Tag Archives: Lord our Shepherd

M5C Jacob to Joshua And More Sheep

Sheep Need a Shepherd Because:

They are Creatures of Habit

Today’s lesson brings us to Joshua’s story. We’ve already seen how Jacob, as a shepherd working with his father-in-law,  worked with Laban for twenty years before he moved on. In that regard, he was like sheep. If Laban had been easy to work for, Jacob could have become a creature of habit and stayed there his whole life, but that was not God’s plan.

Lord our Shepherd

Phillip Keller grew up in East Africa where he made his livelihood as a sheep owner and sheep rancher. In his classic book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, he describes the way of sheep, “If left to themselves they will follow the same trails until they become ruts; graze the same hills until they turn to desert wastes; pollute their own ground until it is corrupt with disease and parasites. Many of the world’s finest sheep ranges have been ruined beyond repair by over-grazing, poor management and indifferent or ignorant sheep owners.” 13

“Because of the behavior of sheep and their preference for certain favored spots, these well-worn areas become quickly infested with parasites of all kinds. In a short time a whole flock can thus become infected with worms, nematodes and scab. The final upshot is that both land and owner are ruined while the sheep become thin, wasted and sickly.”14 Therefore:

Sheep Must Be Kept On the Move

sheep on moveSheep cannot be allowed to stay on the same ground too long. Keller says, “There must be a pre-determined plan of action, a deliberate, planned rotation from one grazing ground to another in line with right and proper principles of sound management . . . . No other single aspect of the ranch operations commanded more of my careful attention than this moving of the sheep. It literally dominated all my decisions . . . . The success I enjoyed in sheep ranching must be attributed to this care in managing my flock.”15

The moving of the sheep can be from every day to every week. Depending upon the lay of the land, some shepherds set up a base camp and fan out from it in wide circles in a clover leaf pattern, covering new pasture every day. That allows them to return to camp at night.16 Other shepherds may need to lead their flocks through valleys in order to get to the high country.

“The annual trek through the valley is the only way for the sheep to escape the barren, dry ground that has been parched by the summer sun or abused by overgrazing. The valley is the only way of escape from the relentless heat of the lowlands.”17

The valley is a place of danger and fear to the sheep. They are most vulnerable here to their predators, but the valley grows the richest, most nourishing grass beside clear water streams. It is the only way to those who choose to follow the Shepherd to the high country.

“The Lord is my shepherd . . . .” (Ps. 23:1). He is. He can do no less than to guide. It is who He is.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3). Paths of righteousness are always on the move, “having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will . . .” (Eph. 1:11). This plan is his best plan for our lives that we have to choose to follow to the high country. Other paths are always available that take little effort to follow.

If we are following Jehovah-Rohi and not straying, we will be growing spiritually. “On the move” is mentally and spiritually, not necessarily physically-but many times, that too. He is the Good Shepherd. He leads only in good ways that lead to good outcomes even though it may not seem that way at the time. His ways bring glory to only Him (not us) in the final analysis.

It is in the valley that my Shepherd “leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23: 2-4). Every threat becomes only a fearful shadow of the real thing, and the threat of death never becomes a reality before its time.

From Jacob to Moses to Joshua & Caleb

Joshua followed His ShepherdJacob’s descendants, living in the lush land of Goshen, did not understand that the valley is the only way to the high country. After exactly 430 years, over ten generations, they most likely lost sight of the big picture, and some probably did not even know of God’s promise to Jacob, that He guided them to Egypt and would guide them back home with  he leadership of Moses and Joshua.

Meanwhile, their journey meant bondage before getting back.

A new pharaoh grew fearful of the Israelites because, despite their bondage, they were growing in greater numbers than the Egyptians. He did not know about Joseph who was now deceased.

He ordered the slaughter of all baby boys. Moses’ mother hid him in a basket in the river Nile, saving his life when he was a baby. The daughter of Pharaoh found him and raised him as her own. When Moses learned he was an Israelite and ran from Egypt, after killing the Egyptian, he learned shepherding from his father-in-law in the backside of the desert.

After one oppressive pharaoh died and another took his place, the Israelites groaned in their slavery, crying for help. “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob” (Exod. 3:7). God saw their affliction and heard their misery.

Meanwhile, Moses saw the burning bush and turned aside to see the sight. God spoke to him, “I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey . . . .” (Exod. 3:8).

