|Volume 20 Number 4 April 2018||
Martha Lynn Rushmore
Do you know what your name means? For instance, in one dictionary, my name “Martha” means, “lady, mistress of the house.” In Hebrew, my name means “bitter.” There are many different forms of my name: Maarva, Marfa, Marhta, Mariet, Marit, Mart, Marta, Marte, Martella, Martelle, Marth, Marthe, Marthena, Marthine, Marthini, Marthy, Marti, Martie, Martina, Martita, Martje, Martta, Marty, Martyne, Martynne, Marva, Mata, Matha, Matti, Mattie, Mirtha, Pat and Pattie. There are 33 different forms of my name. If you would look up your name and its meaning, you might be surprised; I was!
Jesus has many names in the Old and New testaments. He is called Wonderful, Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Son of Man, Son of God, Messiah, Savior and many other names.
Jesus is our Chief Shepherd, which is what we want to emphasize in this article.
Psalm 23:1-6 reads:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
The word “shepherd” used as a noun is a person who herds, tends and guards his sheep or is a person who protects, guides or watches over a person or a group of people. The word “shepherd,” “pastor” and “overseer” are other names for an elder in the church. Also, the word “shepherd” used as a verb has an object. A shepherd tends or guards his flock. He watches his sheep carefully. Our Great Shepherd is Jesus Christ, who watches, guards and leads us if we will let Him.
There is a song we sing, “Jesus the Loving Shepherd.” He calls us to come and to follow Him. Are we following Jesus? Is He your Loving Shepherd? Do you let Him guide you? Do you let Him protect and care for you? Jesus is always here for us just as a shepherd is always there for his sheep. We are the sheepfold that Jesus wants to tend and to protect as our Shepherd. This is not a subject for us to take lightly. As Christians, we have certain obligations and commandments to obey from our Lord if we are going to let Him be our loving Shepherd
The name “Jesus” comes from Greek for “Joshua,” which means “God is salvation.” The name “Jesus” was well explained in Matthew’s Gospel. “And she [Mary] will bear a son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matthew1:21).
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. We do not need another shepherd. Jesus is the best caregiver we will ever need. Jesus will take care of us, just like a shepherd does his sheep. We are His sheepfold.
What does a shepherd do for his sheep? He tends, cares and protects (Jeremiah 31:10). The shepherd leads the sheep to safe ground and to still water. At night, the shepherd keeps his flock safe from wild animals by sleeping at the entrance of the sheepfold. This is also a way to make sure the animals stay within the boundaries.
The sheep know the voice of their shepherd and follow him. Do we know the voice of Jesus our Shepherd, and do we follow Him?
Prophecies of the Shepherd
We have prophecies in the Old Testament of our Lord being a Shepherd to His people. Matthew 26:31 speaks of Jesus Christ being our Shepherd and refers to Zechariah 13:7, which reads, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion, Says the Lord of hosts. Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.” Isaiah 40:11 says of the Messiah, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” In addition, the following Old Testament passage also speaks of the Messiah as our Shepherd.
For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. …I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd.” (Ezekiel 34:11-14, 23)
We have a song called, “Jesus, the Loving Shepherd.” To refer to Jesus Christ as our Shepherd is appropriate since many New Testament passages identify Him as our Shepherd: Shepherd (1 Peter 2:25), Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4), Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20).
Jesus calls us now to come to Him (Matthew 11:28). We need not delay because we have the promise of just today—right now. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow may not come. Allow Jesus to be your Shepherd.
Psalm 19:7-11 captured my attention recently in a way that was deeply convicting. The first part of verses 7-9 is God’s revelation of His Word. “The law of the LORD is perfect; the testimony of the LORD is sure; the statutes of the LORD are right; the commandment of the LORD is pure; the fear of the LORD is clean; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” The latter part of those verses reveals the eternal power of God’s Word. The law converts the soul. The testimony makes wise the simple [naïve]. The statutes rejoice the heart. The commandment enlightens the eyes. The fear endures forever. The judgments are righteous altogether.
