The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (JOH 10:10-11).
Now, our blessed Saviour came to fulfill all that was prophesied of Him. He said in LUK 24:44, "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me."
What we need to see and to understand that all of the things that came upon our blessed Saviour-all of these things where He was called Beelezebub, despised and rejected of men-were things written of Him.
So, among these things which were written of the Messiah by Moses is found in NUM 27:15-17. Notice the chronology set forth in this chap- ter. First, he may go out before them, that he will lead us out of the world. He is the door of exit. "And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying, Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd." He is therefore prophesied as being the Shepherd who will go out before them, and He will go in before them. He will lead them out; He will bring them in. He will do this as the Shepherd of the sheep of the Lord.
Now I want to direct our attention back to GAL 1. Notice what the Apostle Paul is saying about the gospel of Jesus Christ. "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father," GAL 1:4. He had a reason for doing this. There was something that motivated Him to give Himself for our sins. What was that? Jesus was obeying the will of His Father.
Now, the apostle goes on to elaborate in Verse 9. "As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Now in Verse 13 we read, "For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it." The apostle was brought up in a religion of self- righteousness. The Lord is talking about the thief who comes to rob and to steal and to kill and to destroy. He is talking about those who live under the false religions. Verse 14 continues, "And prof- ited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers."
In our text our Saviour is talking about the thief that comes to steal and to destroy and to kill. He is talking about those zealots who are the most religious of our times, but they are preaching an- other gospel. They are preaching a gospel of the traditions of the fathers or others they consider to be experts. They are not preaching that gospel that we find here in GAL 1:4, "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, accord- ing to the will of God and our Father." He came to save us from our sins. He came to redeem us from all iniquity, and if any man preaches any other gospel, the Apostle Paul says, "let him be accursed."
We must have a gospel that preaches repentance. Yes, we preach the atonement of Christ. Certainly we preach His wonderful work on the cross and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Why did He do this? That He might deliver us from this present evil world according to the will of God and our Father. Now, we see how these zealots who have the Jews' religion teaching the traditions of the fathers, and who are they? They are those, who as he says, persecuted the church of God and wasted it.
Now, we see in JOH 10:8, Jesus said, "All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them." When the Lord has worked grace in our soul, we learn what it is to mourn over our sins, and we desire to be saved from our sins. We do not follow a vain religion. "All that ever came before me" refers to those whom we hold before Christ, in other words, that we hold superior to Him. That means we are going to believe what this person says or what that person says instead of listening to the voice of our Shepherd. No- tice that Jesus said, "but the sheep did not hear them."
Revealing Himself as the good Shepherd, Jesus said in Verse 9, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." I spoke about this in a previous chap- ter, so I don't want to elaborate on it again now except to say that He is the door of entrance into that place of sacred rest, that place of rest for our souls. It is the door of exit to be delivered from the power of sin and be delivered from the old nature. Then we are brought into that blessed union there is with God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus goes on to elaborate on those who attempt to place themselves before Him, saying in JOH 10:10, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." The Lord Jesus is using this contrast. Notice how the Lord Jesus shows the dark back- drop of the robbers and thieves to show the beauty of the illustra- tion of who He is. The thieves and robbers come to kill and to de- stroy, but "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
So, now in Verse 8 Jesus uses the term thieves and robbers in the plural sense. "All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them." I explained that these thieves and robbers are anything that we may place ahead of Christ, anything in our life that stands between Christ and us. It could be the love of self. It could be our pride. It could be our children. It could be our husband or our wife. It could be anything that we set ahead of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord said in LUK 14:26, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." The word hate means to love less, i.e., if you love father or mother more than Jesus you are not worthy of Him. The word before means that we hold superior anything before Him, but this is in a plural sense. It means anything or any person or any object that stands ahead of the Lord Jesus Christ, anything we place ahead of Christ, robbing Him of His preeminence.
Now, in Verse 10, however, Jesus is speaking of a particular thief. Notice, He said, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." The word thief is singular; Jesus is not speaking of a multitude; we must understand what the particular thing or thief is.
So, our Lord beautifully describes the true character of this par- ticular "thief"! We need to take that word thief into the original to see what characteristic this thief had. This word thief comes from the Greek word kleptes (klep-to) which means "to 'filch,' to steal." What does that mean to filch? That is a certain character or a cer- tain class of thief. If you go into somebody else's property and take that which has value and appropriate it to yourself, you are a thief, but that does not mean you are a filch.
