The Good Shepherd.

Psalm 23
“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He MAKETH me to lie down in green pastures.
He LEADETH me beside the still waters.
He RESTORETH my soul.
He LEADETH me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake….”

Of all the offices, types, and pictures of Jesus in the Bible, by far the Holy Spirit’s favorite is of Jesus as Shepherd.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd; THE BEST!

Model For Leadership.

Most of the great leaders in the Bible: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David, were shepherds before they were anything else.  This profession uniquely prepared them to lead God’s people by first learning to care for sheep.

Like Jesus, pastors are shepherds.   And what does a shepherd do?  He tenderly cares for his sheep, he feeds them well, watering and protecting them from dangers and predators.  Unlike a cattle rancher, he does not walk behind them, herding and prodding with a stick or cattle prod.  He goes before them, walking in front.  As He leads, they follow, freely and willingly.

You Know His Voice.

Sheep know their Shepherd.  They know with they are safe with him.  They know His voice and will not follow a stranger.  But He has to first MAKE them lie down, because resting in hard work for them. Like sheep, only when we are at rest are we in a position to BE LEAD, RESTORED when we go astray, so we can be LEAD once again by still waters.  In other words, brought into rest again.

Yea, Though “I” Walk.
 Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
In verse 4, suddenly the focus shifts from the “The LORD is my Shepherd” to me:  “Yea, though I walk…”  Now, instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus, I have gone my own way and gotten into trouble.  But even when I go down into the valley of the shadow, He sticks with me.  He does not turn away:  There is not even the SHADOW of turning!  
He does not scold or chide. He lovingly comforts, protects and defends me, even if the trouble is of my own making.  More often than not, that’s exactly what happened.  Thankfully, it’s only the “Shadow of death,” and not death itself, and the shadow of a snake never killed anyone. Wow!  What a Shepherd!  What a Savior!  No wonder we love Him so.  We love because He FIRST LOVED us!

Jesus’ Three Questions.

Remember when Jesus was waiting on shore with breakfast prepared for Peter and his companions?  He singled Peter out and asked him a question three times.  He asked, not in a harsh or judgmental way, but tenderly, lovingly, “Do you love me?”

Why did he ask him three times?  Because three is a number that resonates with Peter.  He was the one who denied Jesus three times.   The Holy Spirit would use this number at other times during his lifetime to assure Peter of His leading.  We see it with particular clarity in the story of the Roman Centurion in whose home Gentiles were first baptized with the Holy Spirit upon their conversion.

(If you’d like to read that story, you may follow the link below:

https://emmausroadministries.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/repentance-to-life/)

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Clarity In The Greek Text.

In our English Bible, it appears that Jesus asked Peter the exact same question three times.  But in the Greek text, Jesus used two different words for love. First He said, “Peter, do you agapé Me.”

Agapé is a sacrificial kind of love; the kind where someone would lay down their life for another.  In the second question, Jesus again said to him, “Do you agapé Me.”  But the third time, Jesus did not use the word, “Agape.”  Instead, He used the word “filéo.”  “Do you filéo (like) me?”

Peter’s answer to Jesus’ first question, “Do you agapé Me,” was “Yes, Lord, I FLIÉO You.”  He could not honestly say that he loved Jesus with “Agapé” love; he could only say, “Fileo;” that He “Liked” Him.  Peter used the word, “Filéo,” in response all three times. But that was ok with Jesus because it was an honest answer.
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Jesus used the word, “Filéo,” the third time because He came down to Peter’s level of faith.  That’s how He relates to you and I.  He loves us just as we are; nothing phony or pretentious.  He meets each one of us wherever we are, at whatever our level our faith; no chiding; no condemnation.
The old Peter boasted that He would follow Jesus anywhere, even to death. But in the darkest hour of Jesus’ entire life, he not only didn’t follow Him, but denied knowing Him THREE TIMES…..WITH CURSING AND SWEARING.
You can see that this Peter on the shore is a not the same man.  He is not the hypocrite he once was.  There’s been a dramatic change! Somehow, he has been restored!  From now on, you can clearly see the difference in his life.
Feed My Sheep.
During this exchange between the two, Jesus’ biggest concern was for His flock, in particular, the lambs, or youngest believers.  He wants to ensure that they will be FED.  In fact, FEED THEM FIRST.  Then tend and feed His sheep, meaning mature believers. He also wanted to make certain they will all be protected and kept together in a flock, for therin is security and safety.

