Dr. Ed Young - The Good Shepherd
We're all familiar with somewhat Psalm 23, even those outside of the understanding. We know that famous passage. We've talked about it. We've exegeted it recently, and it begins "The Lord is my Shepherd". and we hear that at funerals and we read it, and we've heard it recited dramatically, and we just sort of... it's one of those phrases that's slick in our minds. It doesn't have the heaviness. "The Lord is my Shepherd". That's a sweet thing. But think about it for a minute. It's really a powerful confession of faith. For me to say, for you to say "The Lord is my Shepherd" in the first place, it means that you and I have to understand that we're sheep.
Now if you know anything about sheep, that's not a compliment. Let me remind you about sheep. Number one, sheep are perhaps the dumbest animal God ever brought into existence. Sheep are dumb, and here it says, "The Lord is my Shepherd," therefore I'm a sheep. Therefore, you and I are dumb to begin with. Let's start there. And then we know that sheep have no sense of direction. They'll just go right into the wilderness. They'll go and walk right over a cliff. They have no sense of direction. They have no way to recall where they've been before. More than that, sheep cannot find food for themselves. They have the inability to do it, and when they got in the pasture, they don't know the difference from poison, poison grass, and nourishing grass. They can't even find water. They have no sense in which they can smell water and go to a spring or to a brook. You can't find any more helpless, pitiful, directionless, ignorant, slow animals on the earth than a sheep.
So read, "The Lord is my Shepherd," oh, that means you and I, we're like sheep. That passage in Matthew, it says that here are all these people who are worried and confused, and they are like sheep without a shepherd, and sheep without a shepherd cannot live, cannot survive on this earth. That's the powerful picture that we have there in Psalm 23, and it is elaborated on by Jesus in John Chapter Number 10. Look at it. I hope you have your Bibles there with you. In John Chapter 10, we read more about the relationship between sheep and a shepherd. Verse 1, Jesus is speaking, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold, the sheep fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber".
Now we have to know something about sheep in the first century. They would have two types of sheep folds. I've seen both of them in Palestine. They'd have one type that would be in a town or a city. It would be a large, probably bricked in place, and the shepherds would come into town and they'd put all their sheep in that sheep fold, and they'd have one of the shepherds just stay at the door. And the next morning, the shepherds would come out to get their sheep, and they would speak to them, and we'll read about this. They know their voice, and they would call their sheep out of that community sheep fold, and they would go out to pasture.
But the sheep fold we're most familiar with would be those that the shepherd would build out there were they were pasturing their sheep. They would take thorns and stickers and all kinds of rubble there, and they'd build a sheep fold, and they would put it there, and that's where they would hustle all the sheep, lead all the sheep to go in there at night. Look at the rest of the picture Jesus gives us, "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name, leads them out, and when he goes forth, all his own, he goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice".
Interesting. Here's the picture. They didn't have sheep dogs, usually. A shepherd would go and lead the sheep, and they would follow him. He would lead them to the sheep fold at night, and they would go in, and the shepherd would lie down at the door. He says, "I am the door". This is Jesus, and therefore, no sheep could get out, and no wolf could come in unless they went over the shepherd. So the shepherd himself was the door, protecting and defending the sheep, and when they would go out, he would examine every one to make sure there were no beggar lice, there was nothing wrong with the sheep, and then they would go out to pasture. And the shepherd would walk ahead of them. And he says, "My sheep know My voice".
It's interesting, sheep in this day were usually not used for mutton, not for food, not very much, and they were usually not used for sacrifices, though sometimes, sheep were there for their wool. And therefore, a shepherd would have a flock of sheep for an extended period of time, and he named every one of his sheep. "Floppy, Curly, Long-Nose, Spotted-Foot," and he would call their names, every one in the flock because he knew them personally and intimately. That's the way we see the picture here. The Lord is my Shepherd. He walks ahead of us. He puts us in protective areas. He is the door. They have to go through Him. The Lord is my Shepherd. And that's how He shepherds us. We are sheep in His flock, and therefore, He knows everything about us. Let me ask you something. Is there anything in your life, any little area of your life you haven't yet surrendered to the Good Shepherd?
