Posted in abel, blood, good shepherd, prophecy, shepherd

The First Blood and the Last Blood

The first human blood shed in the Bible was a shepherd’s blood, shed by one who rejected God in jealousy and anger.

Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. (Genesis 4:2b)
And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. (Genesis 4:10)

The Death of Abel – Gustave Doré (1832-83)

The last blood needed for sin’s atonement was the blood of Jesus.

and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:12-14)

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)

Chris Powers, fullofeyes.com

The Last Blood. Listen to it entirely. It builds to a devastating climax.

Posted in encouragement, good shepherd, living water, sheep

Sheep lie down

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:1-3)

Regarding the sheep who lie down, I was listening to James Montgomery Boice exposit the 7th chapter of Micah, verse 14.

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest,
in fertile pasturelands. (Micah 7:14)

Mr Boice explained about the Shepherd and the sheep. He said that he had heard, but did not know if it was true, that sheep won’t lie down until their needs are met. Only when they are full, their thirst slaked, and their surroundings peaceful, will they rest. I began looking that up because having lived next to a flock of sheep for the past year, I like looking at them and learning their qualities so as to better understand the Bible’s use of them as an example. O.P. Gifford, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Brookline MA in 1909, wrote an exposition of the Twenty Third Psalm for the Homiletic Review Minister’s Monthly. Pastor Gifford remarked-

A sheep has four stomachs. When its first stomach is full, he will lie down and ruminate, that is, chew his cud so that it can pass to the second stomach. But it will still not lie down if there is restlessness within the flock, or if there is friction between sheep family members, or if there is a predator. A lying down sheep means he is full, peaceful, and content.

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Here is an excerpt from Pastor Gifford regarding the still waters:

The pictures in the Bible are tremendous for allowing us to see biblical truths, no matter our age, culture, or epoch in which we live. I look forward tot he day when I can lie down, thirst slakes, hunger dismissed, and no friction in the flock, and no predators. Ahhh, the Lord is good, or should I say the Good Shepherd is good!

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Further Reading

Sheep Know His Voice: Inspiring Video

Wells of Living Water

Posted in bible, encouragement, good shepherd, sheepfold, shepherd

His sheep know His voice

Jesus only calls those sheep whose names have been written down since before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4). Those sheep know His voice and listen to them. Those sheep follow Him out of the sheepfold and into green pastures. He doesn’t put a general call into the sheepfold and wait to see who will come out. He knows them by name, and He calls them.

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Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (John 10:1-4)

John 10:1–2. Verses 1–5 describe a morning shepherding scene. A shepherd enters through a gate into a walled enclosure which has several flocks in one sheep pen. The enclosure, with stone walls, is guarded at night by a doorkeeper to prevent thieves and beasts of prey from entering. Anyone who would climb the wall would do it for no good purpose.

John 10:3–4. By contrast, the shepherd has a right to enter the sheep pen. The watchman opens the gate, and the shepherd comes in to call his own sheep by name (out from the other flocks). Shepherds knew their sheep well and gave them names. As sheep hear the sound of their owner’s familiar voice, they go to him. He leads them out of the pen till his flock is formed. Then he goes out toward the fields with the sheep following him. 

John 10:5–6. If a stranger enters the pen, the sheep run away from him because his voice is not familiar. The point of this figure of speech consists in how a shepherd forms his flock. People come to God because He calls them (cf. vv. 16, 27; Rom. 8:28, 30). Their proper response to His call is to follow Him (cf. John 1:43; 8:12; 12:26; 21:19, 22). But this spiritual lesson was missed by those who heard Jesus, even though they certainly understood the local shepherd/sheep relationship. In their blindness, they could not see Jesus as the Lord who is the Shepherd (cf. Ps. 23).

John 10:7–9. Jesus then developed the shepherd/sheep figure of speech in another way. After a shepherd’s flock has been separated from the other sheep, he takes them to pasture. Near the pasture is an enclosure for the sheep. The shepherd takes his place in the doorway or entrance and functions as a door or gate. The sheep can go out to the pasture in front of the enclosure, or if afraid, they can retreat into the security of the enclosure. The spiritual meaning is that Jesus is the only Gate by which people can enter into God’s provision for them.

When Jesus said, All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, He referred to those leaders of the nation who cared not for the spiritual good of the people but only for themselves. Jesus the Shepherd provides security for His flock from enemies (whoever enters through Me will be saved, or “kept safe”). He also provides for their daily needs (the sheep come in and go out, and find pasture).

