Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Richmond Briefing

A Weekly Bible Reading for Bridge Builders

The Richmond Briefing has been a weekly feature of the Reachout web site for five years and is now available on the blog. To find out more and read earlier briefings go here

Reading – The Good Shepherd (John 10)

The picture of sheep and shepherd is used to describe the relationship between God and his people. The psalmist wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Shepherd also describes Israel’s spiritual leaders in the Old Testament and their responsibility was serious. Jeremiah wrote:

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” (Jer.23:1)

As Jesus spoke we have to remember what picture was brought to people’s minds and how his words described their leaders and challenged them. And it is a challenge, to them and to us. Jesus identified the characteristics of a good shepherd, who is,

A courageous protector: The shepherd slept in the one opening to the fold like a door between the sheep and their enemies. He protected them with his life, prepared to lay down his life for his sheep

A steadfast leader: In Palestine sheep are not driven but led. The shepherd leads “from the front” and they follow

A trustworthy guide: The shepherd concerned for his flock guides his sheep to the best pasture, “that they may have life to the full”

A personal friend: At might sheep might sleep several flocks in one fold but in the morning each sheep knew the voice of the shepherd and he knew them

Jesus doesn’t mince his words as he declares, “I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them” There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that there are those who call themselves shepherds but are thieves and robbers who come to steal, kill and destroy; or are hired hands who cares nothing for the sheep. I said there was a challenge and it is this; do you know the shepherd?

All shepherds will have followers but do we know and recognise the voice of the Good Shepherd? Are we confident that we are following the One who laid down His life for His sheep or is our shepherd one who expects us to sacrifice for him? Is our shepherd leading us in green pastures, giving us life to the full, or is our diet poor and lacking nourishment? Is our shepherd our friend and do we know his voice?

That is the challenge, to know him and to follow no matter the other sheep and other voices.

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