(Excerpt from a recent sermon based in Jeremiah 23 – we started by taking a peek at how God came to judge Israel’s bad shepherds… which means looking into how God’s leaders had led the people throughout the Old Testament.)
Throughout most of history, God has led man through men. He is the owner and the ultimate shepherd of the sheep, but he has employed undershepherds… men and women who have stood in a gap, preserving God’s people and paving the way for the Good Shepherd.
He used Moses, the shepherd-mediator, while they wandered through the wilderness. He stood – as a man – to intercede on behalf of the people. Moses grew to be so close to the people of God that he asked God to blot his own name out of the book of life so that God would not destroy Israel. Moses walked so closely with God that the book of Numbers says God spoke with him face to face, or more literally mouth to mouth. He was a mediator in every sense of the word.
After Moses, God raised Joshua, the shepherd-conqueror. God was with Joshua like he was with Moses.
After Joshua, Israel existed as a theocracy, with God as their divine King. As the sheep continually ran astray, God would raise Judges, the shepherd-deliverers. They would bring back the people of God, restore them to paths of righteousness… for a few hours.
Then came the kings. The sheep rejected God as their king, they demanded monarchy, with an earthly king. Because their desire for a man-king was a rejection of God, God started them off with the king they deserved – Saul. Tall, handsome, a mighty man… a terrible king, but whoo! What a man.
Saul’s reign was short lived, and then God showed the people his idea of a king. David. The shepherd-king. The man after God’s own heart, a sinner who sought the LORD in repentance and faith. David became the standard for future kings… a flawed standard, but a standard nonetheless.
All this time, God was raising shepherd-prophets to deliver his Word to the sheep.
He raised shepherd-priests as minister reconciliation between the sheep and their Master.
He raised shepherd-scribes to record and transmit his voice.
All of these were undershepherds, serving under YHWH the hero and true shepherd. Each human leader related God to the people in a different… and incomplete way. Each was a flawed picture of the one good shepherd. Jesus became the fulfillment of every leader, every intended relationship between God and man.
Jesus is a Mediator, better than Moses because he is both God and man.
Jesus is a Conqueror, entering not just the Promised Land, but the new heavens and the new earth by his death, burial, and resurrection.
Jesus is a Deliverer, restoring the people and bringing them back to paths of righteousness – not by external means, but by internal change, soul change, inscribing the very law of God on the hearts of believers, bringing life where there was certain death.
Jesus is a King, ruling and reigning in sinless perfection.
Jesus is a prophet, not just speaking the Word of God, but walking as the triumphant Word made flesh.
Jesus is a priest, delivering the one sacrifice of his own body and blood to satisfy the wrath of God and bring reconciliation to those who believe.
Jesus brought clarity for the voice of God, which was muddied by sinful human misunderstanding.
And it is from Jesus that today’s undershepherds find their calling, their strength, their example, and ultimately their forgiveness.