Source: Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 309–310). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

The People’s Bible Encyclopedia, Charles Barnes

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Posted in encouragement, forgiveness, good shepherd, sheep

Our Great Shepherd: His care and love are everlasting

‎In biblical times, a shepherd’s main concern was the welfare of the flock. Providing the sheep with food and waters as well as guarding them from predators and thieves were primary responsibilities. Highlighting this relationship, Jesus says in the scripture, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). [from Logos Bible Software]

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But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness. (Psalm 78:52).

Since moving to this county nearly ten years ago, I have never ceased to enjoy the sight of numerous animals dotting the landscape. Here is a quick-facts graphic showing the importance of agriculture in our county-

There are many pastures. I regularly see cows, horses, donkeys, sheep, chickens, and sometimes emus, buffalo, hawks, foxes, and even coyotes.

Reading about the animals in the Bible is wonderful and interesting. However, being among the animals mentioned in the Bible and observing them is another layer of understanding entirely. The neighbor on the other side of the house (I’m in the in-law apartment adjacent) is a shepherdess. I love watching the pastured sheep next door. Their life cycle, cavorting lambs, the nursing, the hay, grass, and stubble that they eat, the wool, their grazing, their recent escapes from the field lol, all interesting.

The Bible refers to the body of Christ as sheep. Am I a sheep? Yes, says Jesus, metaphorically. He is my Shepherd. What a glorious metaphor. I love to think of The Perfect herding me, caring for me, leading me, protecting me. Everything He does is perfect so His care of the sheep will also be perfect, and I can and do rest in that knowledge.

It’s a good metaphor. He could have likened us to badgers, angry and contentious. He could have called us after the evil one who is god of the earth- a lion, a prowling predator seeking after sin and devouring others. He could have called us a spider, an insect nobody likes. I mean, really. A sheep is good.

In my Logos 6 software one can research by topic. I found these biblical facts about sheep:

The sheep is the first animal specified by name in the sacred writings. Abel, himself a shepherd, offered the firstlings of his flock to the Lord (Gen. 4:4). Abraham was very rich in sheep, and Job at one time had 14,000 amongst his herds. In 2 Kings 3:4 we read of a Moabitish shepherd-king who gave a tribute of a hundred thousand lambs and a hundred thousand rams; and this country is still inhabited by owners of vast herds of sheep, the Beni Sakkr sheikhs. Solomon celebrated the dedication of the temple by the sacrifice of 120,000 sheep. 

The Sheep is perhaps the most important of all the animals in the Scriptures. It formed the chief portion of the wealth of the patriarchs, and it is not merely as an article of food that its value is to be estimated. The clothing of those days was almost entirely made of wool; cotton, silk and flax being hardly known or quite out of reach until a later period. The number of flocks was the chief measure of property. Tillage was, comparatively speaking, but little resorted to in Palestine, and there was only very local or in most places no possession in land. Hence sheep were of primary value; and from its nature the country was, and is still, better adapted to the rearing and feeding of sheep than other domestic animals.

Source- Hart, H. C. (1888). The Animals Mentioned in the Bible (pp. 193–194). London: The Religious Tract Society.

Interesting! How about the beloved 23rd Psalm-

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

4Even 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.

5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

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Here is Matthew Henry Commentary on the famous first line of the Psalm, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’

Confidence in God’s grace and care. – “The Lord is my shepherd.” In these words, the believer is taught to express his satisfaction in the care of the great Pastor of the universe, the Redeemer and Preserver of men. With joy he reflects that he has a shepherd, and that shepherd is Jehovah.  

A flock of sheep, gentle and harmless, feeding in verdant pastures, under the care of a skilful, watchful, and tender shepherd, forms an emblem of believers brought back to the Shepherd of their souls. The greatest abundance is but a dry pasture to a wicked man, who relishes in it only what pleases the senses; but to a godly man, who by faith tastes the goodness of God in all his enjoyments, though he has but little of the world, it is a green pasture.  

The Lord gives quiet and contentment in the mind, whatever the lot is. Are we blessed with the green pastures of the ordinances, let us not think it enough to pass through them, but let us abide in them. The consolations of the Holy Spirit are the still waters by which the saints are led; the streams which flow from the Fountain of living waters. Those only are led by the still waters of comfort, who walk in the paths of righteousness.

Do you have confidence in God’s grace and care? Do you have quiet contentment of the mind, knowing the Great Shepherd would not only lay down His life for the sheep, but He has done it? Are you consoled by the knowledge that His protection is mighty and everlasting? That His pastures remain green? That the waters are always living and fresh?

We are blessed with good care. Though we stray, the Good Shepherd brings the lost sheep home. This is the ultimate blessing, forgiveness of our many sins, and promise of eternal joy.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

Thank You Lord. Thank You.

