South Sydney Anglican Church

“PRECIOUS” 10th Sunday Series on 1 & 2 Peter

2 July 2023

Topic: Shepherd

Bible Passage: 1 Peter 5:1-7

The Church needs Humble Shepherds & Humble Sheep

Intro:       Well morning South Sydney Anglican Church. My name is Pastor Matt Johnson and today we are continuing our study of 1 Peter. The church in northern Turkey is in the midst of some fiery ordeal and it seems to include hardship, government injustice and perhaps even persecution. But Peter keeps telling them; don’t resort to evil. Keep doing good…

PRAYER:   Well today by the providence of God – we have a passage before us talking about church leaders. On the very day our beloved, old, (very old) church grandfather – GEOFF MILES finishes up – we have the opportunity to reflect on what made him a good chaplain. And on the very day SETI LATU endeavors to step into Geoff’s big grandpa slippers – we get to think about what makes a good and faithful pastor. Of course, Seti will not be the same as Geoff and yet there should be something strangely similar in the way they do ministry…

Although the Bible is very clear that we should not make idols or images of God fashioned in our own likeness – there is ONE IMAGE of God, that God Himself has given to us. Of all the things God could LIKEN Himself to in this world – the picture God gave us of Himself – was this. (Slide 2). This is what a good pastor looks like. This is kind of what Jesus looks like And to some extent it is also what God Father, Son and Holy Spirit looks like. Yahweh God is a shepherd.

Now the earliest archaeological evidence for Yahweh God – being called a shepherd is not actually found in the Bible. Yahweh God is called shepherd in the Egyptian Book of the Dead – dating to around 1500BC.[1] (Slide 3). The Egyptian Book of the Dead provides directions on how the Egyptian Pharoah’s should navigate the underworld and the place of the dead in order to arrive safely at Aaru (their version of heaven).

But in the Book of the Dead the author identifies (ENTER) that the SHASU (Egyptian name Semites) or HABIRU (perhaps Habiru meaning Hebrew) believe that in the underworld; “My LORD is the Shepherd Yah”. This is perhaps the earliest reference to Yahweh God being a shepherd. It also makes me wonder if this is the origins of Psalm 23 – “The LORD is my Shepherd” – who leads us not only through the valley of the shadow of death, but even safely through the Egyptian underworld.

Now the earliest references to God being a shepherd in the Bible is about the same time under the patriarch Jacob (while Joseph was in Egypt). Jacob says (Slide 3). Jacob also says (Slide 4). The fact is God is likened throughout Scripture to A SHEPHERD who ultimately reveals his true shepherd identity by coming to earth as the man Jesus Christ and laying down his life for the sheep. And this concept of God as Shepherd and Jesus as shepherd is in the background of today’s Bible passage.

Pastors and leaders in the church are meant to be SHEPHERDS like God. Geoff has been a shepherd to many of you, trying to keep you on the narrow path – with a cattle prod. But always with a measure of grace and sacrificial love. Seti will soon learn the sheep in our church find great mirth in IGNORING and TAUNTING their shepherds. Yet, the minute danger appears will still run to their shepherds looking for help. This is the call of a pastor. And in the midst of increasingly DIFFICULT and FIERY TRIALS in northern Turkey – Peter calls the shepherds to step up – and lead the flock faithfully…

Point 1:          Church Leaders are to be Shepherds of God’s People

Show:             1Pet.4:19-5:3 (READ)

Explain:         Well the word “THEREFORE” at the beginning of verse 1 is not insignificant. Sadly, our NIV Bibles do not translate the word therefore. But the logic goes – because some people have to suffer according to Gods will – Peter calls the pastors to step up and lead by example. Show the sheep how to suffer for God’s will, while continuing to do good.

Now there are THREE words in this passage that all speak of pastors or ministers in the church. (Slide 5) The first word ELDER in verse 1 is presbuteros in the Greek and this is the word behind the Presbyterian church. Presbyterians believe the church is led by a group of local elders. The next wordSHEPHERD in verse 2 is poimano in the Greek. In Latin shepherd is PASTOR. Many Baptist and Charismatic churches believe the church is led by a single teaching pastor, who answers to board of deacons. Meanwhile, the third word in verse 2 is OVERSEER which comes from the Greek word episkopos. This word can also be translated “BISHOP”. Interestingly in 1 Peter 2:25 – JESUS is called the shepherd and overseer (or bishop) of our souls. Episcopalians, Anglican and Catholic churches believe the church is led by bishops. So Peter is using three different words to describe church leaders – telling them to be EXAMPLES to the flock.

