Summary: How Jesus, our Good Shepherd, fulfills his duty as our Good Shepherd - performing miraculous tasks to get us to heaven.
May 6, 2001 Micah 7:14-20
14 Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasture lands. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago.
15 “As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders.”
16 Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will lay their hands on their mouths and their ears will become deaf. 17 They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to the LORD our God and will be afraid of you.
18 Who is a God like you, who pardons (lifts up) sin and forgives (passes over) the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not (hold onto) stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will (subdue / enslave) tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. 20 You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.
Dear friends in Christ,
About eight ago my brother was frustrated with life. He was tired of his job. Tired of his life. Most of all, he was tired of dealing with people. To make it worse - he was a postal worker. Since he is a Christian, I don’t think he ever dreamed of buying a machine gun and blowing people away. Instead of “going postal” - he thought, “there has to be another way.” After much consideration, he finally thought that he had found the solution. He would be a shepherd! So he rented a book from the library on how to be a shepherd. But, soon afterward, he met his wife to be - and decided to continue in the Postal Service. Now I refer to him as a “gruntled” postal worker.
I don’t know what finally dissuaded my brother from being a shepherd. But if you think about it - it wouldn’t be a very easy calling either. Sheep are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. They have no sense of survival. For that reason alone they require a great deal of patience and care. If you were a shepherd - especially back in the Old Testament - you would have to escort them from open pasture to open pasture and make sure they got from point a to b without ending up in a brook or killing themselves. That was and is the duty of a shepherd.
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. And it is his calling to get us - His clueless and helpless sheep - from point a to point b - from this world to the next. Today, as we look at Micah, we will celebrate the fact that -
The Path to the Pasture of the Promised Land Is Prepared by the Good Shepherd
I. This was the prayer of God’s people
First of all, let’s look at the background of the book of Micah. It was a time of political instability, social injustice and moral filth. The Northern Kingdom had fallen to the Assyrians. 20 years later, God granted Jerusalem a huge victory over Sennacherib with His “angel of death.” After this, the people enjoyed great riches and prosperity under Uzziah. But this just made the people more greedy and less caring for the poor.
In their thirst for riches and wealth, they lost their thirst for God. Even the clergy joined the race for riches as priests and prophets served only for hire. Idolatry became widespread. Worship had become a mere formalism, an outward observance of ritual and sacrifice to get God’s favor. These were the people that Micah had to preach to. Fully confident of the Lord’s cause, he fearlessly denounced the corruption and heartlessness of the political and spiritual leaders of his day.
This text for today is taken from the very last part of the book. It reflects the fact that the people needed help - lot’s of help. It is a prayer which is fitting for Good Shepherd Sunday. Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasture lands. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago. Micah prayed that the Good Shepherd would prepare the path to the pasture of the Promised Land.
The prayer first of all reflects an acknowledgment of where the people were. They were like a flock of sheep, living by themselves in the middle of a forest. A forest is not a good place for a flock of sheep to be - especially by themselves. Many predators wait for their prey within the forest - whether it’s wolves, bears, tigers - you name it. These hungry predators find nothing easier than to have helpless sheep to eat. Also, the sheep would have nothing to eat in the middle of a forest. This was the condition of Israel at the time. Their country was going down the tubes. The Northern Kingdom had been wiped out by Sennacherib. Micah predicted that the Babylonians would come and take them captive. Whether it was the Babylonians or the Assyrians or the Moabites or the Ammonites - the Israelites always had enemies - and they were always right in the middle of the action. Israel was located as a major trade route between the east and the west, the north and the south. And worst of all, they had run away from God and His Word. They were like sheep in the middle of a forest.