Micah 5:4 and John 10:11-18
(Quoted Scripture is New International Version)
A little girl reciting the 23rd Psalm began, “The Lord is my shepherd; that’s all I want”. Maybe she missed the exact wording, but she sure got the theology right. To have Jesus as our shepherd should be all we want. In our passage from the gospel of John, Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd, and reminds us that a good shepherd would lay down his life for the sheep. He would give his life to protect the sheep from thieves, wild animals, or whatever danger might confront the flock. Jesus laid down his life to protect us from Satan’s influence over us. We can give him our life, because he gave his life for us. He is the Good Shepherd who protects his flock, not the hired hand who runs away at the first sign of danger.
Sometimes people refer to pastors as the shepherd who leads the flock of people in her care. I like to think of myself as a sheep. One who says, “The Lord is my shepherd; that’s all I want and that’s all I need.
Let me set the stage for our reading today in Micah. The nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms when the prophet Micah told of the coming destruction of Israel. The northern kingdom was known as Israel, and the southern kingdom as Judah. To the people, Micah reaffirmed their belief in a God who hated sin and yet Micah also told of a God who loves the sinner. Micah foretold of the punishment for the sins of the people, yet he also foretold that God would send a Good Shepherd to lead the people into righteousness. Micah wrote that the one who will be ruler over Israel would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 4:2), and that God has shown the people how to be right with Him, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) In our passage from Micah today, the prophet tells us that God will send a Good Shepherd and what that Good Shepherd will do, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” (Micah 5:4)
Let us envision for a minute what a flock who doesn’t follow the Good Shepherd may look like. Sheep without a Good Shepherd to lead them will just wander aimlessly. They’ll stray away from the flock, they’ll lose their way, they’ll walk right over a cliff without a second thought. We hear of people all the time who are wandering aimlessly through life. They have messed their lives up, destroyed their marriages, lost their jobs, gone to prison, and destroyed every meaningful relationship they’ve had. We often hear them say “Somehow I just got on the wrong path.” I say to them, you’ve let the world influence you instead of Jesus. Jesus would not lead you down the wrong path.
If we don’t have anyone to lead us down the right path, invariably we will take the wrong one. The sinful influences of the world we live in will win if we don’t follow the One “who leads us in the paths of righteousness. For his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3)
The reason so many people lived messed up lives is because they don’t know where they are and they don’t know how to get to where they need to go. They just start wandering. Spouses wander away from their marriage. Children wander away from their parents and the way they were raised. People walk off cliffs of drugs, alcohol, and materialism. Just like sheep, we need guidance, direction, and leadership.
My grandfather raised cattle; first milk cows and sold the milk, later beef cattle he would sell at auction. He used to have a dog who would run behind the cows herding them up to come in from the pasture when grandpa would call, “Come bossy, come bossy.” The cow dog drove the cattle from behind, but if grandpa wasn’t leading them in front, they would invariably go the wrong way. If we don’t have a good leader, we get into trouble.
There was a group of tourists in the Holy Land and they passed by a flock of sheep being driven into town. They were taking pictures and one of the tourists asked the guide this question, “I thought the shepherd led the sheep from the front, why is he in the back?” The guide said, “That’s not the shepherd, that’s the butcher.” Those sheep are in trouble!
Jesus speaks about a thief in verse 10 of this 10th chapter of John. The verse just before the passage we read today, Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Some interpretations say, “Abundant life.” I like that. We cannot have the abundant life Jesus designed for us and desires for us to have, unless we follow Him as the Good Shepherd.
That thief is Satan and if you ever wonder if you’re headed in the right direction with your life or with the decision you’re about to make, remember this: The Shepherd will guide you to the right places, Satan will drive you to the wrong places.
That’s the position Satan and sin always take in your life. Driving you, shoving you from the rear with reminders of your past, giving you guilt, anxiety about the future, filling you with fear, uncertainties in the present, filling you with worry. If we allow him, he’ll steal our joy, kill our love, and destroy our relationships. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will make you lie down in green pastures, He’ll lead you beside still waters, he’ll restore your soul. (Psalm 23:2)
There is a great contemporary Christian song by Zach Williams called Fear is a Liar.
