a blessing.” (Gen. 12:1, 2) It was with this pronouncement that Jehovah began building up what would in time amount to a nation that would be under his leadership and care. Isaac, the offspring of Abraham, and Jacob, the offspring of Isaac, were also men who willingly put themselves under the direction of Jehovah. In time the offspring of the twelve sons of Jacob came to constitute the twelve tribes making up the nation of Israel.
9 These tribes had their beginning as an independent nation when delivered from Egypt under the leadership of Moses in 1513 B.C.E. Under God’s direction Moses led them out of Egypt and to Mount Sinai in Arabia. It was at Mount Sinai that Jehovah gave to this nation his rules and regulations which were to guide this nation as it came under his protective care as the Great Shepherd.
10. (a) Who become like a visible shepherd for Jehovah over the nation of Israel? (b) How did Moses show his deep concern for the people of Israel?
10 Moses took seriously his responsibilities of dealing with the people of Israel, and acting as the spokesman for Jehovah. It was no small task for him to give attention to this great crowd of people that constituted the nation of Israel. However, Moses assumed his responsibilities, striving to carry them out according to Jehovah’s direction. It was during the time that he was handling the problems for the people of Israel in the wilderness that Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, visited him. The Bible account relates some of the responsibilities of Moses in these words: “And it came about on the next day that Moses sat down as usual to serve as judge for the people, and the people kept standing before Moses from the morning till the evening.” (Ex. 18:13) As the representative earthly shepherd of Jehovah for the people Moses indeed was doing the best he possibly could to care for the needs of the people whom he was governing, or shepherding. However, it was noticed by Jethro that this responsibility on Moses’ shoulders was indeed greater than he could possibly continue to bear by himself. Therefore, the Bible account tells us this: “And Moses’ father-in-law got to see all that he was doing for the people. So he said: ‘What kind of business is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone continue sitting and all the people continue taking their stand before you from morning till evening?’ Then Moses said to his father-in-law: ‘Because the people keep coming to me to inquire of God. In the event that they have a case arise, it must come to me and I must judge between the one party and the other, and I must make known the decisions of the true God and his laws.’”—Ex. 18:14-16.
11, 12. (a) Due to Moses’ heavy work load, what advice did Jethro give him? (b) What kind of men did Jethro recommend that Moses choose, and so who, really, would such men be like?
11 It was readily apparent that Moses was indeed concerned for the welfare of the people of Israel and realized that they needed help, direction and loving care. Moses wanted to do God’s will for the people. This was no small task, for as the Bible record shows, the people were standing before Moses from morning till evening to have him hear their problems and make decisions that would aid them. Ask yourself, How long would it be possible for one man alone to sit day after day hearing and deciding every problem that hundreds of thousands of people may have had? Evidently this is how Jethro saw the matter, too, for he said to his son-in-law, Moses: “It is not good the way you are doing. You will surely wear out, both you and this people who are with you, because this business is too big a load for you. You are unable to do it by yourself.” (Ex. 18:17, 18) This advice from Jethro was timely and wise. The load of responsibility for each problem of each Israelite was truly too big a load for one man to care for in a right way. Therefore, Jethro continued: “Now listen to my voice. I shall advise you, and God will prove to be with you. You yourself serve as representative for the people before the true God, and you yourself must bring the cases to the true God. And you must warn them of what the regulations and the laws are, and you must make known to them the way in which they should walk and the work that they should do. But you yourself should select out of all the people capable men, fearing God, trustworthy men, hating unjust profit; and you must set these over them as chiefs over thousands, chiefs over hundreds, chiefs over fifties and chiefs over tens.”—Ex. 18:19-21.
12 Undoubtedly this was good advice that would aid Moses in governing the people. It is noted that Jethro called upon Moses to select men who were capable, men that feared God. They had to be trustworthy men, not the type who would look for unjust profit. This would mean their qualifications must be the same as Moses’ qualifications. As assistant shepherds to Moses they would have qualities like the Great Shepherd so as to deal justly with the people.—Ps. 19:7-9.