Webster's Christian series says, "A filcher is one who is guilty of petty theft." In other words, that if you see a coin, you would take it. Now, this does not have the tendency to make you become poor or rich, but you are a thief nonetheless. So, what the Lord Jesus is talking about here is the petty thief. Now, let's take this a little further. Webster describes a filcher with this illustration: "He that filches from me my good name robs me of that which makes me poor in- deed, yet it does not enrich him." I believe that is what Jesus was talking about. He is talking about how they have stolen His good name. Now, you see the blessed harmony this has with those who come before Him. He has a Name of preeminence, a Name that is above every name, and when we steal His good Name, we are not making ourselves richer, but we tend to rob Him of His good name and make Him poor. We try to set Him at naught.
I want you to see what Jesus is talking about in our modern day re- ligion. The Lord Jesus is not lifted up. His name is not being ex- alted. They seize upon the death of the Son, but there is no fruit of repentance. They do not exalt Him as coming to redeem us from our sins and from all iniquity. In other words, they are slighting His name. How many versions of the Bible today undermine the deity of Christ? They undermine His Godhead. They will take away His good name. This is the thief that Jesus is talking about. The thief cometh not but to steal and to kill and to destroy. In other words, the thief doesn't come for the sole purpose of enriching himself. His mo- tive is not to enrich himself, but rather his motive is to destroy.
How do you get people to buy a product you are trying to sell? Is it by undermining and trying to destroy everybody else's product so yours only has to rise a bit and it is the highest? No. You leave everybody else's product alone and you show why yours stands taller than theirs. They were making their position honorable before the world to undermine the name of Christ and to undermine the truth and to slander His servants. Why? So their name, filthy as it is, still stands the tallest. This is a filcher, one who comes to rob and to steal and to kill and to destroy. The purpose is not to enrich them- selves. They come to undermine the deity of Christ.
Now, who was it that was willing to "filch" our Saviour of His good Name, even though they were none the richer by it? See what Jesus asked in JOH 8:46-48, "Which of you convinceth me of sin? [They wanted to make Him out to be a sinner. We know that God does not hear sinners.] And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?"
Do you see how they were filchers? They were robbing and stealing the good name of Jesus. They were making Him out to be a sinner and a blasphemer. Were they enriching themselves thereby? No. No. That's what the Lord is telling us here. The thief cometh not but to steal and to kill and to destroy. Now see the contrast when He says in JOH 10:10, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." This is the contrast that we see between the good Shepherd and the professed shepherds of the flock.
These blind filchers who placed their own honour before that of the Lord's anointed Saviour were also prophesied of in ZEC 11:15-17. The prophets prophesied of this type of a spirit among the leaders of Christ's flock, "And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd."
Here we are seeing the instruments of a foolish shepherd. The Lord is showing you and me how to distinguish between the good Shepherd and under-shepherds that Christ has sent and the foolish shepherds. ZEC 11:16-17 continue, "For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened."
Do you see how they are identified? If there is one who has been driven out and has been cut off, they do not go to visit them. They do not go to gather the flock back together. The Lord Jesus was going out to seek and to save those that were lost, those who had been driven out by these filchers who have gone out and undermined the true flock.
Jesus distinguishes between Himself and those who are the foolish shepherds. Woe to the idol shepherd! They walk in darkness. They do not have the light. They do not even realize and see that they are walking in the dark. Why? Their priorities are mixed up. They are not looking for the preeminence of Christ. They are not exalting Him. They are exalting their own opinions and their own self. They are men pleasers.
I talked to a man not long ago, and he said that they had a little problem in their church. I asked, "What is the problem?" He ex- plained it, and I said, "Well, the Word of God is so clear to show the solution to that." Oh, but the pastor wouldn't dare identify that because those are the people who are supporting him financially. So, what is he doing? He is walking in darkness, and he is allowing con- tention to rule within his church because he is not faithful to lift up the authority of the Word of God. He is not able and willing be- cause he knows that the very people that he would identify with those Scriptures would cost him his job. Such pastors are idol shepherds. They love the praise of men. They become violent when the true Shep- herd of the flock is given the preeminence over them. If, you go into such a flock and you set forth the Word of God, you will be cast out. The Lord Jesus is showing the distinction between such a shepherd and the good Shepherd who came to give life. The professed shepherds came to kill and destroy.
