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A Shepherding God

Kenneth Bailey, author of The Good Shepherd, was familiar with shepherding culture. He spent seven years as a child in the south of Egypt, returned years later to serve as pastor in rural Egyptian churches, and later lived in Bethlehem “where shepherds grazed their flocks around us.” Bailey brought these personal insights and experience into his examination of the theme of the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23 and in the New Testament.

Zechariah has many references to shepherding God’s people. God’s people were “oppressed for lack of a shepherd” (10:2). As has been made clear by other prophets, Israel’s wandering and eventual exile are to be at least partially blamed on her shepherds, who had failed the task of instructing her in the ways of the Lord. God’s anger was hot against these false shepherds, and in their place, He assumes the role of His sheep’s care.

While all of this sounds hopeful in chapter 10, the mood turns darker in chapter 11. It is apparent that God’s sheep aren’t through with their habits of wandering. Zechariah the prophet is appointed as shepherd over God’s people, but they reject him—leading him to symbolize the annulling of the covenant by breaking the staffs of “Favor” and “Union” (11:7–14).

What will it will take to produce faithfulness in the hearts of God’s people? Is there any hope for the softening of their stubborn hearts? Yes! A cleansing fountain is opened (13:1). A spirit of grace is poured out upon God’s people. God’s filthy sheep can bathe in that fountain and be rid of their uncleanness. God makes a way to restore and renew His beloved people, testing and purifying them so that they will declare, “The Lord is our God” (13:9).

Apply the Word

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd of the sheep (see John 10). How have you behaved like a sheep? How has the Lord guided you like a Shepherd? Remember the times of testing and provision that He used to keep you in relationship with Him. Thank Him for being your Shepherd, and share your story with someone as a testimony for Him.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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