13, 14. How did Jethro suggest Moses divide the work, and did Moses do as Jethro suggested?
13 Jethro then continued: “And they must judge the people on every proper occasion; and it must occur that every big case they will bring to you, but every small case they themselves will handle as judges. So make it lighter for yourself, and they must carry the load with you. If you do this very thing, and God has commanded you, you will then certainly be able to stand it and, besides, this people will all come to their own place in peace.”—Ex. 18:22, 23.
14 Moses listened to the advice of his father-in-law, and he went about choosing capable men to act as undershepherds with him in governing the nation of Israel. He followed the instructions to appoint some as chiefs over thousands, chiefs over hundreds and over fifties and over tens. The Bible account shows that, whenever difficult cases came to the attention of these assistant shepherds, cases that they could not handle, they would bring these to Moses, and Moses, in turn, would handle them in a righteous way.—Ex. 18:24-26.
THE PATTERN CONTINUED
15, 16. How do we know the pattern suggested by Jethro was followed after Moses death?
15 Thus, early in the history of the Jewish nation, long before they ever entered into the land promised to their forefather Abraham, Jehovah as the Shepherd of his people set a pattern for the shepherding of his sheep that would be followed even down to our time.
16 After the death of Moses, Joshua became Israel’s visible shepherd under the direction of Jehovah, and it was under the leadership of Jehovah through Joshua that the nation of Israel began their march into the Promised Land and proceeded to take possession of that which Jehovah had given them as an inheritance. The arrangement for capable, God-fearing, honest men to continue in positions of responsibility aided the nation in conducting its war campaign and settling the land of promise. Just before the death of Joshua we are told this: “And Joshua proceeded to assemble all the tribes of Israel together, at Shechem and to call the older men of Israel and its heads and its judges and its officers, and they went taking their stand before the true God.” (Josh. 24:1) At this time Joshua himself reminded these capable men of the responsibilities resting upon their shoulders and upon the entire nation so that they might continue to walk under the leadership of the Great Shepherd, Jehovah God. By doing so they would receive a grand blessing and great favor.
17. (a) Why was the period of the judges a trying time for Israel? (b) What does Judges 2:19-22 tell regarding Jehovah’s disappointment with Israel?
17 Following the death of Joshua the nation of Israel in its tribal inheritances continued some 300 years under the direction of judges who acted in many ways as shepherds to the people. The Bible book bearing the name Judges relates some of the acts of such judges and the conduct of the people during this time in the history of the Israelite nation. As their First Shepherd, Jehovah patiently led them and blessed them. It was a difficult period for Israel because in many instances they did not drive out the worshipers of false gods in the land, but allowed them to remain, and these came to be a snare to Israel. The false religious practices of these pagan inhabitants influenced the Israelites, and many times, instead of staying under the watchful care of Jehovah as their Shepherd, they would stray into the enemy camp and participate in religious idolatries that angered Jehovah. The Bible record shows that, when a righteous judge would die, the people would be like sheep without a shepherd and, instead of looking to Jehovah, they would be led into wrong paths. One such instance is recorded for us in Judges 2:19-22: “And it occurred that when the judge died they would turn around and act more ruinously than their fathers by walking after other gods to serve them and bow down to them. They did not refrain from their practices and their stubborn behavior. Finally Jehovah’s anger blazed against Israel and he said: ‘For the reason that this nation have overstepped my covenant that I commanded their forefathers and have not listened to my voice, I too, for my part, shall not drive out again from before them a single one of the nations that Joshua left behind when he died, in order by them to test Israel, whether they will be keepers of Jehovah’s way by walking in it just as their fathers kept it, or not.’”
18. (a) How were Israel’s kings to conduct themselves as leaders and shepherds of the Israelites? (b) What did many kings not prove to be in Israel?