To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10:3)

As Jonathan Edwards said in his “Farewell Sermon“,

Whoever may hereafter stand related to you as your spiritual guide, my desire and prayer is that the great Shepherd of the sheep would have a special respect to you, and be your guide (for there is none teacheth like him), and that he who is the infinite fountain of light, would “open your eyes, and turn you from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that you may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified, through faith that is in Christ;” that so in that great day, when I shall meet you again before your Judge and mine, we may meet in joyful and glorious circumstances, never to be separated any more.

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Further Reading

Exposition of The Lord is My Shepherd

Posted in good shepherd, I am the door, sheep, shepherd, the worthless shepherd

Jesus as Shepherd, and I AM the Door

Shed door, inside are sheep! EPrata photo

To plumb the Bible’s depths is such a treasure and a pleasure. It never ends. I’ve been studying about the Shepherd and one of His I AM statements, “I AM the door”.

The Bible mentions shepherds and shepherding over 200 times. Jesus uses the metaphor of the Shepherd often, and said here in arguably the most famous statement,

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Did you ever notice there were a lot of shepherds in the bible? There were even the unnamed shepherds watching their flocks by night, the first recipients of the Good News.

Numerous biblical characters are associated with the occupation of shepherding: Abel (Gen. 4:2), Abraham (Gen. 13:7), Isaac (Gen. 26:20), Jacob and his sons (especially Joseph, Gen. 30:36; 46:32), Laban (and his daughter Rachel, Gen. 29:9), Moses (Exod 3:1), and David (1 Sam. 16:11). Source Holman treasury of key Bible words, Carpenter, E. E.

Shepherds’ work was never ending, lonely, and dangerous. They had few tools, the rod as a crook to extracting sheep from difficulty and the staff or club for fending off wild animals; (1Samuel 17:34-37). We know David also had a slingshot. Shepherds also had pouch for food and used their wrap as a cloak and also a blanket.

There was not a lot of grass so shepherds had to move the flock often. Sheep are followers. If one sheep walks over a cliff the rest will follow. They don’t defend themselves against prey, they simply huddle up and then there’s a slaughter. They are scared of moving water and will only drink from still water, (“He maketh me lie down near still waters”) but if they fall into moving water they will drown.

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When night-time came the shepherd had two options. Using one of his tools, the rod, he could lead the sheep (never drive them) into a sheepfold in the field. (Luke 2:8) This was simply a crudely made rock enclosure, usually a circle, so-high and topped with thorns to prevent prey or robbers scaling it to get in (John 10:1).

The shepherd brought the sheep to the fold one by one. He’d let down his rod to bar it from coming in, and he would inspect the sheep from head to toe. He was looking for injuries, disease, or anything that might need attention. The lanolin, a waxy substance the sheep excrete to keep their wool dry, often hid cysts or cuts, so he had to closely inspect each sheep before lifting up his rod to allow them entry.

Just as the lost are closely examined at the Great White Throne Judgment as seen in Revelation 20:11-15. The saved are allowed in but we are still inspected. (Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10)

The shepherd also counted the sheep as they went in, to see if any were still out there, or for tithing purposes. (Matthew 18:12; Jer. 33:13).

I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. (Ezekiel 20:37)

And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. (Leviticus 27:32)

The sheepfold had no door. The shepherd placed his rod and staff across the opening and bedded down at the threshold, becoming the door.

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

I’ll discuss the going in and out in another blog essay. The other option was to lead the sheep to a community sheepfold or a privately owned sheepfold in town. (Zephaniah 2:6). Sometimes the shepherd would make use of his lean-to or another enclosure in town, going through the same process with the rod as each sheep entered. This time, the shepherd would have hired a hireling to watch the sheep at night, and he’d go to his own bed until morning. Sometimes hirelings were not worthy and ran away. (John 10:13)

EPrata photo. Actual sheepfold door, with wheelbarrow

In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord (Jeremiah 33:13)

He is the Good Shepherd. He is the door, where inside the sheep are counted, examined, protected, loved, and cared for.

Posted in arm, good shepherd, prophecy, the worthless shepherd, zechariah

The strong arm of Jehovah and the antichrist’s withered arm

There are many symbols in the bible. Many of those symbols refer to an aspect of God, the Spirit, or Jesus. In the case of God, his ability to reach into the doings of humankind is shown in a symbol of His mighty Arm, or His right hand. I focus on His arm.

