The tenth chapter of John is the true key to the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning the shepherds. Woe unto the shepherds of Israel, who feed yourselves, and feed not the flock. A close comparison of the words of the prophet with the sayings of Jesus would reveal the depths of the divine goodness and wisdom of God, as manifested in the plan of redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd, who gave his life for his sheep.
In the words, the “hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep and fleeth: and the wolf eatcheth them, and scattereth the sheep,” the hireling is without interest or property right in the flock, he being only a hired servant. He could not therefore have a life interest in them, and his contract with the owner did not bind him to imperil his life in protecting the sheep from the destroyer, represented by the wolf in the parable. Therefore he fleeth, because there is no life-bond to care for the sheep beyond his agreement in the covenant with the owner, and self-preservation would be pleaded in law to screen the hired shepherd from punishment. This shows the relation of the shepherds of Israel under the legal covenant, that conditional covenant of the law, under which every man should die for his sins, or be justified by his own righteousness. The idle shepherds were held to account under that system for unfaithfulness in service by neglecting the sheep, or for profiting themselves beyond the wages agreed upon, in feeding themselves or in clothing themselves by the wool of the flock. “Ye eat the fat and ye clothe you with the wool.” There is also a very remarkable difference between the condition of the sheep under the law dispensation, and under the new covenant in the blood of Christ. Under the law every man stood accountable personally, without a life union with the life of the covenant, and upon the righteousness of his own character. Though Noah, Job and Daniel stood among you, they should but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. It is by such way marks as these that we distinguish between the shepherds of Israel, and the good Shepherd of the parable, which is under review. It is well to mark this difference in order to a correct understanding of this far-reaching parable of our Lord and Shepherd, the Bishop of our souls, who (unlike the hireling, which fleeth leaving the sheep to be caught and scattered by the wolf, because they are not his own sheep, and no life-bond exists between them that he should give his life for the sheep) is the owner and master of the flock, and was in covenant of old bound, as said the prophet, to meet the wolf with his own life, saying, I will rebuke the destroyer for thy sake. The thief cometh not but for to steal and to kill and to destroy, and the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. He said, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” This shows the depth of meaning in the parable, in contrast with all that ever came before him, whom he styles thieves and robbers. He said, I “know my sheep, and am known of mine.” “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
“Within the sacred precincts of salvation which God hath appointed for walls and bulwarks, Jesus has included every sheep and lamb of the Rock, saying, My Father gave them me, “I and my Father are one.” Thus it is seen that the gift of God to his Son is the inheritance of the Father. Behold, I will give the heathen for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for possession. We learn also that in the unity of the Father and the Son, both are equally concerned in the procuring of the fulfillment of every stipulation of the agreement contained in the covenant of the gift to the Son. And because they are one it was said to the Son, “I will hold thy hand, and give thee for a covenant of the people.” It was in this life-union with God, and with his people that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of man, laid down his life for the sheep, that they should not perish, but have eternal life. Thus in faithfulness to his Father’s will, the Son of God through his covenant of blood, made secure the life-interest of his sheep in a covenant of redemption, so that the sheep are not only his by gift of the Father, but also by purchase of his blood. They are so safely gathered by the will, purpose and predestination of God the Father, and so environed with the righteousness of the Son of God, that no wolf or other destroyer can approach the fold. Therefore, said Jesus, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Yes, rivers in the mountains and streams in the desert.
By so much, and more, is the final perseverance of the saints secured by the death and resurrection of Christ. And “no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast,” but “the righteous shall dwell therein forever,” are the words of the prophet. Here is the same everlasting security by the grace of God, and by the blood of his Son, and he is the Shepherd of the sheep, and he has eternal life-unity with them. And who shall say, nay? Only the spirit of antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son in the covenant of eternal redemption. “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” In the mountain of the heights of Israel shall their fold be. They shall lie in the fields, and shall sleep in the woods, and the prophet declares that nothing shall hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain. How safe then is that eternal life which is hid with Christ in God, and though the outer man perish, the inward man is renewed day by day. Yea, as said Paul, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” But “in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.” It is then in all these heavenly things that the evidence of final perseverance of the saints is secured to them who worship God in the spirit, and have no confidence in the flesh. Even enlightened reason revolts at the thought that one who is the portion and lot of his inheritance, and the price of his blood, should ever fall and perish from him who is the good Shepherd.
I. N. NEWKIRK.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 72, No. 16.
AUGUST 15, 1904.