“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
This fortieth chapter of the prophet Isaiah begins with a commission from the God of Israel to comfort his people, and proclaim to them the accomplishment of their warfare, and the full remission of their iniquities; and to cry unto Jerusalem the important message of comfort, which the declaration from such authority is calculated to inspire. A proclamation of what she has received at the Lord’s hands. The prophet is instructed to show the disparity between the two fountains or sources from whence emenates our natural and spiritual life. Christ has said, That which is born of the flesh, is flesh. And the prophet is instructed to proclaim, “All flesh is grass, and all the godliness thereof is as the flower of the field; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it; surely the people is grass.” Such is the fleshly nature of man, frail and withering, depraved and mortal, transient and passing away. All the glory of man, his goodliness, his best performances, his brightest hopes and purest actions, like the grass which beautifies, must also perish and fade away. But the word of our God shall stand forever. Peter, in his commentary on the passage, testifies that the spiritual birth of God’s children, is “not of corruptible seed,” like that which produces grass and flowers, which must soon fade and perish, “But of incorruptible seed, by the word of the Lord, which liveth and abideth forever.” Christ himself has also said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing: the words which I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life.” And Peter and his disciples said, “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”
In this connection Zion is discovered bearing good tidings, and Jerusalem lifting up her voice with strength, calling on the cities of Judah to behold their God. “Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him; behold his reward is with him, and his work before him.” Then the text follows, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,” &c. Behold your God, ye cities of Judah, ye churches of the saints, in the person of the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. There can be no doubt that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Shepherd here spoken of; he himself declares it, saying, I am the good Shepherd, and certain it is that he is the Shepherd that has laid down his life for the sheep; it is equally certain that he is the Lord God that should come with strong hand, and whose arm should rule for him. He is the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne, who shall feed his flock, and lead them to living fountains. Here then, we have a clear, full and unequivocal testimony of the absolute deity, and eternal Godhead of Jesus Christ our Lord. It is consoling to all the saints, as it was to the psalmist, to know that “the Lord is their Shepherd, and they shall not want.” He is the Lord, or Jehovah; and he is God over all, and blessed for evermore. Truly our second Adam is the Lord from heaven, and the God of the whole earth shall he be called. He is the mighty God and the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. This Maker and Husband of the church is the Lord of hosts, and our Redeemer is the holy One of Israel; and he has come, according to the prediction of the text, to feed his flock like a shepherd, and to gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and he will gently lead those that are with young.
Having established the identity of the Shepherd, and proved his absolute deity, we will next observe that he has a flock, which belongs to him; and briefly show the righteousness of his claim as the proprietor. We are not informed that he was coming to procure a title to a flock, or to obtain a flock, or to see how large a flock he could procure. The possessive case is used by the Holy Ghost in the prediction, his flock. He came not to feed or gather the flock of some other shepherd, for he is the Shepherd whose own the sheep are. And he says, “He that entereth in by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep; to him the porter openeth, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them.” - John x. 2-4. It is true Paul charged the Elders of Ephesus to feed the flock of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood; but this has reference to a redemption purchase, not a purchase of an original title to them. If he had held no title to them which was older than the claim of the law, the right of redemption would not be in him. The prophet Isaiah says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” - Isaiah liii. 6. And Peter testifies that they “were as sheep going astray; but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” - 1 Peter ii. 25. From these portions of Scripture we prove that the redeemed of the Lord were sheep before they strayed, sheep when they were astray, sheep when redeemed or brought back, and continue to be sheep when returned to the fold. It was then because they were his sheep by a prior title, that the Lord in justice could lay on him the iniquity of them all, and command the slumbering sword of justice to “Awake against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered, and I will turn my hand upon the little ones.” - Zech. xiii. 7. If the sheep of some other shepherd, or owner, should go astray and commit trespass, could the damage be charged to any other than the original owner, by any principle of equity and justice? This flock belonged to Christ before their iniquities were laid on him, before they went astray, and therefore when they had strayed they were held by the porter until their owner should come, prove his property, pay charges and take them away. According to the text, he, whose own the sheep were, came, and, as we have seen, to him the porter opened; for he entered legally, by the door, the iniquity of all the flock was laid on him, and he made full payment, and brought them back from their captivity with his own blood. For ye are not redeemed with such corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained, before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who by him do believe in God that raised him from the dead. (1 Peter i. 18-21.) Now if this precious blood of Christ was appropriated by foreordination, before the beginning of the world, for the redemption of those who ultimately by him do believe in God, does it not prove that Christ sustained the relationship of Head over all things to them, so when he came and paid the ransom price for their redemption, he could call his own sheep by name, and lead them out? But our Shepherd has not only laid down his life for the sheep, and called his own sheep by name, and led them out of bondage, out from wrath and condemnation, and into the rich pasture beside the still water, but our text assures us that he shall feed his flock. They require nourishment, and they are not able to provide it for themselves, nor can it be furnished by any other shepherd than their own good Shepherd. God’s people being born of God, possess a life in them that is not of the earth, and cannot feed on earthly food. That which we received of the productions of earth for the sustenance of our fleshly bodies, will not feed the inner man, or the new man which is born of the Spirit, and therefore all that come before Christ, or who attempt to supercede him in feeding his flock, are thieves and robbers. His being a spiritual flock, must have spiritual food, and the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne, himself shall feed them. He spreadeth their table in the midst of their enemies, and he maketh them to lie down in green pastures, beside the still waters, and he maketh their cup to run over. But how shall he feed them? “As a shepherd.” As one who is perfectly acquainted with all their wants. He will deal out to them just at the right times, and in the exact quantities, so that they shall not want. He being the Lord God, can never be impoverished, can never be surprised by famine, he has ample supplies for them, and they shall, under his care and protection, go in and out and find pasture.
But there are times when the flock requires something beside food. The chilling blasts of winter would be too severe for the tender and unfleeced lambs, were it not that their good shepherd bestows on them his unremitting care. He has pledged himself that they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand. Notwithstanding their strong propensity to stray, although like sheep they have strayed, he shall gather them with his arm; and having gathered them with that strong almighty arm, which shall rule for him, and which he has raised for their defense, he will carry them in his bosom, where they shall be warmed, succored and protected by his own vitality. The pulsations of his own heart they shall feel, and the affection which burns in his bosom shall comfort and cheer them. And he will bestow his tender care on such of the flock as are burdened. It is said of this flock, as they go up from the washing, every one of them beareth twins; and there is not one barren among them. (Cant. vi. 6.) Whatever this figure may be designed to illustrate in regard to the sheep of Christ, we know that the children of God, as they go up from the washing of regeneration, feel within them a strife between the flesh and the Spirit which burdens them sorely, and makes them groan being burdened; and in this case, they like Jacob’s flocks, will not bear over-driving one day. (Gen. xxxiii. 13.) But our Shepherd knoweth all our infirmities, and instead of driving, he gently leadeth them. He knoweth our feeble frame, and he remembereth that we are but dust. How gently doth he succor them when tempted, tried and distressed. Yea, though they pass through the valley and the shadow of death, he will still be with them, and lead them through, for he will never leave nor forsake them. This message belongs to God’s people; the commission is to comfort them; may we be found among them; and may we with them, share in the consolation.
July 1, 1857.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 465 - 469