 “I see your future purposes and designs, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Caleb & You”

Joshua Jacob future purposesIn other words, God could have said to Moses, “I will do this through you, my shepherd. As their Great Shepherd, Jehovah-Rohi, I have had it all prearranged. I had a plan from the very beginning for your life and theirs. I see your future purposes and designs. I told Jacob to go with his sons to Egypt. If I’d allowed them to stay in Canaan, their descendants would have intermarried with the idolatrous people then in the land. I’ve had to have a pure nation, one with unity of purpose and one strong enough to take possession of the high country I am now bringing you to. And from this nation will be born The Deliverer, My Son.”

This is the background to the greatest deliverance in all history. It is also the background to the saddest mass suicide of all time–when the older generation of approximately six-hundred thousand men (not counting women and children)18 chose to die in the wilderness (see Exod. 12:36). They witnessed God open the Red Sea for them to walk over on dry land. Yet, they refused to believe God would help them take possession of His best plan for their lives.

They chose to go in circles, retracing their familiar steps around the same mountain for forty years, rather than reaching forth into the unknown. The Good Shepherd knew them, but they chose to not know Him. Only Joshua and Caleb knew their God when they came to the Jordan River’s edge, as they shepherded the younger generation across.

How did they get across? When they finally got to Jordan what did they do? Joshua records his words of faith, “Come near; listen to the words of the Lord your God . . . . Hereby you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will surely drive out from before you the Canaanites . . . .” (Josh. 3:9-10 Amplified).

They stopped. For three whole days, they prepared themselves for a holy purpose. They listened to God’s Word. When they came to the brink of the waters . . . they stood still. Surely Joshua reminded the people not to depend upon how they felt, but on God’s promise to bring them in. He reminded them how God continually led them in the wilderness: God’s presence was visibly with them in a cloud by day that shielded them from the hot sun and in a pillar of fire by night to show the way. Joshua demonstrated lessons in faith, and that they could depend upon the Lord to be with them now as He had been in the past-twenty-four hours a day.

And now, he would teach them how to follow the Lord, and that they could depend upon the Shepherd, Jehovah-Rohi, to guide them continually through fears of the unknown. He taught them to trust God to do His work through them to take possession of the Promised Land–His best plan for their lives–given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and now, to us.


18. This is the number who left Egypt. After 40 years, Bible commentaries estimate the total people to be about two million.


M5B Sheep of the Lord’s – Jehovah Rohi

Sheep Need a Shepherd Because:

They Are Defenseless

defenseless sheep

Sheep are unable to protect themselves. They have no claws, no horns or sharp teeth, and are usually weighted down with thick wool. They are easy prey, helpless and timid creatures, especially the little lambs.

A man was visiting a Scottish sheepherder’s ranch. His host met him at the railroad station, and on the long drive out to the ranch the visitor noticed the old shepherd was heavy of heart. The man said,

“You seem so downcast. What is wrong?” Tears welled up in the old shepherd’s eyes.

“Well, I lost sixty-five of my best lambs last night. Wolves got in.”

“And how many sheep did they kill besides?

The shepherd looked surprised. “Sheep? Don’t you know that a wolf will never take an old sheep so long as he can get a lamb?”4

This story confirms the thief is after our children, as Kim’s story revealed to us earlier. This story also reveals how much our Shepherd cares for us.

When possible, sheep are kept in a pen at night. A visitor to the Holy Land found a sheep pen. He said to the shepherd guide, “There must not be any wild animals around here at all because I notice that on your sheep pen there’s no gate.”

The shepherd replied, “That opening is my bedroom where I sleep at night.”5

Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved . . . I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:9, 11). Jesus further explains that when the wolf attacks, a hired hand will run away because he cares nothing for the sheep. The reason: he does not own them.

When Jesus laid down His life for the sheep, He did it for all mankind. He owns all the sheep of his pasture. Jesus is the only eternal gate to heaven. He was the only legal sacrifice for sin! Those who never choose to accept what Jesus did for them are stolen from Him by the evil wolf, or false prophets.

Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). He is the only one who cares enough to be with us when we, in our defenselessness, need Him.

Sheep Need a Shepherd Because They Follow

sheep followA pastor and his wife went to Israel. They were told the story of two Bedouin shepherds who crossed paths, each with their own flock of sheep. Hundreds of unbranded sheep collided together. It seemed hopeless to get them separated. After much confusion, each shepherd went a distance down the road in two separate directions, turned and called his sheep. Instantly, they polarized as each headed toward the voice of its shepherd. They knew that voice.6 “They will never follow a stranger; In fact they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:5).

