John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."
Even though today's post begins with Jesus speaking of Himself in John's Gospel in the New Testament, I thought we would consider how this title is developed throughout the Old Testament. The beauty of this title of "Shepherd" or "Good Shepherd" is in how God the Father and Christ are portrayed as being Personal and Powerful. Powerfully, God easily wards off any threats that could swallow up His people in their faith. Personally speaking, God carries His people in His arms whenever they are limping, hardly walking or at their wits end.
Whatsoever is said of Yahweh, Jehovah God, in the Old Testament is attributed to the Son in the New Testament. Whenever Christ revealed Himself as "the Good Shepherd", the background revelation of the Old Testament is included. We looked in our last post at how God is revealed as "the Shepherd". By identifying Himself as "the Good Shepherd", Jesus is equating Himself with the Father. Rather than offering detailed exposition on a few passages, I want to offer a few headings to aid the reader in tracing this divine title of "shepherd" throughout the Old Testament. We will then conclude with final observations pertaining to how this all works in making clearer to us the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How we see the image of God as "Shepherd" developed in the Old Testament
1. The Guiding Shepherd.
Genesis 48:15; 49:24; Psalm 23:1-6
2. Providing Shepherd.
Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11
3. The Rescuing Shepherd.
Isaiah 63:11; Jeremiah 31:10
4. The Divine Shepherd. Psalm 80:1
The above passages are but a sampling. Still, we know that headings such as these carry forth into the New Testament's handling of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd.
Jesus' use of the Old Testament's imagery in identifying Himself as "the Good Shepherd"
Commentators have noted how much of the Old Testament imagery connects to Jesus as "the Good Shepherd". Ellicott, the classic commentatory notes in his commentary on John 10:
"The passage of the Old Testament referred to above has prepared our minds for this thought of Christ, especially Psalms 23; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-16; Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24. He is the Shepherd who is ideally good, fulfilling every thought of guidance, support, self-sacrifice that had ever gathered round the shepherd’s name. No image of Christ has so deeply impressed itself upon the mind of the Church as this has."
To cite one further example, John Gill in his commentary writes concerning the Old Testament imagery of "shepherd" and its association with Jesus Christ:
"I am the good shepherd,.... A shepherd of his Father's appointing, calling, and sending, to whom the care of all his sheep, or chosen ones, was committed; who was set up as a shepherd over them by him, and was entrusted with them; and who being called, undertook to feed them; and being promised, was sent unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and under the character of a shepherd, died for them, and rose again, and is accountable to his Father for everyone of them; the shepherd, the great and chief shepherd, the famous one, so often spoken and prophesied of, Genesis 49:24."
Today we briefly considered the Old Testament background and development of the "shepherd" theme as it relates to Jesus. Jesus claimed Himself to be "the Good Shepherd" in John 10:11. We noted how much of the Old Testament thought-patterns were embedded in the rich meaning of Jesus' statements. In all we noted four brief headings concerning how the "shepherd" theme is developed in the Old Testament, and how such can shed light for us on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus:
1. The Guiding Shepherd. Genesis 48:15; 49:24; Psalm 23; Mt 9:23
2. Providing Shepherd. Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11; 1 Peter 2:25
3. The Rescuing Shepherd. Isaiah 63:11; Jeremiah 31:10; 1 Pt 5:4
4. The Divine Shepherd. Psalm 80:1; Revelation 7:17
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