Like sheep without a shepherd

The phrase, "Like sheep without a shepherd" first appears in the Bible in Numbers 27:17. It occurs elsewhere or is alluded to in 1 Kings 22:17; Ezekiel 34:5; Zechariah 10:2; Matthew 9:36; and Mark 6:34. Our proneness to wander away from good feeing, quiet waters, and refuge began at man's fall into sin and continues today. We wander away from God.

When I was in seminary I was driving north on I-55 early one Sunday morning from Jackson, MS to Greenwood, MS where I was to preach. Along the way I picked up a young man who was walking dejectedly along the freeway. He was not looking for a ride but he agreed to come with me when I stopped and offered one. The young man had grown up in a Christian home in Wisconsin and was returning home after he "came to himself" (Luke 15:17). He had gotten mixed up in a cult in Texas, had "escaped", and was now fleeing toward home. The young man spent the day with me and the next morning left on a bus for home. I received word from him later that he had arrived home safely and was very thankful for my care for him along the way. Some years later he wrote me to tell me that he had graduated from Bible college and was leaving for India to serve as a missionary!

We wander. God leads us back. He has given us a Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who "wandered" away from his Father as he went to the cross for us. He is the Shepherd of our souls who leads us back to the Father so that we are right with him. And he has given us under-shepherds, pastors and elders, who lead us to Jesus over and over again so that we are led back to the Father.

The passage in Numbers 27 which mentions "like sheep without a shepherd" tells of Moses aksing God for one to replace him as leader of Israel before he dies. Moses had led the people out of slavery in Egypt. Now he wanted to make sure that as the people of Israel entered into the promised land that they would not wander like sheep without a shepherd. He wanted to make the people were safe and would remain faithful to God.

God has given us shepherds who have the same heart: to keep the people safe and to make sure they stay faithful to God. Praise God for shepherds who lead us to Jesus!