18 Following the turbulent period of the judges Jehovah, at the request of the people of Israel, in time granted them a human king as ruler. The king was to represent Jehovah before the people and was to walk in uprightness as Jehovah’s representative, even as Moses, Joshua, and the upright judges in Israel had done. Such kings were to follow Jehovah’s written word carefully. (Deut. 17:14-20) The Word of God relates in detail how the conduct of the kings, as shepherds or leaders of Israel, resulted either in Jehovah’s favor or in his disfavor. The kings were often influenced by the people. Many kings proved they were not capable men, fearers of God, trustworthy and haters of unjust profit. Their selfish inclinations at times led them and the entire nation into great difficulty and oppression. Instead of shepherding the people as Jehovah’s earthly representatives, they became unjust, unkind and led Israel in false paths.—Isa. 1:4.
19. (a) What did Jehovah continue to do even though Israel was unfaithful? (b) How did Jehovah condemn the shepherds of Israel through his servant Jeremiah?
19 For many hundreds of years Jehovah showed patience and long-suffering with Israel’s visible shepherds and with the people he had chosen to shepherd as his representative nation on earth. Jehovah’s forbearance and love continued even though Israel turned from him to follow the false religious practices of the nations roundabout. Finally, however, the long-suffering and endurance on the part of Jehovah came to an end. In the days of Jeremiah, Jehovah spoke to the appointed shepherds who had become exceedingly lax, saying: “‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasturage!’ . . . Therefore this is what Jehovah the God of Israel has said against the shepherds who are shepherding my people: ‘You yourselves have scattered my sheep; and you kept dispersing them, and you have not turned your attention to them. Here I am turning my attention upon you for the badness of your dealings,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Jer. 23:1, 2.
20, 21. Even though so many in Israel turned from Jehovah, why did Jehovah continue to show loving-kindness and mercy, and what did he promise?
20 Due to their not imitating the fine qualities of the Great Shepherd Jehovah, in caring for those in whom he showed great interest, Jehovah was indeed against such ones and warned of their coming destruction. However, Jehovah well realized that even among his people there were those who wanted to do the proper thing and who wanted to continue under his watchful care and serve him with a pure heart. These he did not forget. His words were: “‘And I myself shall collect together the remnant of my sheep out of all the lands to which I had dispersed them, and I will bring them back to their pasture ground, and they will certainly be fruitful and become many. And I will raise up over them shepherds who will actually shepherd them; and they will be afraid no more, neither will they be struck with any terror, and none will be missing,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” (Jer. 23:3, 4) Then, looking forward to a time in the distant future, Jehovah said: “And I will raise up to David a righteous sprout. And a king will certainly reign and act with discretion and execute justice and righteousness in the land.”—Jer. 23:5.
21 While Jehovah’s chosen nation of Israel came to a disastrous end in 607 B.C.E., for not following the Great Shepherd’s advice, still Jehovah remembered the righteous ones among the people. He made the promise that they would one day have over them a righteous shepherd, one who would deal with them even as he himself dealt with them in righteousness.
22, 23. Whom did Jehovah select as his fine shepherd, and how did the fine shepherd make sure Jehovah’s sheep would be properly cared for?
22 The Bible clearly shows that with the coming of the Lord Jesus as Messiah, Jehovah had his appointed shepherd of the sheep for the benefit of his people. Jesus said of himself, “I am the fine shepherd.” During the three and a half years of Jesus’ earthly ministry he set about to show how well qualified he was as the fine shepherd of Jehovah, and how, in turn, he was able to select from among mankind those who had proved to be capable men, fearers of God, trustworthy, not seeking unjust profit. The first of these were the apostles whom Jesus selected from among his disciples to be the foundation stones of the Christian congregation. Truly those whom Jesus chose proved to be fine undershepherds, working in close harmony with the Lord Jesus, the fine shepherd, and his Father, Jehovah, the First or Great Shepherd of the sheep.
23 To appreciate the great responsibility that these apostles knew fell upon their shoulders, as shepherds of the sheep, we will leave to the next article to relate.
[Picture on page 400]
Moses listened to the advice of his father-in-law and chose capable men to act as undershepherds with him in hearing problems and making decisions