October 30, 2014
By Andy LePeau
Perhaps the most beloved image for our Lord in all of Scripture is that of the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd provides for our needs, gives us rest, protects us, is with us at the most treacherous times of our lives. The Good Shepherd knows us and calls us by name, and lays down his life for his sheep.
Yet the image as used in Psalm 23 and John 10 is just the tip of the iceberg in how the Bible draws on of this magnificent picture. It is used with twists and turns by the prophets, by Jesus and the other Gospel writers, and by Peter. As Ken Bailey says in his new book, The Good Shepherd, it is a thousand-year biblical journey, with each author building on what has been written before, while also giving his own take on the image to fit his particular circumstances and purposes.
For almost fifty years Bailey taught the New Testament in the Middle East, where shepherds and their flocks were part of his life. So he brings to the book not only a keen biblical mind but an imagination shaped by the practices of peasant shepherds that have changed remarkably little from the time of Jesus. Bailey helpfully explains how these practices sometimes differ from those of shepherds in North America, Africa or other parts of the world, which gives richness to the text.
For working pastors, the book offers at least three significant uses. First, The Good Shepherd provides wonderful insights into four key Old Testament and five key New Testament texts, which can enrich the preaching life of any pastor. Second, the book also offers a possible outline for a sermon series that is sure to warm and challenge a congregation. Third, because so much of the way the prophets, Jesus and Peter use the image, the book provides a vivid reminder of what kind of leaders we are to be and not to be.
And through it all, we benefit from the supremely comforting reminder that the Lord is indeed our Good Shepherd.
Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 3:34 PM