The world's most popular psalm is probably Psalm 23, which begins with the famous phrase: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." It is here that we are first introduced to the analogy of God as the good shepherd--a recurring theme in the Bible, spanning over a thousand years from David to the prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah), to Jesus.
Among the many common themes of this thread in the Old Testament, we see how God diligently searches and then gathers the lost sheep, brings them into the safety of his protection, and cares for them with loving compassion. Perhaps we get a picture of this in Genesis 16, when the angel of the Lord goes after Hagar--the pregnant runaway. He finds her in the wilderness, shows compassion, and encourages her to return home. When you read this chapter, you may notice that this is "the angel of the Lord" not "an angel of the Lord," who talks like God, is referred to as God by Hagar, and is physically present based on Hagar's confession: "Truly there have I seen him who looks after me." The physical embodiment of God acting like a good shepherd--sound like anyone you know?
In the New Testament, Jesus retells the story of the good shepherd but writes himself into the story. Here, we get a better glimpse of the sacrifice made by the good shepherd. Not only will he go to great lengths to rescue the lost sheep, but he is willing to lay down his life for the sheep. Such an act of extreme love and devotion is why Jesus is often called the Good Shepherd and why some of the oldest images we have of Jesus (in the Roman catacombs) have him carrying a lamb. Even hanging on the cross, we see Jesus as the good shepherd gathering the lost when he invites the criminal to come home to paradise.
- Brian Causey, Teleios Board Member