Does the world need a true shepherd? Is it Jesus? When will he return to his flock?
In one of the most exciting prophecies of the Old Testament,the problem we face as individuals is summed up in just a few words.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6).
If you have ever walked along hillsides where sheep graze, you probably used sheep tracks. For sheep tend to follow one another: one leads and the rest fall in line. That is just what has happened to the human race, as God’s prophet observed. Adam led the way by choosing to break the one commandment that God had given mankind. He took the fruit that was offered to him and, the record says, “he ate” (Genesis 3:6).
The far-reaching consequences of that decision are apparent in the early chapters of Genesis. Cain killed his brother Abel, because he was jealous of him, and then lied about what he had done; and that was only the beginning! A few hundred years later almost everybody had walked along the same track – away from God. God looked at the society that then existed and passed this sentence:
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth’” (Genesis 6:5-7).
What a catastrophic outcome for a world that had strayed away from God! The only satisfactory solution was to eliminate mankind and start again. That new beginning was possible because God offered a way of escape. He invited Noah, and all who wanted to join him, to build an ark and be safe when the flood of destruction came. But nobody wanted to know. Only seven others – all of them members of Noah’s family – found the salvation God offered.
Noah’s faith saved him and his family from certain destruction; for the world that existed at that time perished. But Noah was given a new lease of life:
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
“As it was in the Days of Noah....”
What goes around comes around. Now our world is in a similar state to that which existed in those far-off days. People have again wandered off the Way that God has shown us – the Way that leads to life. This was the path that Jesus trod when he lived on earth. He was the embodiment of the way back to God; so much so that he could say: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If we try to follow his steps, he can lead us back to a right relationship with God. But again it is the case that very few people want to know about the salvation that God is offering. It is just as Jesus said:
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage,until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26,27).
But today is like those days in another important respect. Just as God offered Noah salvation from destruction and promised him a new life in a new world, God offers us the very same thing.
The Good Shepherd
Sheep do not always follow each other heedlessly and pointlessly. When they have a shepherd to guide them – and in Bible times the shepherd always walked in front to show them the way – sheep will follow, especially if they know the shepherd and trust his guidance. The coming of a shepherd who would guide people back to safe pastures, by still waters, was something the prophet had anticipated, for while he said we would all stray, he also said this about the coming Saviour:
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Read the whole of that exciting prophecy – written 600 years before the birth of the Lord Jesus – and you will see how graphically the saving death and glorious resurrection of Jesus was foretold. He would be oppressed and afflicted (verse 7), be cut off in death (verse 8), be buried in a rich man’s grave (verse 9), yet his days would be prolonged when God raised him from the dead and gave him the reward of everlasting life(verses 10-12).
Time and again in the New Testament this prophecy is seen to have been fulfilled by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He is the shepherd that God has provided to save us from destruction. In earlier times God provided Israel with kings who were to do just that, but they failed to give the nation clear direction and purpose. There were religious leaders too, whom God appointed, but they became too concerned about their own position and privilege. They left the nation leaderless; so God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is what Jesus said to his followers, by way of encouraging them to follow where he led:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep … I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by my own” (John 10:11,14).
Jesus laid down his life for all those who want to be his followers and who want eternal life. There can be no greater challenge in life, nor can there be a finer reward in prospect.
Editor, Glad Tidings magazine