I want you to see this very instrument used in this illustration and the treatment of the man born blind. The man who was born blind was showing forth the preeminence of Christ. Notice this in JOH 9:30-34, "The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners [They were trying to say Jesus was a sinner, and so, now the preeminence of Christ is being set forth.]: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out."
They ridiculed him because he was showing that Jesus must be of God. He was setting forth Christ's preeminence and for this they were filchers. They gained nothing by putting Jesus down, but they did so as murders and as thieves and as robbers. The scribes and Pharisees were the idol shepherds.
Jesus shows the great distinction between the attitude of those filchers and the Spirit of Christ in JOH 10:10, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come [He uses their backdrop to show the distinction of what He is.] that they might have life [He did not come to cast out those who stood for the honor of His name] that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Isn't it true, as soon as the blind man was put out that Jesus sought him out and gave him to see and to under- stand that He was the true Messiah?
These religious hypocrites not only attempted to destroy Jesus' good name, but attempted on many occasions to kill Him literally. They were not only come to rob and to steal but to kill. Look at MAT 26:4, "And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him." In other words, they were not able to take Him in His words. They were not able to prove Him wrong, so they were going to take Him by craft and by deceit. They consulted together that they might take Je- sus by subtlety and kill him.
Now, religious leaders who seek by private interpretations to place themselves and their own opinions ahead of the Word of God are re- vealed as "strangers" in Verse 5. They are revealed as "thieves and robbers" in Verse 8. They are revealed as "hirelings" in Verses 12 and 13.
How many in our day will hide, pervert, or give a private interpreta- tion to any passage of Scripture that seems to offend; they want to please the ears of the people. In doing so they become strangers of the truth. They become thieves and robbers of the authority and the glory of God's Word; they become hirelings in the pulpit. They are there for one reason, and that is what they can take home.
The hirelings are willing to cast out Christ's true sheep that stand up to them and uphold the preeminence of Christ as they did with the blind beggar. "Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disci- ple; but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is." JOH 9:28-29. They were filchers. They were setting Moses ahead of Jesus. They knew Moses, but they would not "know" Jesus. They wanted to put Jesus down and make Him as naught. They reviled one of Christ's true disciples for his faith in what Christ had done.
See how this poor sheep defended the good name of his Saviour in the face of these filchers who were determined to refuse to acknowledge the preeminence of Jesus. Notice in JOH 9:30-33, "The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes." The man is telling them that Jesus did a miracle of grace to him, and you say you don't know where He is from or who He is? Why are you condemning Him and coming against somebody you don't even know? You don't know the truth. You have no rightful accusation you can bring against Him. "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a wor- shipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing." They said, He's a sinner. Watch this in Verse 16, "Therefore said some of the Pharisees, this man is not of God because he keepeth not the sab- bath day." They were making Him a sinner, but the man is arguing back when he said, "We know that God heareth not sinners."
See how the man was determined to set forth the preeminence of Christ, and how they were determined to kill that good name. They were determined to destroy the good name of Jesus.
The Pharisees could not refute such logic. What this man was saying was so profoundly the Word of God that there was no answer to what he said. Their only response was to rob this sheep of his good name. Why? What he said was so logical and so profoundly true, there was only one way they could come against what he said and that was to un- dermine him and destroy his person and logic with disdain.
Now, watch this in JOH 9:34" "They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins [you are a sinner], and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out." They had to undermine who he was. Some- times we experience this, that when they have nothing that they can answer about the truth of the Word, now we have to undermine your good name so your logic and your reasoning are destroyed. "Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?" That was the only answer they could have because what he said was so absolutely the authority of the Word of God. So, they knew he had to be wrong be- cause he was a sinner.
The Lord Jesus uses these filchers, i.e., those who would rob, kill, and destroy for the mere sake of self-gratification, even though they are not made any richer by it, as the dark backdrop in His art gal- lery to illustrate the beauty of the good Shepherd of the sheep by contrast. Our text is speaking of the good Shepherd and we see the preciousness and the beauty of the good Shepherd in contrast to this dark backdrop. Our text says in JOH 10:10-11, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."
Did the Lord Jesus go out to destroy their name? No, when He was re- viled, He reviled not again. He didn't come back to those Pharisees and say, "Oh, just a minute, you can't say that. I know all about you," and start slandering their name. No, He didn't come to destroy. He didn't come to be a filcher. He didn't come to destroy anybody's name. All He did was speak the bare truth of fact. He came to these very scribes and Pharisees to tell them the wonderful way of salva- tion, but they received it not because there was no truth in them. They had no place for the truth.