The words are, “When he told you you’re not good enough, when he told you you’re not right, when he told you you’re not strong enough, to put up a good fight. When he told you you’re not worthy, when he told you you’re not loved, when he told you you’re not beautiful, that you’ll never be enough. Fear he is a liar. He will take your breath, stop you in your steps. Fear he is a liar. He will rob your rest, steal your happiness. Cast your fear in the fire. ‘Cause fear he is a liar.”
Fear is what Satan depends on to influence our life. He won’t let us forget our past, and he wants us to be afraid of our future. We are afraid to trust Jesus to lead us, and to love us for who we are.
Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, is Jesus speaking to the reader. On April 15, Jesus says to us, “Trust me, and don’t be afraid. Many things feel out of control. Your routines are not running smoothly. You tend to feel more secure when your life is predictable. Let Me lead you to the rock that is higher than you and your circumstances. Take refuge in the shelter of My wings, where you are absolutely secure.”
Isn’t that what we yearn for in this life? In this world we live in we need for someone to love us fiercely and forever the way only a truly good shepherd can. In our quiet and secret moments, we yearn for someone stronger and wiser to take care of us. Most of us here were raised in good solid homes and we carry around with us the memory of how wonderful it was to be tucked into our cozy beds at night without worries that would threaten our rest. We went to bed without worrying whether the bills can be paid, or whether someone would shoot us in school tomorrow, or blow up the world we live in. Most of us, as children, snuggled down in our beds believing that someone else was in charge and we slept well, as only a child can, with literally no cares.
As adults we carry that memory in our sub-conscious and we yearn for something like it again. Indeed, we pine for it even more acutely because now we know what it is like to live without that security. Now we know what it’s like to wait for results from medical tests, and live in a world of hate and violence, poverty and hunger; and we have to deal with it every day. All these things were happening when we were growing up, but we didn’t know about it. Now we know what it is to lose a child to the influences of the world; or lose someone we love to death. Without a Good Shepherd to make us lie down in green pastures, lead us beside still waters and restore our soul, we are lost to fear and insecurity.
The quiet voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, can be lost in the chorus of worldly voices. Satan seeks to tempt us away from the Good Shepherd. The worldly voices of greed, materialism, and power lead us down the wrong path. The voice of Jesus and the joy of his mercy, grace, and the security of his love is what we long for. When we are weak and confused we may fall victim to the enticements of Satan’s voice.
There was an American tourist who was traveling in the Mid-East. He came upon several shepherds whose flocks had intermingled while drinking water from a brook. After an exchange of greetings, one of the shepherds turned toward the sheep and called out, “Manah. Manah.” (Manah means “follow me” in Arabic.) Immediately his sheep separated themselves from the rest and followed him.
Then one of the two remaining shepherds called out, “Manah. Manah.” and his sheep left the common flock to follow him. The traveler then said to the third shepherd, “I would like to try that. Let me put on your cloak and turban and see if I can get the rest of the sheep to follow me.”
The shepherd smiled knowingly as the traveler wrapped himself in the cloak, put the turban on his head and called out, “Manah. Manah.” The sheep did not respond to the stranger’s voice. Not one of them moved toward him. “Will the sheep ever follow someone other than you?” The traveler asked.
“Oh yes,” the shepherd replied, “sometimes a sheep gets sick, and then it will follow anyone.”
This happens. Maybe this has happened to you. When we are battered by the storms of life and distracted by voices urging us to go this way and that, we lose our bearings and we often become weak and even sick. That is when Satan steps in saying, “This drug, or this drink, or this relationship will make you feel better.” Please don’t listen to Satan’s voice. Listen for the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
In John 10:4 Jesus says, “When he (the shepherd) has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” In John 10:14 Jesus tells us, “I am the Good Shepherd: I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” .
Joe, my mother and I are in uncharted territory right now. Mom is dealing with losing her independence, and for an independent woman, she’s been widowed since 1983 and has done everything on her own, it’s difficult. Joe and I are dealing with having another person in our home after our youngest child left 12 years ago. Mom asked me the other night as I was kissing her good night, “How are you able to do all this?” I told her I keep my eyes and heart on Jesus, depending on Him to lead me in the right way.”
Satan and the world will always lead you down the destructive path. Don’t listen to Satan, he’ll destroy you. Spend quiet time with Jesus, getting to know Him. As you get to know Him and understand that He knows all about you, you will hear His voice in your heart and in your mind. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will always lead you down the path to abundant life.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut