Last week – thinking about the perfection of our salvation in Christ – I took our text from John 10. The Lord Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish…” Earlier in that chapter, the Lord Jesus called himself the Shepherd of those sheep. He said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” “I am the good shepherd and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” “Other sheep I have, which are not of his fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Several times in John 10 Christ Jesus calls himself “the GOOD shepherd.” In Hebrews 13 Paul also calls Jesus a “shepherd,” but he changes the descriptive adjective: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that GREAT shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
This morning, I would like to magnify our Saviour, by sharing with you some of the background behind the “good” and “great” Shepherd, before adding another adjective – “glorious.” To do this I will take you to three successive Psalms of David – the well-known 22nd, 23rd and 24th. What I’d like you to consider is that each Psalm, and each adjective, highlight a different office of Christ.
First, let’s go from John 10, and the “GOOD Shepherd” there back to Psalm 22.
Christ Jesus was in Jerusalem when He and his disciples passed by a man whom they knew had been born blind. With the disciples still carrying some of their Jewish mental baggage, they asked Jesus, if He knew whether the man’s sin before he was born had caused his blindness or was it the sin of his parents. The short answer was that, other than the sin of Adam two millennia earlier, no one’s sin was responsible. The man was blind so that “the works of God should be made manifest in him” – John 9:3. When the Lord went on to heal the man that ignited a day-long controversy which appears to have ended with Jesus’ comments about “the good shepherd.” And remember that Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
Now look at Psalm 22. Does verse 1 sound familiar to you? “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Those are Christ’s words as He hung on the cross while giving His life for His sheep. I’d like you to think of Psalm 22 as the song of “the good shepherd.” It contains prophecy about Christ. Why had God the Father forsaken His Son while He was there on the cross? Because laid upon the Saviour were the sins of all those sheep He intended to save. Isaiah says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on him (on the good shepherd) the iniquity of us all.”
Now notice Psalm 22:6-7 – “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” Not only do we hear those words, and see this shameful treatment toward Christ, while on the cross… But these words of prophesy are restated and reiterated by Isaiah. “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not” – Isaiah 53.
And what was taking place when He was so despised? It was Christ’s substitutionary death for me. “He was wounded for our transgressions.” “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him (“the good shepherd”) the iniquity of us all.”
Going on in Psalm 22 we read in verse 16 – “For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.” Remember this a Psalm of David, but the details never took place in David’s life. This is prophecy of Christ. Furthermore, David knew nothing about crucifixion. It hadn’t been invented in David’s day. Without understanding what he was doing, the Psalmist described the nailing of Christ to the cross. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” in a very unique manner – crucifixion. “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” – I Peter 3:18. David also said in Psalm 22 – “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” More than a thousand years before the crucifixion of the Saviour, David foretold of the Roman guards gambling for the seemless robe of the Saviour – Matthew 27:35.
Do you have any questions about the miraculous nature of the Word of God? Here is some evidence. The prophecies found in the Old Testament –fulfilled in the New Testament – prove the truth of the Bible. The God who sees all things at once, records in past history what He will do in future history.
In talking about His relationship to His Sheep, Jesus described Himself as the “good shepherd.” There has never been a gooder Shepherd than Christ Jesus. As Paul said in Romans 5 – “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that what, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
My friend, you and I are ragged, mangy, scrawny worthless sheep. We aren’t worth taking to pasture. But under the eternal covenant of God, the Good Shepherd came into this world to give His life a ransom for many. “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Are you one of those sheep? Do you say that you don’t know, or you aren’t sure? Remember, Jesus Himself said, “MY sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish…” Do you say that you aren’t sure if you are one of the Lord’s sheep. I can tell you with all confidence, if you’ll follow Him in repentance and faith up the hill to Calvary, then you ARE one of those sheep. I implore you: answer that question and settle that matter today – right now.
I believe there are many here today, who have already followed the Shepherd to the cross.
To you folk I point to Psalm 23 where we see the “GREAT shepherd.”
I have already said that the term “Great Shepherd” comes from the pen of Paul in Hebrews 13. This is found at the conclusion of this epistle. This is a part of Paul’s benediction. It is a prayer that God the Father would bless the Christians reading or hearing Paul’s letter. But it is said in a special way. God is referred to as He who “raised up the Great Shepherd of the sheep.” “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that GREAT shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” For the sake of this message, it is the “Good Shepherd” who went to the cross giving His life for the sheep. But it is the “Great Shepherd” who was raised victorious over death and the grave. You could say that the “Good Shepherd” is that special prophet who revealed God’s hatred for sin and who revealed God’s grace toward a few wretched sinners. But then the “Great Shepherd” is the living priest, who is today interceding before Father on behalf of His sheep. Not only does He intercede for His unworthy sheep, but He meets their needs – He blesses them.