But Peter uses the words presbyter, pastor-shepherd and bishop all interchangeably. In the early church – there was no real established hierarchy in the church. If you were a pastor – you were a presbyter and you were a bishop. It was all different words for the same job. IT WAS ONLY as the church grew and became more structured that BISHOPS became kind of “SENIOR” pastors. But at this point – Peter is not concerned at all with hierarchy. In a church that is coming increasingly under attack (and the sheep are getting scared) – Peter calls the shepherds – not to neglect their responsibility, but to STEP UP. Church leaders need to be good and faithful shepherds who lead by example.

Naturally enough, many of the great leaders of God’s people were SHEPHERDS. For 40 years MOSES learnt to shepherd sheep IN MIDIAN before he was entrusted with shepherding God’s people through the wilderness. It was in Midian while Moses was shepherding sheep that God first appeared to Moses in the burning bush and called him to now shepherd Israel. Psalm 77:20 says (Slide 9 – Ps.77:20).

Similarly, King David was A SHEPHERD of sheep for many years before God called him to slay Goliath. When all the sheep were scared and running for the hills because of the Philistines – David manned up and said; (Slide 10; 1Sam.17:33ff)

Because God is shepherd he wants leaders familiar with shepherding and the dangers of shepherding. As 1Pet.5:8 tells us – the DEVIL still prowls around the flock like a roaring lion looking for some stray sheep to devour. And while it is the responsibility of every sheep to be wise to this danger, it is actually the shepherds responsibility to protect the sheep. The sheep by nature are powerless to defeat a lion. So the shepherds have a responsibility (like Moses, like David) to run in and lay down their own life to protect the sheep if and when it is necessary.

And its in this vein that Peter tells the shepherds in this book to do their job and do it faithfully – whatever the cost. If you look at verses 2-3; you’ll notice 3 couplets. Let’s look at them in turn (Slide 12). Throughout the history of Israel and in the modern church today – there are many bad shepherds. People who lead the church for A reasons, not B reasons. This is the path of the world. And many of the Old Testament prophets rebuked the shepherds of Israel most fiercely. Isaiah said (Slide 13; Isa.56:11) Ezekiel said; (ENTER – Eze.34:2). There are a plethora of examples of the Old Testament shepherds being condemned for their failure. But God promised through Jeremiah that in the future; (Slide 14; Jer.3:15)I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING.” (Jer.3:15)

Apply:            What I have loved about working with Geoff is that he has a shepherd’s heart. Geoff really loves sheep (even the annoying ones like… you can guess). Geoff is even willing to make sacrifices to help the sheep (even the annoying ones like… you all know who I’m talking about). So far in Seti, I have also seen this same AUTHENTIC SHEPHERD HEART. Seti is not coming here for the MONEY (or believe it or not the FAME). He is coming here because he has a special heart for the least, the last and the lost of God’s flock. In both men – I have seen and witnessed a heart that is sorely lacking in many pastors. So while I am sad that Geoff is going. At least mostly sad… (love you Geoff) I am excited that Seti is coming with God’s shepherd heart for the sheep. BUT GOD’S SHEPHERD HEART for the sheep – now brings us to Jesus…

 Point 2:         Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of the Shepherds and the Sheep

Show:            1Pet.5:4-5 (READ)

Explain:         Well Peter now moves from all the Old Testament pictures of godly shepherds that we have in our minds – TO THE ONE who is perfect shepherd. The chief shepherd is JESUS, who Peter reminds us will one day soon appear riding on the clouds of heaven. When Jesus appears he will then sort the true sheep from the goats – and then he will lead us into green pastures unending. Jesus is the ultimate shepherd. JESUS IS THE PERFECT PICTURE of God who is true shepherd.

Now PETER himself heard Jesus’ teaching about the good shepherd laying down his life for the sheep. Sheep of course are often foolish. Sheep are not renowned for being intelligent or wise animals. And the Bible likens human beings to sheep. We have rejected our Creator. That’s pretty dumb. We have also rejected His word in the Bible that nourishes us and keeps us alive. This has brought us – under the judgment of God and into a state of eternal peril. As the prophet Isaiah explains in Isaiah 53 (Slide 17) – “we all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way – but the Lord God has laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all.(GOSPEL) This is why Jesus says the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus loved his sheep (loved you and me) so much that he was willing to die to protect us. So as Jesus died on the cross he was taking the penalty for our sin, so that we can be spared. And the Bible tells us that if we believe Jesus died for us, ask for forgiveness and repent of our sin as best we can – we are forgiven. We are saved. Jesus takes the bullet of death for us – so we don’t have to…

Now in Jesus’ last Passover meal (which we are kind of sharing today in Lords Supper), Jesus told Peter and all the disciples that in this final battle with Satan the roaring lion – the sheep would all run for the hills. As the shepherd engaged in battle with the roaring lion the sheep would be scattered. They would all deny Jesus, commit apostasy and run for the hills before the night was over.

