Our Forever Shepherd

*This article was originally written for and published in the March 2022 issue of Faith On Every Corner Magazine. I’m so pleased to share it here as well.

I’ve often thought of Jesus as being many things to me- Savior, friend, high priest, King, and my resurrection and life- but rarely have I thought of him as my shepherd (though I knew he was).  But as I read Psalm 28 a few mornings ago, I stopped at verse 9: “Oh, save your people and bless their heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever” (ESV).  In my journaling Bible I wrote, Our forever Shepherd.

Over the last few days I’ve come back to this verse, reading and re-reading, thinking about what it means that Jesus is my shepherd…which led to more readings from both the Old and New Testaments.  What I found astounded me and has forever changed the way I see my Shepherd.    

I first turned to the most famous Psalm of all, Psalm 23.  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” (v.1).  This psalm beautifully depicts the faithfulness of our Lord as the shepherd who stays with his flock providing food, water, and protection for his sheep.  In this Psalm the Shepherd also provides restoration for souls, and leads those in his care in the path of righteousness.  What a beautiful picture of His tender care for the sheep who can do none of this for themselves.           

Of note, it was David who wrote Psalm 23, and it was David who was anointed King of Israel while tending his own flock.  He who was taken from the pasture was made prince over God’s people (2 Samuel 7:8).  This David, the shepherd boy with a heart after God’s own, became Israel’s most celebrated and successful King.  And it was this David with whom God established the Davidic Covenant, promising him that his throne shall be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16).  Remarkably, this establishment would find its fulfillment in none other than Jesus Christ.  

As I continued to read, I could see the promise unfolding…

More than 500 years after David’s life had ended, God referred to his people as sheep in Ezekiel 34.  Verses 1-9 depict God’s anger against the shepherds (kings) who have been failing at their job of caring for the sheep (Israel).  In verse 10 God declares, “I will rescue my sheep from their mouths.”  Veres 10-16 are again a beautiful picture of God as our Shepherd.  In this passage God states He will search for His sheep and seek them out; that He will rescue them from all the places they have been scattered; that He will feed them in a glorious place, making them lie down in rich pastures; and that He will bring back the strayed, bind up the injured, and strengthen the weak.  But not only would God the Father do this- He promised another.  In verses 23-24 He says, “I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them and be their shepherd.  And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them” (ESV).    

Who was this David the Lord spoke of?  Surely, the long deceased David would not rise again!  It is in the New Testament we see…

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child” (Luke 2:4-5, ESV).  This child was the incarnate Son of God, the David who was to come.  As the angels proclaimed, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11, ESV).  

In John chapter 10 this Savior continues to reveal who he is to us.  In verse 11 he states, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (ESV).  Again in verse 14 he repeats, “I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me” (ESV).  This word, know, is personal and communicates an intimate knowing and understanding.  Such a knowing refers to God’s gracious redemptive commitment to his sheep; a commitment which leads Jesus to say once more in verse 15, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”     

This commitment is demonstrated by Jesus first in the form of a parable.  In Luke 15:3-7 Jesus tells of a shepherd who leaves the 99 in search of the one sheep who is lost- language reminiscent of Ezekiel 34:11-12.  It is this lost sheep who the shepherd places on his shoulders as he carries him home.  

Ultimately, Jesus demonstrated his commitment to his sheep by fulfilling the words he spoke in John 10:15: he laid down his life for us.  Note that his life was not taken from him, but freely given on our behalf.  As our Lord said in John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  Amazingly, the Good Shepherd also became the slain Lamb of God, the one who bought our redemption with his blood. Here again we see the fulfillment of Ezekiel 34:16 in Christ.  Through his death and resurrection the stray have returned, the injured have been bound, and the weak are now strong (Luke 4:18).  For by our Shepherd’s wounds we have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).    

And yet, the one who now sits at the right hand of the throne of God is our Shepherd still.  As the Apostle Peter wrote, “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4, ESV).  It is our Shepherd whose return we eagerly await that we might reflect his glory for all eternity; the shepherd who carries us not only now, but forever.  

Published by Nicole Byrum

Hello! I have been a therapist in the community mental health field for the last 13 years. During this time I have worked with numerous women in recovery from substance abuse. It was this work, along with my relationship with Jesus, that inspired me to write my first book, Remade: Living Free. I have found writing to be a joy and it is my aim through this website to continue to share my faith, insights, and hope with my readers. Some fun facts about me: I have been married for 15 years and have 2 children; I love to read, run and cook; Even though I have lived in Ohio for most of my life I am not a fan of cold weather!

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