I am glad that you have Psalm 23 memorized. It makes my job easy. Thinking back on those verses, you’ll notice that every verb which refer to the Lord are in the present tense. “The Lord IS my shepherd,” therefore in the future I shall never want what I truly need. “He MAKETH me to lie down… he LEADETH me… he RESTORETH me.” “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou ART with me.” Even when David looks to the future, his timeless, omnipresent Shepherd is there every step of the way. The “Good Shepherd” gave His life for His sheep, but the “Great Shepherd” arose again to constantly bless those sheep until they are all gathered together for eternity.
There are people who believe that Christ is sacrificed over and over again in their worship services. It is sad to say, but those people are not following the same Shepherd as David. Jesus is NOT dying today to wash away my sins. He DID that in Psalm 22. He did that at Calvary. “So Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” – Hebrews 9:28. “For by ONE OFFERING he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” – Hebrews 10:14. These and other similar scriptures come from the same epistle which speaks of Christ as the Great Shepherd.
Praise the Lord, that Christ Jesus is alive and well, and currently ministering to the needs of the sheep which He purchased with His own blood. “Christ is able also to save them to the uttermost because He ever liveth to make intercession for them” – Hebrews 7:25. “Jesus’ intercession” for us is not a figure of speech. It is a special office and responsibility which the “Great Shepherd” has taken on Himself in order to guarantee the completion of our salvation. “If any man sin we have an advocate with the father; Jesus Christ the righteous” – I John 2:1. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” – Romans 8:32-34.
As Psalm 23 tells us, it is our Shepherd who comforts us. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you MY peace I give unto you.” Among many other things, God’s sheep have no reason to fear death. Our “Good Shepherd” died on our behalf, and our “Great Shepherd” lives today, continuing to meet our needs. He still provides us with our daily ration of manna. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in house of the Lord for ever.” Didn’t the Saviour say to His sheep, “Let not your heart be trouble; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am , there ye may be also.”
Without Christ’s ministry as our Great Shepherd, we’d be like the heathen who worship at the tomb of Mohammed. Praise the Father for our Great Shepherd! But again I declare unto you with all the authority of the Word of God, if you have not met Christ as the “Good Shepherd” who giveth His life for the sheep, you can forget about Him as the “Great Shepherd.” If you are not a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus, then Psalm 23 doesn’t belong to you.
With that we come to Psalm 24 and what I will call the “GLORIOUS Shepherd.”
The Apostle Peter gives us a more Biblical adjective, but it doesn’t synchronize well with “good” and “great.” Peter refers to the earthly return of the “Chief Shepherd.” I Peter 5:1 – “The elders which are among you I exhort… feed the flock of God – the Lord’s sheep… and when the CHIEF Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” It is a mistake, Biblically and theologically, to separate the incarnation of Christ and His death at Calvary – His birth and death – from the return of the Glorious Shepherd. My purpose is not to examine the rewards He will bring with Him, and the various people to receive them. My purpose at this point is only to say: “Here He comes.”
Psalm 24 – “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob.Selah. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.”
I will not pretend to find direct references to sheep and the Shepherd here in Psalm 24. But I am going to tell you that Christ, the Son of God, the Shepherd of the sheep created the universe. And I am going to tell you that the believers in Jerusalem were correct when they honored Christ at His entry into the city on that last trip before the crucifixion. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.”
The “Glorious Shepherd” is at this moment making preparations for His triumphal reentry into this world. Look up and lift up your head, because your redemption draweth nigh. “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” – Philippians 5:4-5. “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” – James 5:8.
Are you properly prepared to stand before the “Glorious Shepherd” – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Let me remind you, if he is not your “Great Shepherd” today, and if he is not your “Good Shepherd” by way of the cross, then you are going rue the day that you stand before the “Glorious Shepherd.” I am afraid that you will hear Him say, “Depart from me ye cursed into ever lasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels.” What does Psalm 24:3-4 say? “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart…” You cannot wash your hands of the stains your sins have caused. But the blood of the “Good Shepherd” can. And you do not have a pure heart until the “Good Shepherd” regenerates and makes it pure. You do not want to face the “Glorious Shepherd,” if you have not met the “Good Shepherd.”
As David, in his Second Psalm, exhorts us: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled by a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” He could just as easily and just as correctly said, “Kiss the Good Shepherd, who giveth His life for the sheep.” Is your trust in Lord Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross? Do you love the Great Shepherd? Perhaps your heart can hear His voice this morning. Can’t you hear Him calling your name? He’s left His ninety and nine sheep, and He’s out in the desert to meet you. Come to the Saviour in repentance and faith today. Surrender to the Spirit and put your faith in Him right now.