Since all Scripture is God breathed, He gives these particular words their supremacy. Verses 10-11 declare why these words are beyond value. “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 119:162 says, “I rejoice at Your Word as one who finds great treasure.”
Note that the fear of the LORD is priceless. God’s Word implants reverence and moral respect in the minds of those who embrace it. They can then experience the joy, that deep abiding sense of spiritual fulfillment, that cannot be smothered, and the peace which surpasses understanding. Psalm 103:10-11 says, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” With that kind of joy and peace in our lives, it does not get any better than that!
Many of us are familiar with the song “Prepare to Meet Thy God” by J.H. Stanley. The lyrics to the verses are:
Chorus: Careless soul, O heed the warning, For your life will soon be gone; O how sad to face the judgment, Unprepared to meet thy God.
Do we truly believe the message of that hymn?
First Corinthians 10:1-14 stands as a current breaking news flash from the pages of the Old Testament of just a few of God’s warnings to us through disobedient, rebellious Israel. Paul began by stating that he did not want his brethren in Corinth to be unaware that all their fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4b). Paul’s tone completely changed in verses 5-6. “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.”
God had warned Israel about the consequences of the sin of complaining and lusting or craving. In Numbers 11:1-6, the people were complaining, and the mixed multitude that was among them yielded themselves to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept with them again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” God told Moses to tell the people He would give them meat and they would eat.
Moses told them in Numbers 11:19-20, “You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you because you have despised the LORD who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?’”
Even Moses was doubtful about what God had said! He proceeded to “inform” God that he was among 600,000 men on foot. Moses asked God should flocks and herds be slaughtered, and all the fish of the sea be gathered to provide enough for them? God’s response exemplified His Deity! “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Has the LORD’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not’” (Numbers 11:23). Was Moses ready?
Numbers 11:31, 34 reads, “Now a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp… And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail… but while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague. So he [Moses] called the name of that place Graves of Craving because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.” In recounting this event, Psalm 78:31 says, “The wrath of God came against them, and slew the stoutest of them, and struck down the choice men of Israel.”
God had warned Israel about the consequences of the sin of idolatry. God had spoken the Ten Commandments to Israel in Exodus 20:1-17. The very first commandment states, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (vs. 3). Exodus 32 is the disgraceful account of the people talking Aaron, of all people, into making a golden calf and declaring it had brought them out of Egypt! About 3,000 men fell that day. What about us? We must understand that anything or anyone that we love more than or rather than God is our idol! The height of idolatry is the worship of self. We all have idols—it’s just a matter of us identifying them. Who or what are our idols? Is it Money? Possessions? Job position? Business? Education? Entertainment? Music? Social status? Retirement? Family? Sports? Invention? Recreation? Research? Food? Drink? Time? Determination? Politics? Pride? Power? Prestige? Health or exercise? Medicine? Clothes or shoes? Grooming? Technology? Discipline? The list stretches to infinity! Whoever or whatever it is that comes before God in our lives must be eliminated!
God had warned Israel about the consequences of the sin of sexual immorality. God forbids every sort of illicit sexual activity. Leviticus 20 is the “go to” chapter that details the penalties for sexual perversion. Marriage between a man and a woman is the only relationship involving sexual activity that God sanctions. Numbers 25:1-9 is the account of Israel committing harlotry with the women of Moab and bowing down to their gods. Those who died in the plague were 24,000! Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:7-8, “And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play [lively heathen dances]. Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell.” All these Israelites suffered the consequences of their sin at the cost of their own lives! Is sexual immorality really worth burning in hell forever, and ever, and ever?
In the United States, we have traffic laws that are posted in the form of speed limits. Most of us have been stopped by law enforcement officers for violating posted speed signs. Some of us, for a variety of reasons, are only given a warning. However, we know what the consequences of repeated offenses will be. How is it that we will heed temporary, manmade warnings and not the eternal warnings of Almighty God? God warns us repeatedly from Genesis to Revelation that His expectation of obedient, submissive faith is imperative if we are to live with Him forever.