The Good Shepherd Pt 1
"He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."
In Ezekiel 34, God condemns the religious leaders of Israel. Instead of caring for God's flock -the people of Israel- they manipulated the people for their own advantage. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel are characterized as the flock of God, with God as the ultimate shepherd. Therefore, the political and religious leaders of the people were established to also serve as Shepherds of God's people. Like a shepherd cares for a flock, so the leaders were responsible for providing for the people's spiritual needs. But they failed. Thus, God condemned the leaders "You slaughtered the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who ware sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them" (Ezekiel 34:3-4). Consequently, God promises that He will take personal responsibility for the care of the flock (vs. 11-16). Furthermore, God promises that He will establish a Shepherd, the Messianic King from the linage of David, who will then care for His people and be their Shepherd (vs. 23-24).
This passage, and those like it in the Old Testament (see also Psalm 23; Jeremiah 23:1-6; Zech. 11), form the backdrop of Jesus' discussion in John 10. The religious leaders of Jesus' day were like their forefathers. Instead of caring for the people, they were only looking out for their own self-interests. Instead of guiding, nurturing, and guarding the people, they were only concerned about fleecing the sheep. They are the thief and robbers who enter a different way.
However, there is One Shepherd who is the true shepherd. Rather than caring for himself, he will care for his sheep, and so intimate is his knowledge of them, so extensive is his concern for them that he knows each of them by name (John 10:3). As a result, those of his flock will recognize his voice and follow him, and they will flee from those who have a different voice (vs. 4-5). This shepherd is none other than Jesus.
The statements of Jesus are both comforts as well as a challenge. The challenge comes in listening to the voice of Jesus. In an age where we are inundated with information, it is easy for the noise of our generation to drown out the voice of Christ. Instead of seeking the teaching of the Bible and the instruction it gives, we turn to all other kinds of voices. The result is that we become confused and disoriented in our perspective. If we are a follower of Christ, we must learn to listen to Him through studying the Bible.
But there is also comfort. The statement in verse 3 is a promise that He gives us. He knows us by name. This again gives us comfort in a depersonalized world where people evaluate us and judge us by their false standards. We become just a nameless person in the crowd where we feel isolated and lonely. But Christ knows our name.
Furthermore, He also leads and guides us. Christ walks ahead of us, a picture not only of one leading us down the right path but also one who walks ahead to protect us from any danger. He places Himself between us and any threat we face.
Jesus knows you by name, and when you seek him, He will lead you and protect you from the unknown harm you face. Spend time each day in His Word to listen to His voice, and He will guide you in the paths of righteousness.