Why Did Jesus Address Peter?

But why did Jesus address Peter of all people?  I find it incredible that He would entrust this most critical task of caring for the Church to the man who, just days ago, not only betrayed Him, but denied ever knowing Him THREE TIMES…..WITH CURSING AND SWEARING IN HIS DARKEST HOUR!  

How could he have done such a thing? He was there, as one of Jesus’ inner circle, along with James and John, on Mount Herman and witnessed first hand Jesus, in ALL HIS GLORY. He was transfigured before them and conversing with the two mega icons of all Judaism:  Moses and Elijah.   No other disciples had that opportunity!

Well, anyway, he certainly would have been last on my list.  But not so our Lord Jesus.  He singled Peter out on purpose.

Peter Secretly Restored.

At some point, prior to this scene on the shore, Peter had a private meeting with Jesus, where they met away from prying eyes.  Peter was restored at that meeting which the Holy Spirit has chosen not to share with us.  Though it is shielded it from us, the Holy Spirit does allude to it in one of Paul’s epistles.

The proof of this is in Peter’s reaction when Jesus stood on the shore making breakfast for Peter and his partners who had been out on the water fishing all night. They had caught nothing.  By morning, they were exhausted and discouraged.  Then Jesus showed up and everything changed!  Let’s follow the story:

“But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. ” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, HE PUT ON HIS OUTER GARMENT (for he had removed it), AND PLUNGED INTO THE SEA.”  John 21:4-7

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Straight TO Jesus.
Did you catch that?  As soon as Peter realized it was Jesus standing there on the shore, he couldn’t jump out of that boat fast enough and rush to Him!  He didn’t even wait until the boat docked.  Nope.  He plunged into the sea and swam to shore SO HE COULD BE THE FIRST ONE THERE.  It was only after the others brought the boat in that he helped drag the heavily laden net full of fish to shore.
Does that sound like someone who feels guilty and condemned for betraying the Lord in such a manner?  NO WAY!  Why?  Because, as I mentioned earlier, some time prior to this exchange, he had a very private meeting with Jesus where he was dealt with and restored.  What you see here is a Peter who knows he has been forgiven MUCH!  Jesus Himself said, “He who is forgiven MUCH will love Him MUCH!”
(For more on this topic, follow the link below:
Private Meeting.
In this meeting Jesus had with Peter, we don’t know exactly when it occurred or what was said, but we know that it happened.  Paul mentions it in 1 Corinthuans 15:5.  He met with Peter FIRST, before revealing Himself to anyone else.
So, lest you think you really blew it SO BAD that you could never EVER face God again, let alone be mightily used, remember Peter.  God can…..AND WILL…..restore you AS ONLY He CAN.
Peter was so changed, in fact, that the first and greatest sermon of the Church was preached by our reformed brother on the day the Church was born:  Pentecost.  3,000 people were saved that very day!  WOW!  Talk about a turn around!
A Broken Reed.
You see, Jesus had looked right at Peter the instant the rooster crowed.  He knew what Peter had just done.  He knew that His look conveyed to him love, forgiveness, and acceptance, a look that broke something in Peter which could have been broken no other way.  Knowing that look had broken him, Jesus knew restoration was now possible.
This scene perfectly illustrates Isaiah 43:3 which says, “A bruised reed He will not break,  And smoking flax He will not quench;”
He picks you up when you are down, discouraged, and defeated.  He heals, cleanses with His word, and restores you.  What a God!  What a Savior!!!
The Paths Of Righteousness.
Most believers have heard the phrase, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake,” from this Psalm, right?  Here is another perfect example of phrases that mean something entirely different to the Jewish people, particularly Israeli shepherds, than they do to the average Christian.
(For more on that topic, follow the link below:
David, who had been a shepherd as a boy, was one of the Holy Spirit’s Jewish secretaries.  This particular phrase to illustrates his point in the Psalm perfectly.
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(The Paths Of Righteousness)
Lessons From The Land.
Israel is a very rocky and hilly country.  So, that’s where shepherds have to graze their flocks; on rugged hillsides.  They begin at the bottom, lead their flock around and around and around the same hill, day after day, row upon row, each time going just a little higher.  This has the effect of making terraces as they graze up the hill.  Shepherds, even in Israel today, refer to the inevitably formed rows as “THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  
Know what the call the very top of the hill? “Ha-tikvah:  The hope.”  Coincidentally(?) it also happens to be the title of the Israeli national anthem.  Pretty cool!
That is so like out God!  He even uses the land of Israel to teach us.  For more on that topic, follow the link below:

How To “FEED” The Flock.

