It is said that John 3:16 is the most well known and memorized verse in the Bible. It has also been said that the twenty-third Psalm, sometimes called “The Shepherd’s Psalm” is the most well known and memorized chapter of the Bible. The 23rd Psalm is often used in times of sorrow and affliction, for it speaks of such peace, tranquility, security and comfort, even in times of trial. However, each that leans upon the wonderful blessings found therein should realize that all these blessings are dependent upon the first five words, “The Lord is my shepherd”. Should the Lord not be one’s shepherd, then those blessings are not a reality for him or her. And, the fact is, far too many trust in the blessings but are lacking in their choice of shepherd. The Messianic prophet, Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” (Isa. 53:6). He speaks here of those who have forsaken God as their shepherd and turned to shepherds of their own choice.
There is only one shepherd that can provide the divine blessings culminating in an eternal home in heaven. That shepherd is the Lord! Yet, the Lord has given man the free will to follow Him or to follow the shepherd of our own choice. After leading Israel into their promise land, Joshua told them, “…choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). There are many “shepherds” in the world that are nothing more than “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15). They often use “good words and fair speeches” in their efforts to deceive the hearts of men (Rom. 16:18). Of true shepherds there is only one; of false shepherds they are legion.
What determines who our shepherd is? The one you follow is your shepherd. Paul said, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). Jesus said concerning the shepherd, “…and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:3-4). Jesus once asked, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46). This is the same as saying, I am not your shepherd if you are not following me. Thus, if one is following the teachings and practices of some man, group of men, man made discipline or creed book, that person has not the Lord as their shepherd, but that which he or she is following. On the other hand, if one is following the commands of the Lord exclusively and explicitly, then the Lord is his shepherd.
Jesus Christ is our Lord and our Shepherd in this the Christian age. The very word “Christian” indicates the same. The Hebrew writer referred to Jesus Christ as “that great shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:20). Jesus himself 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” (John 10:11, 14). He is the one that leads us to eternal salvation by following His instructions. He said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Paul wrote that the gospel of Christ, “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17). And, on the mount of transfiguration a “bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5).
There is indeed one shepherd and He has just one fold. As Jesus spoke to the Jews He said, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold” referring to the Gentiles that would later be brought in. He went on to say, “them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Christ is the one shepherd and His church is the one fold. Saying that He is the shepherd is the same as saying that He is the Lord. It is the same as saying He is the head. When one listens to the words of the Lord and obeys those words, then the Lord is his shepherd and he is of the Lord’s one fold. All other shepherds are depicted as being thieves and robbers (John 10:1, 8), and He says of them, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
There are many shepherds, but only the true shepherd can lead us to eternal life. We have the freedom to choose which shepherd we choose to follow. But it is a deadly mistake to follow any but the Lord.
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.