The most widely used lower story or metaphor in the Bible is the shepherd-sheep relationship and with good reason; shepherds and sheep picture our walk with God. Let’s look at a few examples in scripture and find the upper story connecting our relationship with Jesus and bring honor to His name: Shepherd.
Sprinkled throughout the Old Testament we find shepherding from Abel to Abraham, Jacob to David, and the first evangelists for the Messiah. Jesus described Himself as the Good Shepherd, Hebrews’ author described Him as the Great Shepherd, and Peter called Him the Shepherd and Overseer of our soul. That’s an impressive list. How can we, unfamiliar with this shepherd-sheep relationship, understand what God is picturing for us? Let’s give it a shot.
Before David was king, as a young boy he was a shepherd who jeopardized his life as he fought with both lions and bears to protect and deliver his sheep. They were his responsibility, his possession, and he loved them: the lower story.
Jesus feels the same way about you. He fought for you when He went to the cross and defeated your enemy by purchasing you back with His own blood. You are His responsibility so He delivered you from the grip of Satan … why? Because He loves you; what a great upper story.
The sound of the shepherd’s voice was recognized by the sheep and they followed it. Even if they strayed while grazing, the shepherd firmly and lovingly returned them to the flock. That kind of intimacy with Jesus is available to us as we progressively learn to recognize His voice, and more importantly, obey it. He may need to use a rod or staff (Ps. 23) but His ultimate purpose is to keep us close to Him.
Shepherds chose and purchased their sheep, therefore, he knew and loved them. The love and intimacy between the Father and Son was the incentive for our Shepherd:
“… just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:15 ESV
It was the Great Shepherd who paid the ultimate price for you and me.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV
Our Shepherd promises abundant life (John 10:10) for His sheep, one that is filled with purpose and direction. Develop your intimacy with the Chief Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, the One Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Spend time with Him in prayer, read His words to you every day, and expect Him to speak to you. Jesus’ voice, like the shepherd’s, is deep in your heart; learn to recognize it as you grow in Him.