In the last Webinar which was the first one for the New Year, we discussed the help of The Lord when people are in distress. One of the Psalms that we mentioned was Psalms 23 that the Jewish people used to read on Shabbat mornings. These words about The Lord as a shepherd reminded us a few passages from the Hebrew Bible and from the New Testament that we are going to enjoy today.
The first time that a shepherd is mentioned in the Bible is the time when it was actually decided that the shepherd is the most important occupation, when The Lord accepted the offering of Abel, who was a shepherd as written in Genesis 4:2-
"וַתֹּסֶף לָלֶדֶת, אֶת-אָחִיו אֶת-הָבֶל; וַיְהִי-הֶבֶל, רֹעֵה צֹאן וְקַיִן הָיָה עֹבֵד אֲדָמָה."
"Later she gave birth to his brother Abel .Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil."
even thought we can find in the bible some important shepherds that became afterwards leaders, like Joseph, Moses, Joshua and David, the only shepherd that is everlasting and did good for his people is The Lord, as we can see in the fable of the shepherd that is found in Ezekiel 34:5-10-
" וַתְּפוּצֶינָה, מִבְּלִי רֹעֶה; וַתִּהְיֶינָה לְאָכְלָה לְכָל-חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, וַתְּפוּצֶינָה. יִשְׁגּוּ צֹאנִי בְּכָל-הֶהָרִים, וְעַל כָּל-גִּבְעָה רָמָה; וְעַל כָּל-פְּנֵי הָאָרֶץ נָפֹצוּ צֹאנִי, וְאֵין דּוֹרֵשׁ וְאֵין מְבַקֵּשׁ. לָכֵן רֹעִים, שִׁמְעוּ אֶת-דְּבַר יְהוָה. חַי-אָנִי נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, אִם-לֹא יַעַן הֱיוֹת-צֹאנִי לָבַז וַתִּהְיֶינָה צֹאנִי לְאָכְלָה לְכָל-חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה מֵאֵין רֹעֶה, וְלֹא-דָרְשׁוּ רֹעַי, אֶת-צֹאנִי; וַיִּרְעוּ הָרֹעִים אוֹתָם, וְאֶת-צֹאנִי לֹא רָעוּ. לָכֵן, הָרֹעִים--שִׁמְעוּ, דְּבַר-יְהוָה. כֹּה-אָמַר אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, הִנְנִי אֶל-הָרֹעִים וְדָרַשְׁתִּי אֶת-צֹאנִי מִיָּדָם וְהִשְׁבַּתִּים מֵרְעוֹת צֹאן, וְלֹא-יִרְעוּ עוֹד הָרֹעִים, אוֹתָם; וְהִצַּלְתִּי צֹאנִי מִפִּיהֶם, וְלֹא-תִהְיֶיןָ לָהֶם לְאָכְלָה. "
"They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; my flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.” Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: “As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver my flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them.”’”(Ezekiel 34:5-10)
This passage with others as 1 Kings 22:17 or 2 chronicles 18:15 can show us that the only one that will take care of his people is The Lord or someone that he sent as we can see in Numbers 27:17 or 2 Samuel 5:2 or Psalms 78:71-72.
Another beautiful passage about the shepherd along with the one in Psalms 23 is the next one:
"רֹעֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל, הַאֲזִינָה נֹהֵג כַּצֹּאן יוֹסֵף;יֹשֵׁב הַכְּרוּבִים הוֹפִיעָה. לִפְנֵי אֶפְרַיִם, וּבִנְיָמִן וּמְנַשֶּׁה עוֹרְרָה אֶת-גְּבוּרָתֶךָ;וּלְכָה לִישֻׁעָתָה לָּנוּ. אֱלֹהִים הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ; וְהָאֵר פָּנֶיךָ, וְנִוָּשֵׁעָה."
"Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; you who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your power and come to save us! O God, restore us And cause your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved."(Psalms 80:2-4)
When people can feel the protection of the shepherd they will try to be good sheep and not to run away from the flock. Every sheep is special and she or he can try to go one way or the other, but when we find the directing, guiding and protection of The Lord, we can become better sheep every day.
One of the students from the Webinar asked me to quote the next passage from the New Testament that speaks also about the good shepherd as written:
"הוֹסִיף יֵשׁוּעַ וְאָמַר: "אָמֵן אָמֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם, אֲנִי הוּא שַׁעַר הַצֹּאן. כָּל אֲשֶׁר בָּאוּ לְפָנַי גַּנָּבִים הֵם וְשׁוֹדְדִים, וְהַצֹּאן לֹא שָׁמְעוּ לָהֶם. אֲנִי הַשַּׁעַר. אִישׁ אִם יִכָּנֵס דַּרְכִּי - יִוָּשַׁע; הוּא יִכָּנֵס וְיֵצֵא וְיִמְצָא מִרְעֶה. אֵין הַגַּנָּב בָּא אֶלָּא לִגְנֹב וְלַהֲרֹג וּלְהַשְׁמִיד. אֲנִי בָּאתִי כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לָהֶם חַיִּים וּבְשֶׁפַע שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לָהֶם. אֲנִי הָרוֹעֶה הַטּוֹב. הָרוֹעֶה הַטּוֹב נוֹתֵן אֶת נַפְשׁוֹ בְּעַד הַצֹּאן. הַשָֹכִיר, שֶׁאֵינֶנּוּ רוֹעֶה וְהַצֹּאן אֵינָן צֹאנוֹ, כִּרְאוֹתוֹ אֶת הַזְּאֵב בָּא, עוֹזֵב אֶת הַצֹּאן וּבוֹרֵחַ וְהַזְּאֵב חוֹטֵף וּמְפַזֵּר אוֹתָן, שֶׁכֵּן הַבּוֹרֵחַ אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא שָׂכִיר וְאֵין הוּא דּוֹאֵג לַצֹּאן. אֲנִי הָרוֹעֶה הַטּוֹב. אֲנִי מַכִּיר אֶת שֶׁלִּי וְשֶׁלִּי מַכִּירִים אוֹתִי, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהָאָב מַכִּיר אוֹתִי וַאֲנִי מַכִּיר אֶת הָאָב; וְאֶת נַפְשִׁי נוֹתֵן אֲנִי בְּעַד הַצֹּאן. גַּם צֹאן אֲחֵרוֹת יֵשׁ לִי, אֲשֶׁר אֵינָן מִן הַמִּכְלָא הַזֶּה. עָלַי לְהַנְהִיג גַּם אוֹתָן. הֵן אֶת קוֹלִי תִּשְׁמַעְנָה וְיִהְיֶה עֵדֶר אֶחָד וְרוֹעֶה אֶחָד"
"So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."(John 10:7-16)
All we need in our life is the understanding that the shepherd is good and we as his flock should also do good in his world. It's amazing that the Hebrew word for shepherd (resh- 'ayin- heh) has the same letters as the word evil. The first word shows us the protection that we must have from the second.
Have a great week, Eli