Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Seventh Shepherd

By Brenda Black

Smooth and warm to the hand, the shepherd's crook is both tool and a work of art. The shepherd who carries it masterfully captures straying lambs or rescues endangered sheep from raging waters and ravaging wolves. He totes it gracefully and balanced upon his arm as an extension of himself, ever ready to save those he guards with his life.
The Old Testament is rich with foreshadowing shepherds leading up to the one sacrificial lamb protector. There are, in fact, five shepherds that pointed their crook toward the Christ. Each one provides a glimpse down the path to the cross taught Arthur W. Pink, an English Christian evangelist from the early 1900s.

Abel was the first as reported in Genesis 4:2, “Now Abel kept flocks...” This shepherd died at the hands of a wicked brother much as Christ would be crucified by the sinful masses. Second was Jacob who tended the flocks and watched over them (Gen. 30:31); protected them from wild beasts and paid for any lost or stolen (Gen. 31:38-40); and who tended to the weak and young with compassion (Gen. 33:13-14). Jacob was a true reflection of the loving, caring shepherd who held children on his knee, touched lepers and loved the outcasts. The third shepherd to point to Christ was Joseph. The very first description of Joseph is that of one who “was tending the flocks.” While Joseph cared for family and a nation, Jesus, the Good Shepherd fed the five thousand and healed the blind and lame.

Our fourth foreshadow shepherd is none other than Moses. Before he ever led the massive nation of Israel, he first watered, protected and guided sheep.

“Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father's flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock...Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.” (Gen. 2:16,17, 3:1-2a)

This is loaded with symbolism of Christ's journey to the cross! He defended the defenseless, stood in the gap for sinners and rescued us from death. He ascended a mount called Calvary and God hung their visible and burning with passion for His flock.

Shepherd number five may be the most conspicuous forerunner. Before he was a king, David herded sheep and risked his own life to protect them. “But David said to Saul, 'Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the seep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear...” (1 Samuel 17:34-36a) With Jesus, that looks like this: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54b)

In the book of Zechariah we find the sixth shepherd, suitably numbered. For he is the Antichrist. “For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hoofs. Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock!” (Zech. 11:16-17a)

The only other shepherd mentioned in Scripture is the Lord Jesus, and He is the seventh – the number of perfection! He came to bear the sins of others as Abel did, to pay the price as Jacob did, to feed the flock as Joseph did, to climb a mountain as Moses did, and to risk everything by laying down his life for the sake of those in his fold as David did.

The Lord came to defeat a “worthless” enemy and be our Good Shepherd! “The Savior gave his life not as a martyr for truth, not as a moral example of self-sacrifice, but for a people,” said A.W. Pink. I absolutely agree and thank God for the Seventh Shepherd.

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:23-25)

Jesus, keep us in the crook of your arm until we are safely home.

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