Sheep follow a good shepherd; they cannot be driven. Ezekiel 34 is a whole chapter in the Bible dedicated to what God thinks about shepherds who use sheep for food rather than feeding the sheep. In the Old Testament, God says he will hold them accountable and will remove them from tending the flock and He will look after them himself (see Ezek. 34:10-11). In the New Testament, Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10: 27).

Sheep follow the Good Shepherd because He knows them. A shepherdess on television was challenged to name each one of her sheep. With the clock ticking, “She had to think hard sometimes, and yet she recognized each sheep and named its name: Daisy, Sally, etc.

To the viewer all the sheep seemed identical with no obvious identifying characteristics. Their faces were perhaps different in very slight ways that only the shepherd had come to know. Or maybe it was their behavior. Anyway, she named each of them as individuals.”7 “I know them,” says the Good Shepherd.

Sheep Stray

sheep over ledgeVegetation on the Highlands of Scotland can be pretty scarce. Yet, on a little cliff, about ten or twelve feet below, one can find a grassy ledge–grass that has not yet been eaten. The smell of that lush grass may lure a sheep to jump, landing on all fours. Once the sheep has indulged himself, his bleating can be heard as he tries unsuccessfully to return to higher ground.

The shepherd does not rush right over to rescue the sheep. He lets it stay down there. He has to wait until all the grass is eaten and the sheep grows thirsty and weak from hunger, until it cannot stand on its own. He knows if he lowers himself over the ledge to get it before then, the sheep will jump to its death.8 The shepherd knows the sheep will run from a stranger, and that the sheep does not yet know him. It if had, it would not have wandered so far.

Unfortunately, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). We make hasty decisions without consulting our Shepherd guide and then get on the wrong path, even dangerous cliffs and ledges. We get distracted by the notion the grass is greener on the other side, looking to our own way, rather than seeking the Shepherd’s way.

“I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays” (Ezek. 34:16). David records the same message in his twenty-third Psalm, “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (vs. 2). There are times when He has to make us lie down in order to get our attention, so He can rescue us and restore our souls.

shepherd carrying lambKay Arthur tells a story in her book, The Peace & Power of Knowing God’s Name, of a young man in Mexico listening to her teach about Jehovah-Rohi. He knew the Lord, but had trouble wandering, getting distracted by one thing or another, walking away from the Lord.

Kay explained how a shepherd could be forced to break the leg of a lamb that would not learn his lesson not to stray. Thus, the shepherd bound up the injury, and carried the lamb in his arms, talking to it and singing to it, until the lamb knew him.

The young man hobbled into class a couple days later with a broken leg and a grin on his face. When Kay asked him what happened he said, “It was the shepherd. He broke my leg.”9 The young man probably broke his leg when performing a reckless stunt of his own choosing. Nevertheless, he perceived his wound as a loving, caring act by the Good Shepherd, because of the Word he had heard, knowing it was for his own good.

We must understand the big picture. We are in a training program, to not stray, to learn to follow Jesus on this earth where satan preys like a wolf on those who choose not to follow. For big and little lambs, the “bread of adversity” (see Isa. 30:20) is the only thing that usually brings the desired result. It is during these times that “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isa. 40:11). And we are forced to “Be still, and know that [He] is God” (Ps. 46:10 emphasis added). Then, hopefully we will learn to never stray again.

Sheep are Totally Dependent upon the Shepherd

cast sheepThere are times in a sheep’s life when it can become “cast.” Webster defines cast as “something that results as a result of chance.”10

“Often when a sheep is heavy with lamb and heavy with wool, it will lie down on uneven ground and then roll over on its back into a shallow recess. When it does, it’s like a beetle, unable to rise or roll over by itself. On its back, the gases will gather, the limbs will stiffen and it won’t be long before it will die.”11 If the shepherd does not find the sheep at just the right moment, to rub it’s legs and body back to life, the sheep will die.

The shepherd David writes, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” (Ps. 42:11 KJV). Cast is translated “to despair.” “Eating is difficult. Sleep is impossible. Unrestrained anger is followed by consuming guilt. Confusion prevails. God is nowhere. Life is over. Unless someone intervenes, we will attempt to turn that feeling into reality.”12

That Someone who intervenes is Jesus who leaves the ninety-nine to rescue the one who needs Him at that point in time (see Matt. 18: 12-14).

