|Photo by Jim Jeffery - Used with Permission|
Moses delegated the spiritual leadership of the Israelites when he said, “The Lord, the God of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” (Num 27:16-17) The first to be given a charge was Joshua. Many others have acted as shepherds.
These leaders answer to God who is described as the Chief Shepherd in 1 Pet 5:1-4. This verse shows a shepherd’s responsibilities. “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
With these definitions, let’s consider the prophetic words of Isaiah about a lion and some shepherds.
“For thus hath the Lord spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.” (Isa 31:4)
In this verse, the lion has identified at least one of the sheep that the shepherds have a responsibility to protect. However, it it not afraid of the shepherds. Why is the lion so bold? Isaiah says that the shepherds have been sleeping. (Isa 56:9-11)
While the shepherds have been sleeping, what have the sheep been doing? Sheep necessarily wander as they forage for grass. The shepherd calls and they recognize his voice and come. “The good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.” (Alma 5:38)
I think the lion is bold because he sees the sheep are not coming to Christ when called. Joel saw many people in the “valley of decision.” They are looking to be fed elsewhere. The food that does not satisfy is readily available. It is everywhere on the internet. The heart is satisfied with the truth.
God, the true Shepherd of our souls, will not let us perish. He has said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) He will both lead us into green pastures and bring us to safe places.
When I read the scriptures I see a God who loves his sheep (Deut 7:6-8, 12-13). When two outcomes are possible, he guides us to the safest places. He used Moses to lead his people out of Egypt. He does the same for us. It says, “ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.” (1 Ne 17:13) And when we’re being led, sometimes we pass through the desert. But God will make water come from rocks if he has to because nothing is too hard for him. “And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.” (Isa 48:21) Being led means we don’t know where we are going, and that’s ok, because our faith helps us to dispel our fears of the unknown. Nephi says, “My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness” (2 Ne 4:20) That is how I feel too.
I know that God loves me. I have felt his love and been protected by his arm. I look at my progress over the years and I know that He helped me get through my trials and past them to new heights. “When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Ps. 61:2) I have felt His words speaking to my heart in just the right way. I have no doubt that He is my shepherd.
Photo of a Shepherd in the Holy Land copyright: Jim Jeffery