You say, "Lord, I give You all of my life. Take everything, but I'm going to keep this little part for myself". Let me tell you what I did years ago. I just sat down, and I said, "I want to list any area of my life that is not transparent to Jesus Christ," and I made a list, and I let the Holy Spirit deal with that in my life. Also, I'd recommend that you take things that may tempt you. You've fallen before. Slewfoot, the devil, knows how to trip us up again. Why not take a make a list. "Lord, this is areas that I may fall in. Boy, my tongue will speak. I'll be impatient". Whatever it might be, write those temptations down and give them to the Lord.
You see, He speaks to us. He talks with us. He tabernacles with us. He lives with us, and so we see the teaching here exactly of how, if the Shepherd, He is our Shepherd, we are to completely yield to Him, existentially, every moment of our life. It's His. And when that happens, freedom comes, joy comes, transparency comes, and a new life begins to happen, and we realize that we're sheep, and He is the Shepherd, and what a thrill it is to know that God in Jesus Christ is orchestrating our lives every second of every day. So we see here exactly, the Shepherd's relationship to the sheep. And then we see in the passage a wonderful thing. We see how also, the Good Shepherd defends the sheep, and the Good Shepherd blesses the sheep, and more than that, the Good Shepherd gives bounty to the sheep.
Look at it in Verse 7 of John 10, "Truly, truly I say to you". Jesus once again saying, "Hey, nail this down. Don't miss this". "Truly, truly, I say to you, I Am the door of the sheep". We already know that. "All who come before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them". As sheep, we do not hear all the siren calls. We're not follow all the dead-end streets that are available. We not, do not fall prey to mythology of foolishness. We not get involved in something that is called a church, but is not obedient to the principles and the prescription of a church that we find in the Bible. You see, we know authenticity. We know reality. We are enmeshed in the truth of God.
Jesus says, "I Am the door. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and he will go in and out and find pasture". He said, "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they might have life", here it is, "and have it abundantly". Some people think that being a Christian is slow and boring and dull and not exciting. Jesus says, "I came to give you life. To give you life that is overflowing". The word abundantly there means it's the picture of the ocean coming in with the tides, and the tide comes in, and the wave swells and it recedes. Only another tide comes in, and the wave swells. It's a life of abundance, a life of over-flowing, a life of joy.
The Psalmist says God came to give you and me joy. Isn't that great? To give us joy, abundant life, over-flowing life, a plentiful life, a free life. That's what happens. That is His provision for us, and that is protection of us if we know His voice. We know His steps. We follow in His steps, in His wake. We're sheep, confident when He leads us into the pasture into life. We know that we are coordinated with Him. We're in His army, and that's a thrilling thing.
See, you and I, we're the glory of God. Go to an athletic event, and watch the parents as they're watching their children play. That's sometime a better spectacle than watching the game. I mean, they're into it. They're with it. Go, go to an exercise in a school when a child has a part. Watch the parents. Man, they are thrilled to death. Watch parents as they watch their children, and you're seeing an exciting thing. Their glory, their thrill is in those children. By the same token, tragically, I've been there when parents watch their child coming out of a holding area where the child had been taken in by the police for drunken driving. Watch the face of those parents. How discouraged, how broken, how tearful they are.
You see, Jesus looks at you and me, and we are sheep in His pasture, and He rejoices with us, and He wants to make sure that we stay following Him, close to Him. We can hear His voice. We can know His direction because we know the Father wants everything that is great and full and abundant for you and for me. I'm afraid that those who preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ have let one part of the Bible being left out, because there's been so much false interpretation. "If I have enough faith, I'll always be healthy. If I have enough faith, I'll always be wealthy".
