The Warrior Shepherd

The most known real life shepherd was David.

Jesus Christ presented Himself to man as a shepherd. But He had no real sheep. He called us His sheep.

What He really meant when he presented Himself as a shepherd?
For the answer we have to learn from the life of a shepherd.
The best shepherd for this purpose is David.

The job of a shepherd was not an easy job. See what Jacob says about it:

Genesis 31:38 - 40
38  “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks.
39  I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night.
40  This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. (NIV)

The temperature changes often in twenty-four hours from the greatest extremes of heat and cold, most trying to the shepherd who has to keep watch by his flocks.
Much allowance must be made for Jacob.

This more particularly marks the covetous and rigorous disposition of Laban.
The law of God required that what had been torn by beasts the shepherd should not be obliged to make good.
The shepherds are strictly responsible for losses in the flock, unless they can prove these were occasioned by wild beasts.

Exodus 22:10-13
10  “If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking,
11  the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required.
12  But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, restitution must be made to the owner.
13  If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbor shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal. (NIV)

And it is very likely that this law was in force from the earliest times.

The wages of a shepherd

The wages or reward was decided upon mutually between the master and the shepherd.
It was paid in kind of sheep or wool.
That is why Jacob demanded the reward in kind of sheep with speckle.

Many of the masters of sheep/owners of sheep extended the law to their benefit and did not accept any excuse from shepherds.
So the shepherds had to pay for all damages happened to the sheep.

It means the job of a shepherd was not an easy one.
It was not singing and roaming.
It was hard work.

Four duties of a shepherd:

1.    Feed the sheep at safe places
2.    Care for the sheep from diseases, dangers etc.
3.    Protect from thieves in the day and night
4.    Protect the sheep from enemy (wild) animals.

The first two are acts of loving and caring – Feed and care
The last two are the jobs of a warrior - protection

Hence a true shepherd is a loving personality as well as a warrior.
A true shepherd is a warrior.

So our Lord Jesus Christ is a shepherd warrior.

If he is not a warrior, he will flee when enemy animals come to attack the sheep.
The hireling is not ready to fight against the enemy.
Fighting is risking the life.

John 10 : 11 - 15
11    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12    The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.
13    The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14    “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.  (NIV)

What did David do at the face of peril?

1 Samuel 17: 34 – 36
34  But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,
35  I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.
36  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.

Among the ancient Jews some kept their own flocks, others hired shepherds to keep them for them.
And every owner must naturally have felt more interest in the preservation of his flock than the hireling could possibly feel.

John 10:12  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. (NIV)

It is not the bare fact of a man receiving pay that makes him a hireling.

Luke 10: 5-7            
   “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’
   If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.
   Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. (NIV)

He is a hireling who would not work were it not for this hire

In an old MS. Bible reads it, the marchaunt - he who makes merchandise of men's souls; bartering them, and his own too, for filthy lucre. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary)

Psalms 23

Psalms 23 (A Psalm of David)
1        The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2        He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3        he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4    Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5    You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
   Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (NIV)

4   Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  (NKJV)

Introduction to the Psalms

There is nothing particular in the title; it is simply attributed to David.
But as it appears to be a thanksgiving of the Israelites for their redemption from the Bablylonish captivity, it cannot with propriety be attributed to David.
Some think it was written by David in his exile, which is not likely.
Others believe that David penned it when he was finally delivered from the persecution of Saul.
The Chaldee seems to suppose that it was written to celebrate the goodness of God to the Israelites in the desert.
It is a truly beautiful Psalm.

Supposing it to have been written after the captivity, we see:

1.   The redeemed captives giving thanks to God for their liberty.
2.   Acknowledging that God had brought back their lives from the grave.
3.   They represent themselves in Judea as a flock in an excellent pasture.
4.   They declare that from the dangers they have passed through, and from which God had delivered them, they can have no fear of any enemy.
5.   They conclude, from what God has done for them, that his goodness and mercy shall follow them all their days.
6.   That they shall no more be deprived of God's worship, but shall all their days have access to his temple.