I was listening to a sermon by RC Sproul on Mary’s Magnificat, and in Luke 1:51, Mary extols the strength of the LORD by His arm in saying,

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; (Luke 1:51)

Here are other verses which do the same:

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1)

You Yourself crushed Rahab like one who is slain; You scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm. (Psalms 89:10)

Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” (Exodus 6:6)

Dr Henry Morris at The Institute for Creation Research wrote,

“The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)

The human arm is often used in the Bible to symbolize spiritual strength or power. The word is first used in Jacob’s dying prophecy concerning His beloved son Joseph: “But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24).

The source of all true strength is in the mighty God, so it is not surprising to find at least 40 biblical references to the Lord’s powerful “arm” or “arms.” One of the most striking is our text, promising that when God “bares His arm” for His great work of delivering the lost world from its bondage to Satan and sin and death, then the whole world will see His salvation (literally, His “Jesus”).

It is an interesting article, please feel free to click the link and read the rest.

The arm of the LORD symbolizes many aspects of Himself, but for now we focus on the strength. How much more can we see the lack of strength when we contrast the following verse,

He stomps the earth but his arm is withered!

Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!” (Zechariah 11:17)

That powerful chapter of Zechariah depicts a several-fold prophecy over the course of time. Zechariah is prophesying about Israel’s future rejection of Christ. Here is an outline of the verses’ meanings by Roy Gingrich:

3. The coming of a false shepherd (11:15–17)
(Because Israel rejected Her true Shepherd, God will chasten her by giving her a false shepherd. There is already a time gap of more than 1900 years between verses 11:14 and 11:15.)
a. His character—He will be “a foolish, (wicked) shepherd.” The Old Testament writers often associated foolishness and wickedness. See Psa. 14:1.
b. His identity—He is: (1) The “little horn,” Dan. 7:8; (2) “the desolator,” Dan. 9:27; (3) “the willful king,” Dan. 11:36; (4) “the man of sin,” 2 Thes. 2:3; and (5) the “Antichrist,” 1 John 2:18.
c. His origin—God will indirectly raise him up to punish His people, 11:16. Satan will directly raise him up to promote his end-time total rebellion against God, 2 Thes. 2:4; Rev. 19:19.
d. His ruthless ministry—He will not feed, but will fleece, the flock. He will not tend, but will tear, the flock. He will not edify, but will eat, the flock. He will not feed, but will feed on, the flock.
e. His punishment (his end)—He will receive woe. His right arm (with which he slew the sheep) will be completely dried up and his right eye (with which he looked upon the sheep for evil) will be completely blinded. These things mean he will be utterly destroyed, Dan. 9:27; 2 Thes. 2:8; Rev. 19:20. God will first use and then punish this masterpiece of Satan.

Gingrich, R. E. (1999). The Books of Haggai and Zechariah (p. 52). Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing.

The worthless shepherd will strike the sheep, but the LORD will wither his arm.
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This foolish and wicked shepherd Zechariah speaks of is the prophesied antichrist, also spoken of in the book of Daniel. John MacArthur writes of the Zechariah verse,

With the removal of the true shepherd, the drama called for the prophet to play a foolish shepherd, who depicted the antichrist of Daniel’s 70th week. (cf. 2 Thess 2:3; John 5:43; Dan 9:27). Zechariah’s prophecy jumped from the first century A.D. to the last days before the second coming, omitting the present mystery of the church age.

This foolish (wicked) shepherd had a broken staff or club that he used to beat stubborn sheep into submission, something clearly inappropriate for a shepherd who thoughtfully and carefully cared for his sheep. Because they did not choose the good shepherd, Israel will do a foolish one who will do absolutely the opposite of what is expected of shepherds. He will destroy the sheep (11:16). This is exactly what the antichrist does. (cf. Dan 9:27, Matthew 24:15-22). Source: MacArthur Study Bible: Note on Zech 11:17

In returning to the symbolism of the arm, we have a great God whose arm is stretched out to perform mighty deeds, the mightiest is that Jesus is God’s arm. Christ is the power of God unto salvation (cf Isaiah 53:1, 52:10)

Thus the foolish shepherd is also a worthless shepherd who rightfully deserves the condemnation pronounced (Woe). The arm indicates his strength and the eye his intelligence. The foolish plottings of the worthless shepherd will be annulled when the True Shepherd returns (cf. 12:10; Rev. 19:19–20).

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.)

We can ponder the mightiness of the arm of the LORD in giving His Son to us. Whether one meets the Messiah Redeemer as friend or foe, His mighty arm will be extended to perform wonders and holy perfections. He will wither the arm of the worthless shepherd. He will strengthen His saints. He will direct His angels. He will cast the rebels into the Lake of Fire. His arm does wonders, forever!

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Let Us Reason Ministries: The Arm and Right Hand of the LORD

Alexander MacLaren, The Arm of the Lord from his Expositions of Isaiah and Jeremiah