That's not Biblical truth. But there is an element of truth there, because when I am a sheep in the pasture of the Shepherd, He's doing everything He can in sickness and in health, in the top of the mountain, in the bottom of the mountain to give you and me a life that is abundant. We can't miss that because it's been abused. The Father, the Shepherd wants what's best for all His children. So we see the relationship, the relationship that sheep have with the Shepherd, and we see the provision and the protection the sheep have with their Shepherd, and then we see something even better than this. We see how much the Shepherd loves the sheep. Look at Verse 11, Chapter 10 of John. He said, "I'm the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep".
Now I want you to notice something in Verse 11 and all the way down in Verse 15 and in Verse 17 and in Verse 18 Jesus said, "A Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep". In other words, Jesus puts His life on the line. The word for there means instead of, you could translate it. A shepherd lays down his life instead of his sheep laying down his life. So we look at the Cross and we say, "What in the world is the Shepherd doing on the Cross"? The Shepherd is on the Cross, laying down His life for His sheep. That's what He's doing, so you and I will have a straight entree all the way to the Father in Heaven.
When you say "The Lord is my Shepherd," that is a tremendous statement when we're living out the role of the sheep. Now, I want you to see something I bumped into that I thought was very, very interesting. Look at Verse 27 of this 10th Chapter of John. "My sheep hear My voice". We've talked about that, "and I know them, and they follow Me". Bottom line, "and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish. And no one will snatch them out of My hand". Jesus said, "My Father, Who has given them to Me", sheep given to the Shepherd, "is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are One".
Jesus says when we are sheep and Jesus is our Shepherd, like Jesus knows the Father, so Jesus knows us, and the Father knows us. We're all in the family of God. What a beautiful, fabulous picture. It is a picture to me that is out of this world. If you want to know, study 1 John, and 1 John teaches all of us one simple thing: How to be confident of eternal life. Isn't that tremendous? That whole little Book, 1 John, how to be confident of eternal life. In other words, we've received Christ, we are now sheep. We're in the pasture of God. The Shepherd makes sure we're in the fold. The Shepherd makes sure that He leads us, He walks with us, He forgives us, and the wonderful thing is, that Verse says, "Nothing can snatch us out of the Father's hand".
Nothing, forever and forever. Nothing! Now, we get confused there. That's the concept of once saved, always saved. If that's true, why can't you and I live our life just like we want to? Why do we try to grow in faith? Why do we read the Bible? Why do we go to church? You know, I've gone through the motions. I've received Christ. Yes, I want Him to be my Shepherd. You know, oh, why do I have to do anything else? I can do anything, say anything, go anywhere, fulfill any desires. I can be mean or sweet, it makes no difference because the Father has me forever. I'm always safe and secure. Why is not this a license for sin?
Why is not this blessed promise saying, "You know, now I can do anything. I mean, I'm just free. I don't have to follow God, don't have to keep the Commandments. I don't have to be kind. I can just be the kind of person that my flesh wants me to be". What is that, that keeps us in the flock of the Shepherd?
I was at the University of Alabama. An atheist challenged me about whether or not I believed in God, and I turned around and discovered that God had been chasing me. I thought I was chasing God, and He became real to my life. I transferred from the University of Alabama to Mississippi College. It was a Christian school out from Jackson, Mississippi. And so, I went to class, and we went to class then every day. I took a course in World History, and I went there for a week every day, and the second week I was there, and the assignment that Dr. Lee gave, who was a professor at the college, was that we had to be able to trace the first two crusades and tell what motivated the crusaders and also to explain how, when they returned home, how this changed all the towns and cities and countries that they passed through.
That was our assignment, and he said, "I'll ask some people to stand and talk on that". Well, I went to class. I studied. I didn't know much about the crusades before then, but I studied rather diligently, and so I was seated there in the middle of the classroom. Didn't know anybody in the room. Just had met the professor as he taught that first week, and all of a sudden, he says, "Edwin Young, would you come up and go to the map and trace those crusades as I assigned the class and tell us how they influenced the area at that time".
