“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Jesus … Our Savior and Our Shepherd
by Randall D. Kittle

In his book, The Bible Jesus Read, Philip Yancey, proposes that the underlying question all people have about God is this: “Do I matter to God? … Does God care about me?” The birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ answers this question for all of us. God cares for us so much that He sent His Son to save us from our sins and from the penalty our sins deserved. Jesus is indeed the answer.

But because of this, many see Jesus’ life on earth as merely a rescue mission. He did come to bear our sins upon the cross so we could be forgiven, cleansed from our sins, and reconciled to God. However, the good news doesn’t end there … there’s more to the story. Jesus didn’t just come to offer us “fire insurance” from hell. He didn’t come only to
pardon us. He also came to care for us! Jesus came to be our Savior … but He also came to care for us as a shepherd cares for his sheep! 

He Feeds His Flock
This is exactly how Isaiah portrays the coming Messiah in chapter 40, verse 11: “Like a shepherd He will feed His flock. He gathers the lambs in His arms, and carries them close to His heart. He gently leads those that have young.” This portrayal of the promised Messiah coming like a shepherd must have been shocking to the children of Israel. The Messiah was God’s promised deliverer, the one who would break the power of sin and save mankind. This staggering task invokes images of a mighty warrior with great power and strength. What a contrast to the simple, everyday shepherd Isaiah likens the Messiah to be like. But the Messiah would come as God intended him to come, not as man had imagined him to be.

The picture of the shepherd that Isaiah gives us in this verse reveals three characteristics of the Messiah. The first characteristic of the Messiah is that,
“Like a shepherd He will feed His flock.” Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy. In John 6:35, He declares, “I am the bread of life,” and promises “he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” To the woman at the well, Jesus promised, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (John 4:14). Jesus not only came to pardon us. He came to care for us by feeding the flock. Jesus came to satisfy the deepest hunger and thirst of our souls.

He Protects His Flock
The next characteristic of the Messiah we learn from Isaiah 40:11 is that “Like a shepherd … He gathers the lambs in His arms, and carries them close to His heart.” This is an image of protection. Just as a shepherd protects his sheep, so will the Messiah protect those who are His. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of this, for He told us in John 10:11, “I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Our Great Shepherd not only protects us in this life, but for all eternity!

The Good Shepherd gathers up in His arms even the weakest and most wandering ones, and puts them into the safest and most comforting place —
“close to His heart.” That is the safest place in all creation. No matter how furious hell might blaze against us, it cannot hope to pry even one of Jesus’ treasured ones away from His heart.

He Leads His Sheep
The third characteristic of the Messiah we learn from Isaiah 40:11 is that “Like a shepherd … He gently leads those that have young.” The Messiah is to provide direction for sheep that would otherwise go astray (see Isaiah 53:6). Jesus fulfills this in John 10:27, saying, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” And, He leads on paths that lead to green pastures and still water (see Psalm 23). The Good Shepherd wants the best for his sheep. Jesus loves us so much that He wants us to have a rich and full life. He said this in John 10:10, “I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly,” and, as our Shepherd, He will lead us on paths that bring His blessings into our lives.

The Messiah, the Good Shepherd, came to lay down His life for His sheep once and for all, but He is also concerned with their ongoing care. The Messiah is eager to feed His sheep. The Messiah is eager to protect His sheep. The Messiah is eager to lead His sheep and have His sheep follow Him.

The Promised Savior-Shepherd
This shepherd imagery employed by Isaiah is also employed by Micah in the well-known passage of his book, chapter 5, which speaks of salvation coming through a Messiah who would be born in “Bethlehem of Ephrathah”(verse 2). This is how Micah describes the Messiah who would rule in Israel, “He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they shall live secure, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth. And He shall be their peace” (verses 4–5).

The fact that the Messiah came as a shepherd should be a source of tremendous comfort to us, for it means that He provides ongoing care for His flock. Jesus did not simply come to save us from the
penalty of sin, He came to help us in the daily struggle to overcome the power of sin. The fact that the Lord came so He could “shepherd His flock” should assure us of His continual care for us.

We tend to thank Jesus for coming to earth, dying for our sins and saving us, but we often fail to recognize and thank Him for is His daily involvement in our lives. Jesus, by His sacrificial death on the cross, saves us from certain spiritual death. That, on its own, would be reason enough to devote ourselves to a life lived for Him.
But there is more! Jesus, the Good Shepherd, not only saves us, He also protects us. Micah promises that the Messiah’s flock “shall live secure.” Jesus, in John 10:28, says, “I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” Jesus will never surrender us to the enemy.

We Can Live Secure
To those of us who have already heeded the voice of the Good Shepherd, this message should give us tremendous comfort and joy. Jesus didn’t just save us only to abandon us to our own devices. Jesus saves us, and now daily we can “live secure” because He “carries (us) close to His heart” (Isaiah 40:11). 

The Messiah was never intended to be just some super hero who came to save the day and then left. The Messiah was to be like a shepherd — intervening daily in the lives of His flock in order to feed them, protect them from harm, and lead them in the way they should go.

If Jesus was only a Savior — someone who got us out of the trouble we were in, we might have cause for concern. The wonderful truth, however, is that Jesus is more than a Savior. He is our Savior
and our Shepherd. Our shepherd feeds us and protects us, and because of His ongoing care we know what it is like to “live secure.”

If humanity’s fundamental question is, “Does God care?” Jesus is indeed the answer. The first coming of Jesus was a rescue mission motivated by love (see John 3:16). But God’s care for us did not cease when the debt for sin was paid.  God’s continuing care for us is manifest in Jesus Christ — who came to earth to be our Shepherd. He came to feed our deepest longings. He came to protect us from the ongoing assaults of sin and evil, and lead us into righteousness.

Can you and I have the assurance that we belong to His flock? Yes, each of us can have that assurance. In a society that listens to many voices, the Good Shepherd requires that we listen for
His voice.  The Good Shepherd who feeds, protects, and leads, requires that we heed His voice and follow Him! If we follow Him above all else, we show ourselves to belong to His flock. And if we belong to His flock, we shall live securely … now and forever more!

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