The Study

The whole psalm revolves around the central idea about the presence of an enemy.
The whole message of the psalm is stated in verse 5

Psalms 23: 5             You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (NIV)

It is a special celebrated feast
Perfumed oil was poured on the heads of distinguished guests, when at the feasts of great personages.
It was a feast prepared by a great King.
There is plenty – plenty of food and wine.

The feast is prepared in the presence of enemies.
The enemies are defeated and you are freed from them
You are protected from the watching enemies.

Protection is the presence of the King.
The King is a warrior
The enemies are afraid of the King.
Only a warrior king can prepare a feast for his citizen while his enemies are watching.

The Shepherd Lord is a warrior

So the Psalm describes what a Shepherd Warrior does for his sheep.

Let us study one more verse:

Psalm 23: 4   Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (NIV)

Ezekiel 34: 12           As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. (NIV)

Valley of the shadow of death
A valley is a low place, with mountains on either side. 
Enemies may be posted on those mountains to shoot their arrows at the traveler, as ever was the case in the East; but he must pass through it.
The psalmist, however, said he would fear no evil, not even the fiery darts of Satan, for the Lord was with him.

The figure is not primarily, as is sometimes supposed, our dying moments, though it will beautifully bear that explanation; but it is the valley beset with enemies, posted on the hills. 

David was not only protected in that valley, but even in the presence of those enemies, his table was bountifully spread.

The Rod and the Staff


The staff identifies the shepherd as a shepherd.
No one in any other profession carries a shepherd's staff.
It is uniquely an instrument used for the care and management of sheep -- and only sheep.
It will not do for cattle, horses or hogs.
It is designed, shaped and adapted especially to the needs of sheep.

Staff is some sort of rest or support, similar to our camp stool, which the shepherds might carry with them as an occasional seat, when the earth was too wet to be sat on with safety.

It is often bent or hooked at one end, which gave rise to the shepherd's crook in the hand of the Christian bishop.

With this staff he rules and guides the flock to their green pastures, and defends them from their enemies.
With it also he corrects them when disobedient, and brings them back when wandering. 

The staff was used by the Shepherd to direct the sheep in the way in which they should go.
In the case of a wandering nosey sheep, the staff is used to pull it back into line.

The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges.

The Rod

Rod may signify the shepherd's crook.
With the rod or crook the shepherd could defend his sheep, and with it lay hold of their horns or legs to pull them out of thickets, boys, pits, or waters.
We are not to suppose that by the rod correction is meant.
There is no idea of this kind either in the text, or in the original word, nor has it this meaning in any part of Scripture.

The rod which the Shepherd carried was for protecting the sheep from predators.
It was never used on the sheep.

Each shepherd boy, from the time he first starts to tend his father's flock, takes special pride in the selection of a rod and staff exactly suited to his own size and strength.
He goes into the bush and selects a young sapling which is dug from the ground.
This is carved and whittled down with great care and patience.
The enlarged base of the sapling where its trunk joins the roots is shaped into a smooth, rounded head of hard wood.
The sapling itself is shaped to exactly fit the owner's hand.
After he completes it, the shepherd boy spends hours practicing with this club, leaning how to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy.
It becomes his main weapon of defense for both himself and his sheep.

The rod, in fact, was an extension of the shepherd’s own right arm.
It stood as a symbol of his strength, his power, his authority in any serious situation.

The rod was what he relied on to safeguard both himself and his flock in danger.
It is used both as a defense and a deterrent against anything that would attack.
The skilled shepherd uses his rod to drive off predators like coyotes, wolves, cougars or stray dogs.
Often it is used to beat the brush discouraging snakes and other creatures from disturbing the flock.
In extreme cases, such as David recounted to Saul, the psalmist no doubt used his rod to attack the lion and the bear that came to raid his flocks.

The rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word "staff" speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind.


Do we not gain comfort from the fact that it is Almighty God who is our Shepherd!
No robber, predator or enemy ever takes Him by surprise!

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