Sheep Without A Shepherd

"Then Moses spoke with the LORD, saying: 'Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.'" (Numbers 27:15-17)

The children of Israel were about to take possession of their inheritance. Moses was 120 years old, he would not go. Yet it was not for lack of strength or age that his death was imminent, but because he was not permitted to lead them into the Promised Land. Therefore, they needed a replacement, a leader who was capable.

Notice, Moses doesn't ask for a council of opinion, from the renowned and respected. Neither does he call for elections, to let the people have their say, but rather, he asked God to appoint a leader. Today, more than ever, the people of Israel need a leader; maybe someone should ask God to appoint one.

Moses was well aware of the faults and weaknesses within the children of Israel. He had journeyed with them; he had seen their rebellion; he had pleaded with them; he had led them in their return and taught them the ways of God. They were like sheep that needed a shepherd.

Yet, not just any shepherd would do. "Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep which have no shepherd." He must be a true shepherd, a good shepherd, a godly shepherd, a righteous shepherd.

One may see in Moses' request Israel's ultimate leader the Messiah, who as the Shepherd of Israel would do extraordinary things for His sheep.

Moses points to the leader's special qualifications as one who is chosen on the basis of not what everyone sees, but rather, the unseen. Only God, who knows the spirit of a man, can appoint such a leader. It is the spirit of man which longs to love Him and seeks to cling to Him in faith. And it is out of the heart of man that devotion and service are clothed with works that glorify his Father, who is in heaven.

It was this unseen quality that promoted David above his seven older brothers, despite his brothers having obvious leadership qualities. Samuel, the prophet, came to Bethlehem to anoint the next king, and when he looked upon Eliab, Jesse's firstborn, he declared. "'Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him!' But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'" (1 Samuel 16:6, 7)

In a similar pattern, the prophet Isaiah foretold the Messiah's hidden qualities would not be readily recognized by Israel: "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him . . . " (Isaiah 53:2), yet the LORD had appointed Him "And the LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all . . . it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief when you make His soul an offering for sin . . . " (Isaiah 53:6, 10).

Like David, the Messiah's hidden qualities would make Him God's Chosen, and He would be "anointed in the midst of his brothers" (1 Samuel 16:13). The Messiah would stand out, not because of his handsome appearance or human abilities but because God knew His spirit.

At the time of the Messiah's conception, the young Miriam who was betrothed to Yosef was visited by the messenger, Gabriel.

He informed Miriam that she would conceive and have a son. Amazed at the news, Miriam reminded Gabriel that she was a virgin, and inquired, "How can this be, since I do not know a man? And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will over shadow you; therefore; also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.'" (Luke 1:34-35)

The LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh has set His Beloved Son as the Man over the congregation of Israel. He is their Shepherd.

During the days of His rejection, the Messiah announced, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." (John 10:14-15)

The Messiah testified that His Father had appointed Him to be the Shepherd of Israel. And as the Shepherd He would lay down His life for the sheep . . . for Israel.

This wonderful sacrifice was foretold by the prophet Isaiah. "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was laid upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5)

The prophet Zechariah also foretold of the Messiah's rejection. "Then I said to them, 'If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.' So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, 'Throw it to the potter'–that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter." (Zechariah 11:12-13)

Incredibly this was fulfilled during the last hours of the Messiah's life. "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, 'What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?' And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he (Judas) sought opportunity to betray Him (the Messiah) ." (Matthew 26:15-16)

The opportunity came when the Messiah was in the garden of Gethsemane, located outside the city, by the Eastern Gate of the Temple, in the Kidron Valley. The Messiah was speaking to His disciples.

"And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, 'Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.' Immediately he went up to Yeshua and said, 'Greetings, Rabbi!' and kissed Him." (Matthew 26:48-49) The Messiah was taken, judged and sentenced, condemned to death.

Realizing his error, Judas endeavoured to retrieve the situation. "Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, 'I have sinned against innocent blood.' And they said, 'What is that to us? You see to it!' Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the Temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, 'It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.' And they consulted together and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.

"Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, 'And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter's field, as the LORD directed me.'" (Matthew 27:3-10)

The prophet Zechariah also foretells of another shepherd, whom the people of Israel will favour and follow. Unfortunately, he is not a good shepherd. He will not care for the sheep; neither will he be willing to lay down his life. On the contrary, as the worthless shepherd, he will deceive and make promises he can not keep. He is the false messiah, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

"For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces.

"Woe to the worthless shepherd, who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye; his arm shall completely wither, and his right eye shall be totally blinded." (Zechariah 11:16-17)

Despite their longing and desperate need for a good shepherd, the nation of Israel will hope in a worthless leader. Promising peace that will not last, and creating a false sense of security, he will deceive. During his days, Israel and Jewish people will be in great distress and danger.

Referring to those days, the True Shepherd warned, "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

"Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of the house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

"But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

"And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:15-22)

Moses' imminent departure called for a new leader. Whilst Joshua was the man for the present, perhaps Moses' request looked beyond Joshua to the time of the Messiah. As the Good Shepherd of Israel, the Messiah would lay down His life for His sheep, and would rise again, three days later.

There is hope in Yeshua the Messiah, the True Shepherd of Israel, who declared, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one." (John 10:27-30)

May there be many who place their faith in Him.