What now is the contrast? He did not come to kill or to destroy. He came to give His own life. He came not to take your life or theirs, but to give His life. See the distinction between a filcher and the blessed good Shepherd of the flock.
This same contrast was illustrated in EZE 34 in a prophetic way to illustrate the beauty there is in that Man of sorrows who was ac- quainted with the grief of being robbed and killed. Even as these hirelings were busy robbing and feeding themselves of the flock, rul- ing them with force and cruelty, the Spirit of the true Shepherd was prophesied in EZE 34:11. "For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out." [The good Shepherd is such a total contrast from the hirelings.] As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day." What a distinction there is between those scribes and Pharisees and the good Shepherd.
EZE 34:15-16, "I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. [He will not only lead them out of the fields of sin, but He will lead them into the pastures of rest, the haven of rest]. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment."
In other words, to those who have been filchers out to destroy the flock, He says, "I will feed them with judgment." Notice how differ- ently He handles the flock, the sheep. This prophecy was fulfilled in the good Shepherd spoken of in our text.
Look at EZE 34:23, "And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd." Christ, the son of David, will feed them. He comes out to lead and bring them into a place of rest. He brings them into a place where their souls are fed. All the forces of these evil filchers, however determined they are to destroy the flock's good name, and however subtly they conspire to extinguish any light that would establish the preeminence of Christ's authority and that of His Word, our Saviour comes to deliver by an almighty arm.
You and I are going to walk in the footsteps of our Saviour. As much as they went out to destroy His good name, as much as He had to suf- fer reproach, you and I are also going to bear the reproach of Christ. You and I are going to fellowship in His sufferings. He suf- fered reproach. He suffered disdain. He suffered cruelty. He was mur- dered. He was killed.
Everything of our flesh is going to be crucified. Everything of the flesh will be cut away, because we are going to follow in the foot- steps of our Saviour. So, what instrument does the Lord so often use to crucify our flesh? Often it will be those same filchers that tried to destroy His good name while promoting themselves and uphold- ing the traditions of their fathers. The Apostle Paul said that he was upholding the traditions of his fathers. He was walking in the Jews' religion which was a religion of self-righteousness.
Look at this in ISA 40:9-11, "O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tid- ings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your 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. 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."
See the tender, fatherly care with which God cares for His flock. He sends His Shepherd to lead them and to feed them. He sends that good Shepherd with a strong arm to deliver them out of the hand of those who would kill and destroy them. What a contrast we see.
Our text says our Saviour is "the good shepherd." It is very impor- tant that we understand the meaning of these simple words. The good Shepherd is not the idol shepherd. He's not the selfish, self- righteous shepherd. He's the good Shepherd. This word good has a very sweeping meaning. It comes from the Greek word kalos, which means "beautiful, but chiefly good, i.e., valuable or virtuous." Isn't He the Pearl of Great Price? The word good means valuable, in other words, virtuous, of high value.
This word kalos is translated as "good" sixty-six times, but it is also translated as "fair, meet, worthy." So, in other words, He is worthy. He is worthy of all honor and of all glory.
The first place this word kalos is translated as "good" is in MAT 3:10. Now, we find in Scripture quite frequently that if you want to find what is the real, principle meaning of a given word, find how it was first used in Scripture. The first time this word kalos is trans- lated as "good" is in MAT 3:10, "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."
Now, what do we learn from this? Christ is symbolized as the Tree of Life. The Lord Jesus is the Tree of Life, and He brings forth good fruit. If Christ is in you (the only good that will ever be found in you), it will be evident by the fruit of repentance. If you and I are of Christ, if Christ is formed in you, the good fruit brought forth is the fruit of repentance.
Now watch this in its context. MAT 3:10, "The axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down." Now, let's go back to Verses 7 through 10, "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." He is talking about the fruit of repentance, the good fruit. If Christ be formed in you, you will bring forth the good fruit of repentance.
The first fruit of repentance spoken of is the fruit of the divine influence of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, which reveals itself in our lives. It is that divine influence, it is the grace of God. In other words, if you don't have the grace of God, the fruit of repen- tance, don't come for baptism, and don't come to Him and say, "Well, I have Abraham to my father, and I am now a candidate for baptism be- cause of Abraham's covenant." He said don't come with that philoso- phy. He wants to see the fruit of repentance and the grace of God. This fruit of repentance is the fruit of Divine influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart, and it reveals itself in our life.