When we, like a cast sheep, have experienced the Shepherd’s touch, we can say with the apostle Paul, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

4. Donald J. Getty’s sermon notes, McDonald Road Seventh-Day Adventist Church, McDonald, TN, http://mcdonald.southern.edu/sermons/99/0807.htm (accessed January 6, 2006).
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Lilyofthevalley, http://www.iidb.org/vbb/archive/index.php/t-128893.html (accessed February 6, 2005).
8. Getty’s sermon notes (accessed January 6, 2006).
9. Kay Arthur, The Peace & Power of Knowing God’s Name, (Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, 2002) p. 116.
10. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary-Eleventh Edition, (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, Springfield, MA 2003), p.192.
11. Baker, Way of Shepherd, “He Restores My Soul.” 12. Ibid.
13. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, (Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, 1970) p. 61.
14. Ibid., p. 62.
15. Ibid., p. 63-64.
16. Ibid., p. 65.
17. Baker, Way of Shepherd, “Even Though I Walk Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death . . .”

M5A Lord Our Shepherd – Jehovah Rohi

Then he [Jacob] blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm–may he bless these boys.” -Genesis 48:15

Lord our ShepherdJacob was a shepherd

Abraham was a shepherd. His son Isaac was a shepherd. Isaac’s son Jacob was a shepherd. In this passage, Jacob’s dying words to his grandsons referred to the Angel of the Lord, who protected him, as his shepherd. Yet, he and his descendants wound up in Egypt for 400 years (see Chapter 4).

Why would a shepherd lead his followers into bondage? How could this be God’s will? To answer these questions, we will look at why Jacob needed guidance from his Shepherd, then at sheep to see why we, like sheep, still need a shepherd today, who leads in and out of bondage.

Jacob needed guidance after he was forced to leave home to escape his brother’s wrath. Isaac favored Jacob’s twin brother Esau, while their mother Rebekah favored Jacob. This favoritism caused division in the family. Jacob deceived Esau into selling his birthright, and then, with Rebekah’s help, deceived his father into giving him the blessing belonging to firstborn Esau.

Jacob Encounters God at the Lowest Point in His Life

When Esau found out and threatened Jacob’s life, Isaac and Rebekah both commanded Jacob not to marry the local Canaanite women as Esau had done, but to flee to Haran to the house of his Uncle Laban, Rebekah’s brother.

Shepherd JacobAt a certain place on his trip, Jacob slept with a rock for his pillow. He dreamed of a stairway from earth to heaven and angels ascending and descending upon it. At the top he saw the Lord, who spoke to him:
“I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:13-15

The Lord reassured Jacob of his guidance and confirmed to him the same blessings He gave to Abraham and Isaac. Plus, he promised to someday lead him back home.

Jacob’s first order of business was to find a Godly wife. When he arrived in Haran, the first person he met was his wife-to-be.

“We’re from Haran,” some local shepherds told Jacob.

“Do you know Laban? He’s my uncle?”

“Yes, we know him, and here comes Rachel, his daughter.”

Rachel, a shepherdess, becomes Jacob’s wife with Leah

When Rachel, a shepherdess, brought her sheep for water, Jacob kissed her and wept out loud. He told Rachel his story, and she ran to tell her father. Laban accepted Jacob as his own flesh and blood.

Jacob excelled as a shepherd as he worked seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage. On the wedding night, Laban switched the older sister Leah for Rachel, so Jacob worked another seven years to pay for Rachel. However, Laban did allow Jacob to take Rachel in marriage at the beginning of those seven years.

Jacob becomes father of twelve  sons who were shepherds

Between Leah and her maid and Rachel and her maid, Jacob became the father of twelve sons and one daughter. Rachel was the mother of the two youngest-Joseph and Benjamin. After Joseph was born, Jacob knew it was time to take his large family and return home.

Laban did not want to let them go. He knew God was blessing him because of Jacob. He tried to outwit Jacob from increasing his flocks, which he hoped would keep him from leaving. Instead, the Lord guided Jacob with wisdom so that his flocks prospered greater in strength and number than Laban’s livestock.

When Laban’s attitude changed toward Jacob, the Lord told him, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

Jacob was more than ready to leave. After the twenty years Jacob worked for wages, Laban had changed them ten times, and unless God had been with Jacob, he would have been empty-handed now. Fearful that Laban would steal his daughters and grandchildren, Jacob took his family and animals and escaped at night.

Laban pursued Jacob and his family, but the Lord, in a dream, warned him not to say anything good or bad to Jacob. The two men made a covenant and set up a pillar and a heap of stones to signify that neither would cross over to do harm to the other. Laban kissed his daughters and grandchildren and said his goodbyes.