The point is, a good shepherd or pastor, will “graze,” or feed, his flock on the same “hill,” going round and around, over and over the same truths that feed and nourish, until the “hope” in a particular truth is bright and strong in his flock and they are well-fed by it. He literally “leads them in the PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

How God Sees Unbelievers.

Because He is the Good Shepherd, Jesus doesn’t see unsaved people the way you and I often do.  In Matthew 9:36 it says, “But when He {Jesus} saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were WEARY and SCATTERED, like sheep having no shepherd.”  In the same way, Jesus doesn’t see His own people, in other words, “Believers,” as willful or rebellious either.  He sees them as “weary and scattered,” hungry, tired and thirsty.  In fact, that’s how He wants us to see all people, whether they are saved or not.

The Church doesn’t need to hear, “Well, you’d be able to walk more holy if you would pay more attention to reading your Bible”…..or going to church, or praying more, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.  Many pastors say, “I want my church to be strong!”  They make their sermons into this “Rah, rah, rah” kind of thing, trying to whip up enthusiasm.  But preaching like that serves only to starve, to rob, and beat His flock, the very thing Jesus wanted NOT to happen!

Feeding Not Beating.

The thirsty and starving need Living Water and the Bread of Life:  Jesus!  That other nonsense of trying to whip up excitement and enthusiasm from the pulpit doesn’t work.  The pul-pit is supposed to “Pull you out of the pit,” not pull you into the pit.  POINT THEM TO JESUS.  

That’s the lesson of the Emmaus Road.  It was on that road that He showed us how to warm hearts and fill them full of love for the Lord.  Feed them, don’t beat them.

(For more on that topic, you may follow the link below:

https://emmausroadministries.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/the-emmaus-road/)

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Spiritual Warfare.

The Church is not some kind of boot camp for warfare training, per sé. Our fight is not against the devil.  We are no match for him.  Our fight is to remain in faith; to counter his lies.  You see, though he is bound, he isn’t gagged…AND HE HAS A BIG MOUTH.

(For more on Spiritual Warfare, follow the link below:
Sheep who are well-fed, well-rested and at ease are nourished and strengthened.  That is what gives them the strength and motivation to go out among the lost and “Fight the good fight,” and to remain in faith because they are filled with The Bread of Life.  You won’t even have to beg them to go out and reach the lost.  They won’t be able to shut up!
Fill Your Own Vessel First.
And Pastors, before you even attempt to feed your sheep, first make sure that you are filled with the bread of life and the water of the word yourself.  YOU CAN’T POUR OUT OF AN EMPTY VESSEL.  And if you are looking for spiritual maturity and breakthroughs for your flock, I say again, “FEED, FEED, FEED, FEED, FEED your flock and then FEED, FEED, FEED THEM SOME MORE!”  
This is THE NUMBER ONE NEED in the church today:  Feeding with REAL FOOD:  JESUS, Grace…..not milk (law.)
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Secrets In The Hebrew Language.
Finally, speaking of food, here’s something good to chew on.  God loves to underscore important principles like this in the Hebrew language.  Take the word, “Bread,” for instance.
Hebrew reads from right to left and is a form of picture writing, like Chinese.  Both the word for, “Bread,” and the word for “Fight,” are spelled with the same three letters.  They just use different vowel pointers which changes the meaning of the word, you understand.  But they are, nevertheless, related.
Bread and Fight are spelled using these three letters:
        [לחם]
From right to left, they are “Lamed [ל] Het [ח] Mem [ם].”

Lechem is “Bread;” the obviously related word, Lacham is “Fight.”

Both the words are derived from the same root word.  What does one word have to do with the other,” you ask.?

What’s the best way to fight the devil’s lies?  FEED ON THE BREAD OF LIFE.  Feed on Jesus:  The Good Shepherd!

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