Therefore, when Christ says, "I am the good Shepherd," i.e., our di- vine or spiritual Shepherd, it is He alone who can lead His flock into the door of rest. It is only the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the good Shepherd. He is the Jehovah. Look at PSA 23:1-3, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pas- tures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. [He is the good Shep- herd. He is the One who leads us into this haven of rest.] He resto- reth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." He does not drive us out, cut us off, or expel us. We come unto Him and He leads us into that door that leads unto rest.
Now, the Greek word kalos conveys the principle of preeminence or ex- cellence. When Jesus made water into wine at the marriage feast the same principle comes through. It is talking about excellence. It is talking about a fruit that is better than the other fruit.
In the past we spoke about the excellence and the preeminence of Christ. He is saying that He is the one who excels. Now, we see this same principle come through in the making water into wine at the mar- riage feast. See what the governor of the feast said in JOH 2:10, "And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now."
Here the word good signifies preeminence. In other words it is better than that which was before. When the Lord Jesus says I am the good shepherd, He is pointing out as He did in the other verse, that any- thing that is set before Him, is a robber and a thief because it steals from His preeminence. The "good" wine is contrasted with the inferior.
Now, where our text says, "I am the good shepherd," Jesus used the word kalos to show His preeminence, to show the contrast between those who kill, steal, and destroy and Himself. He comes not to take life but to give His own life and to give us life. He shows His pre- emience over those filchers who professed to be the shepherds of Christ's flock.
Now, our Saviour's declaration, "I am the good shepherd," i.e., the preeminent Shepherd, asserts His absolute deity. When He says, I am the good Shepherd, He is asserting His deity. He was addressing Isra- elites, and to the Israelites the good Shepherd was none other than Jehovah. This is what He was telling them as we see in PSA 23:1, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." When He said, I am the shep- herd of Israel, He was saying, "I am Jehovah."
Jesus' declaration, "I am the good shepherd" definitely identified Himself as the Jehovah who was worshiped in the Old Testament times. Look at PSA 80:1-4, "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel [they are praying to the Shepherd of Israel; they are praying to the Lord Jehovah, and so when He told these Israelites, I am the good Shepherd, He is tell- ing them, I am the Jehovah.], thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?" When the psalmist was praying to the Shepherd of Israel, he was praying to Jehovah, the Lord God of hosts. This is what our blessed Saviour is telling the people when He says He is the good Shepherd of the flock. He is that good Shepherd spoken of in PSA 80:1-4.
So, our blessed Saviour was also the good Shepherd in that He was of His Father's appointing. He was not a robber. He was not a thief. He did not take this upon Himself. This was given Him of the Father and appointed unto Him of the Father. He was not trying to steal a glory belonging to the Father.
Look at JOH 6:37-39, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." [He didn't take one of the sheep out of another man's fold. He did not steal.] For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."
Do you see the distinction that our blessed Saviour is placing be- tween Him and those who were the robbers and the thieves?
Now, it was based upon His humble obedience to His Father's will that our Saviour could petition His Father for such a position of preemi- nence. He did not steal a position of preeminence. The Father gave it to Him on the basis of His humble obedience unto the Father.
Now, look at JOH 17:4-5, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." It was by His humble obedience to the will of the Father, finishing the work that the Fa- ther had given Him to do. Obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. It was by His perfect righteousness and His perfect obedience that He is able to redeem His sheep from the law and its curse. He comes on the basis of that perfect obedience. Verse 5 continues, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
In other words, I have come, I have obeyed, and I have completed all that I was commanded to do. Now, let me again return and be restored back into that glory which I had with Thee before the world was. There is such a distinction between those who want to take an honor that doesn't belong to them. They want to murder, to kill, and to de- stroy and take away the good name of any person who will come with the Word of God and show that their traditions are wrong. They will do unto you like the Apostle Paul said, "I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it."
Now, we see the beauty of the explanation that the Apostle Paul gave us in GAL 1:13-14. "For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zeal- ous of the traditions of my fathers." The apostle's religion was a religion of self-righteousness and tradition.
We can become so zealous of the traditions and that religion of the old fathers that we set the Word of God at naught; it becomes second place. In that zeal we are destroyed, we kill, and we destroy the preeminence of Christ, and the authority of His Word. It is so im- portant that Christ and His Word are preeminent. He is the good Shep- herd. He is the one who by contrast, by right and by full authority of His Father, is the Shepherd of His flock. Amen.