Now, this what you don't know. Up to that moment in my educational walk through high school, I made my lowest grades when I was asked to answer a question in a class, when I was asked to make a little speech or a talk. I couldn't do it. I really couldn't. I was mute. I was so self-conscious, I was so unsure, and I just would shake so much. It was a pitiful sight to behold. And here I was, new college, sophomore, asked to get up and trace the crusades, the first two, and tell how they influenced people. But because I didn't think I'd be called on, I tell you, I think I know why I was called on.
My last name begins with a Y and I'm always the bottom of the list of any alphabetizing, and I think he looked down and got the last one. "Edwin Young, come and do this". I went to the map, and as best I could I traced the crusades. I told the influence. I went up and down, and I talked maybe three minutes, maybe, maybe four, and I sat down. And when I sat down, I hadn't realized that, you know, I'd stood up. I was so upset, I just sort of spontaneously, you know, just tried to explain what I'd studied. At the end of that class, everybody was walking out. He said, "Edwin Young, would you wait with me a minute"? I said, "Oh me, what did I say? What happened"?
And Dr. Lee asked me to come up, and he says, "I'm looking for a grader, a fellow who will grade the papers in my class, and I'd like to ask you to do it". Well, I just... I said, "Yes sir, what does that mean"? He said, "Well, we'll pay you this". and that was big, because I'd worked my way through all to that time. He said, "I'll pay you this, but you'll grade all the papers, all my classes". And I said, "Well, what about this class"? He said, "Well, you'll grade the paper in here. When we get through every test, you wait around. Bring your test up to me, and I'll read your test, and you can grade the rest of the papers on the basis of your test".
Now, let me ask you something. I graded for him another two years before I went into another occupation at a church my senior year, but let me tell you something. You think I said, "Boy, I've got it made! Man, I'm grading my own paper". I'll tell you what happened to me. I became a student of history, and when I would take a test, and I would take my test up there, let me tell you something, I had worked, studied. I'd looked at every angle, and I aced every test in history. I took courses under him and other professors because I felt I had to prove my worth. He even taught sociology, and I graded the papers there. A lady who became Dean of the School of Education, I never took a course in education, but I graded the papers there.
What happened to me? Now I could just put... he even let me take the grades and put 'em in the book and record them officially, because in those months and years with Dr. Lee, he became my mentor, and I wanted to please him. I wanted to do everything exactly right, and there were some tough times. One of my best friends roomed next-door to me, and he was struggling in history, and looked like he was going to fail, and I graded him as honestly as I did anybody else. Another guy in the class, who I thought was an absolute egomaniac, and he was brilliant, and I graded the brilliant guy I didn't like just like I graded my best friend.
Also, a final exam, another guy I played basketball with, against in high school and basketball with in college, and we ran around together, he was a tremendous guy, and I saw on a final exam as I was studying his exam, it looked like he had copied about 2 paragraphs right out of the textbook, and I went to Dr. Lee, and I said, "I know this guy. This is what he has done".
So what happened? Dr. Lee believed in me because I responded to his leadership, and he was my shepherd, and I did not want to do one thing that would disappoint or let down my shepherd. Instead of letting up, I became, for the first time in my life, I'd been average up to then, a student. Do you see the point? We receive Jesus Christ in our life. We said, "The Lord is my Shepherd. I am a sheep," and now we want to do, by the power of the Holy Spirit, everything we can to please Him, Who is running your life and running my life.
How do you know whether or not He is totally, completely your Shepherd? Elijah, the last day of his life, do you know what he did? He went to Bethel and preached. He went to Jericho and preached. He kept his schedule. Elijah did everything he'd been doing all of his life. He didn't change a thing, though he knew it was his last day on this earth. If tomorrow is your last day, what would you change? Or are you and I living a life following the Great Shepherd that we would not have to change a thing in the world? The question, can you truly say the Lord is my shepherd?