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‘Sheep without a Shepherd’ and the Old Testament Mediatorial Kingdom

December 6, 2013 Leave a comment

From my daily genre Bible reading, including recent readings in Ezekiel and Numbers, the following observation.  Ezekiel 34 is a well-known text on the subject of the shepherd and the sheep, and the wicked shepherds who did not take care of the sheep; Jesus in John 10 expands on and identifies with this figure as well.   But in also reading through the Pentateuch, comes an interesting “first mention” of the idea of sheep without a shepherd.  Sheep and shepherds are of course introduced generally in Genesis, with Jacob meeting Rachel – and the subsequent chapters of Jacob’s contribution to Genesis.  But Numbers 27:16-17  contains the first mention of the idea of a people needing a shepherd to lead them so that they be not “as sheep that have no shepherd.”

The scene is near the end of Moses’ life, and Moses’ request for someone to succeed him in leading the people that now are a nation – and the request is granted, in Moses’ assistant Joshua. Here I am also reminded of the kingdom concept as brought out in Alva McClain’s “Greatness of the Kingdom,” including his point that the mediatorial kingdom began in history under Moses.  We often think of the Old Testament kingdom as specifically that established under the monarchy (King Saul, then David and Solomon), but the concept began in history with the Exodus from Egypt, the covenant nation established before God,  with God as their king and Moses their leader.  Numbers 27 brings this out, in this first reference to this concept, in the matter of leadership succession within this mediatorial kingdom.

The idea of “sheep without a shepherd” does not appear in the scriptures again until several hundred years later, during the divided kingdom and the early prophets: first in the account of Micaiah’s prophecy of Ahab’s destruction (1 Kings 22:17 and 2 Chronicles 18:16):  I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd.”  Judgment is in view here, that the king (Ahab) is destroyed, and the people are without a leader.  The next time the concept is mentioned is the later prophets associated with the Babylonian exile, the end of the mediatorial kingdom in Old Testament history:  Jeremiah 23:1 and 50:6, followed by this as the topic of Ezekiel 34.  How fitting it is, and brought together in the daily genre reading of different sections of the Bible, to see this unity and overall theme seen throughout the Bible including Old Testament history and prophecy:  the concept of sheep without a shepherd introduced near the beginning of that mediatorial kingdom, then at two points of judgment, earlier in the decline (the time of Ahab) and again at the end of that era of Israel’s mediatorial kingdom, just before the “times of the Gentiles” began.

The Good Shepherd: Symbolic Picture of the Man Born Blind in John 9

December 7, 2012 1 comment

In listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series, I have now come to the great 10th chapter, the discourses about Jesus as the Shepherd over the Sheep.  Previous teaching that I’ve heard on this subject focused on a few ideas, such as the reference to shepherds in Ezekiel’s prophecy, or comments about the major features of sheep and how we are like sheep.

As always, S. Lewis Johnson went further, with many interesting observations.  Throughout this chapter we see a shepherd who knows us intimately, who knows everything about us, and yet is not ashamed to be our shepherd.  In fact, this great Shepherd delights in being our Shepherd.

Also, the following point, which I had never noticed before: John 10 is connected with the event in John chapter 9, the healing of the blind man.  The words at the beginning of chapter 10 (“Truly, truly” in the ESV) in John’s gospel never occur at the beginning of a new discourse, never introduce any new material.  Rather, the first verses in John 10 give a symbolic picture of John 9.  From this message in the John series:

 Now, in chapter 9 we have the blind man who is healed.  He was blind from his birth.  He’s remarkably healed.  Then we have controversy between the blind man and the Pharisees.  And finally the blind man is thrown out of the synagogue.  But Jesus finds him and unveils himself to him fully, and it is climaxed by his confession, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him.  So when we read John 10 we are to think of that particular action.  For example, in John chapter 10 we read of false shepherd in verse 1.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”  In verse 5 we read, “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him.”

Now these strangers and robbers that he refers to in this symbolic picture, these are references to the cruel actions of the Jews in chapter 9 towards the blind man.  In John 9: 22 we read, ” These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”  These are men who seek to come in some other way, so we are think then when we read of the thieves and robbers, of the Jewish men who sought to keep the blind man from coming to Jesus Christ.

In John chapter 9 we notice the remarkable response of the blind man, and that of course is designed to represent the response of the sheep, referred in chapter 10 and verse 3 and 4.  “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.”  So the response of the sheep is like the response of the blind man in John chapter 9.  And the care of the shepherd for the sheep, referred to in chapter 10, is like the care of the Lord Jesus for the blind man for when he was thrown out of the synagogue, according to John 9:34 we immediately read, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of Man?” and brought him to faith in himself.  So what we have then in chapter 10 is an allegorical or symbolic picture of the event of chapter 9 with further suggestions as to the meaning of what had happened.