Jacob returned home to Isaac and a surprisingly tearful reunion with his brother Esau. Later, Isaac died at 180 years of age, and Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin.

Joseph, number eleven son, is sold into slavery by his brothers

However . . . Jacob favored Rachel’s sons. Out of his brother’s jealousy, seventeen-year-old Joseph was sold into slavery. Despite being a slave, at the age of thirty, Joseph became a ruler in Egypt. This was in fulfillment of a dream God had given him that placed him in a position to be the deliverer of his people. He organized the storage of grain for seven years and distributed it for the next seven years of famine. God prepared him to do this through another dream.

Jacob Knew God as His Shepherd Only at the End of His Life

Shepherd carries his sonBecause of the famine, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt for grain. They had to go through Joseph to buy food, but they did not recognize him; however, Joseph knew them and eventually revealed himself. After a very emotional reunion with his brothers, Joseph called for his father and brothers to come to Egypt, with all the families, sheep and other livestock.

Convinced Joseph was still alive and wanted to see him, Jacob agreed to go to Egypt. But he must have been apprehensive.

“Jacob, Jacob,” God spoke to Jacob in a vision at night.

“‘Here I am,’ he replied.

“‘I am God, the God of your father,’ he said, ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes'” (Gen. 46:2-4).

Joseph’s whole family found favor with the Pharaoh and, because they were shepherds, he gave them the best of the land in Goshen where they could feed their flocks.

Jacob’s dying words (see Gen. 48:15) of blessing to Joseph’s sons reveal that Jehovah-Rohi had been his shepherd, guiding him and delivering him from all harm. Jacob prophesied to his son Judah that from his line would come the Lion of Judah-Jesus Christ (see Rev. 5:5). Before he died, Jacob knew God was birthing a nation to whom the Messiah-the true spiritual Deliverer- would be born.

Jacob knew God fully as his Shepherd only after his reunion with Joseph, when his life was almost at its end. Therefore, it is imperative we learn about sheep and shepherding–that we, like sheep, are guided by our Shepherd. Only then will we gain the full comforting impact of Jehovah-Rohi’s guiding influence in our life’s journey, hopefully, long before our own life on this earth is ended.


Sheep Need a Shepherd Because They Are Not Very Smart

Lord Shepherd of sheepSheep can eat the wrong food (poisonous plants), and drink bad water. “Their flock mentality makes herding easy at times, and at other times, nearly impossible. When one restless sheep moves, the whole flock can move. When one old ewe sinks to the ground to chew her cud, the others follow.”10 On July 7, 2005, 450 sheep in Turkey jumped to their death because one sheep leapt over a cliff. The Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 other sheep followed. Those who jumped last were saved as the pile rose higher and higher and the fall grew more cushioned. The estimated loss to the shepherds who owned the sheep was $100,000.2

Like sheep, we require a shepherd. “You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezek. 34:31). God himself tells us that as people we are mere sheep. How can we, in comparison to Almighty God ever think we do not need a shepherd every minute of every day? We are His property, and very valuable to Him. He tells us, “. . . I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Sheep  Need a Shepherd Because They Require 24-Hour Supervision

shepherd watching sheepThe shepherd can have no other vocation. He is responsible for his flock’s total welfare–their food, water, health, and safety. “Sleeping with one eye open and both ears open, he listens for the bleats, the bells, and the dogs that would warn of any danger or restlessness among his flock”3

One eight-year old boy (a precious lamb) did not know these words that describe God: omnipresent (present in all places at all times), omniscient (knowing all things), or omnipotent (having unlimited power or authority). But speaking of our Lord (our Shepherd), he explained them beautifully as he wrote:

His dad (God) appreciated everything he had done and all his hard work on earth so he told him he didn’t have to go out on the road anymore. He could stay in heaven. So he did. And now he helps his dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones he can take care of himself without having to bother God. Like a secretary, only more important. You can pray anytime you want and they are sure to help you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the time. You should always go to church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there’s anybody you want to make happy, it’s God.

1. Don Baker, The Way of the Shepherd, (Multnomah Press, Portland, Oregon, 1987) “The Lord Is My Shepherd.”
2. “450 Sheep Jump to Deaths in Turkey,” www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-07/09/ content_458724.htm, (accessed February 6, 2006).
3. Baker, The Way of the Shepherd, “The Lord Is My Shepherd.”