Of course, we all know the FAMOUS STORY of Peter. In verse 1 – Peter – just called himself a fellow presbyter, A FELLOW SHEPHERD alongside those he is writing to you. But Peter also learnt the hard way – that his nature, his ability, his needs are first and foremost that of a sheep. Not Shaun the sheep. But Peter the sheep. Peter had to know himself A) first as a sheep, before he could ever know himself B) as a shepherd. When the scary moment came for Jesus to go out and confront Satan, the roaring lion, Peter denied Jesus three times. Like all sheep – he ran away at the first sign of danger.

So this passage in 1 Peter says – whether you are A SHEPHERD or a SHEEP – be humble, not proud – because God gives grace to the humble. You can’t become a sheep in Jesus’ flock without great humility. You have to first admit you are a sinner and you need help.  And you certainly can never be 1) a true shepherd of God’s flock without first knowing yourself 2) as sheep who needs help. SOMETIMES shepherds start to think they are better than the sheep. SOMETIMES the sheep think they are better than the shepherds. But in times of fiery trial and persecutionTHE SHEPHERDS have to humbly (relying on God) find the courage to be examples for the flock (on how to face suffering well). AND THE SHEEP have to have the humility to heed and follow their shepherd’s example. THE KEY IDEA is that whether you are shepherd or sheep (and truth be told in some contexts you all may be called to be a shepherd or act like a shepherd for the sake of younger Christians) – be humble. You think you’re the tough man like Peter who can get through the trials of life yourself – because you’re the man, watch out! That sort of pride comes before a fall.

APPLY:          Peter himself was proud, before he was humbled. But as the rooster crowed – Peter saw himself for who he really was – a wretched, pathetic, sinful, sheep – in need of a Saviour. And Peter went outside and wept bitterly over his sin and apostasy (Matt.26:75). Thankfully, we know how that story ends. Despite Peters huge failure – Jesus accepts him back. Jesus asks Peter 3 times do you really love me?

                        As Peter replies “yes” “yes”, yes”, Jesus tells him 3 times – to feed the sheep and care for the sheep – in ways that are ECHOED in this passage. I can’t imagine Peter being able to write these words about shepherding without TEARS IN HIS EYES – and he recalled Jesus’ words of grace to him. THE ONLY WAY to be a half-decent shepherd is to A) first know yourself as a broken, wretched sheep in need of grace. B) Then and only then – will a shepherd treat the other younger, broken, wretched, needy sheep with the same compassion and grace they themselves have received from Jesus. Today we should rejoice that Geoff has faithfully displayed this grace and compassion (to some of the least deserving of sheep, like Peter). Geoff has been a shepherd knowing himself as a sheep. And I truly believe Seti has this same humble, thankful understanding of God’s grace to him.

Point 3:         YHWH God is the Ultimate Shepherd in whose Hands we are Safe

Show:            1Pet.5:6-7 (READ)

Explain:         Well, the language of “God’s mighty hand” – has to do with God’s SOVEREIGN POWER. God’s power and purposes are unassailable. And I think this brings us full circle back to God being the ultimate shepherd himself. Of course, Jesus (the Son of God) is the chief shepherd – who will one day lead the true flock through the pearly gates and into heaven. But even within this context of Jesus being THE CHIEF SHEPHERD who is leading the under-shepherds and sheep towards the celestial city of heaven, GOD HIMSELF – Father, Son and Holy Spirit is also shepherding 1) all of history, 2) all of world events, 3)all world leaders – both good and badTOWARDS A DEFINITIVE END. God is shepherding the cosmos to a place – where GOD HIMSELF will be glorified, THE CHIEF SHEPHERD glorified, THE UNDER-SHEPHERDS glorified and even THE SHEEP glorified – in heaven.

So all of us – both shepherds and sheep – need to humble ourselves and steady our fears because our shepherd God is way, way, way bigger than we can comprehend and so we are safe in God’s Mighty Hands.

(Slide 19) THIS IMAGE is actually ultimate reality. As Christians we are safe in God’s hands. Yes, on the world stage, with calamities, and pandemics, and wars and now Artificial Intelligence and talk of GREAT RESETS – you might wonder why is Yahweh God – shepherding us through all this mess. In the midst of the fiery trial – you start to think wasn’t there another way (an easier way) to the celestial city – that didn’t require going through THE LION’S DEN and THE FIERY FURNACE?

I mean when you are a sheep in a lion’s den or a fiery furnace you know what’s coming out – LAMB CUTLETS. That’s never good for a sheep. But verse 7 – Peter tells us, even when our future looks like LAMB CUTLETS – we should cast all our anxieties on God because he cares for us. Even in the Egyptian underworld – “Our LORD is the Shepherd Yah” – who has defeated death, controls history and holds us in his mighty hands…

Naturally, in the fiery furnace and the lions den (and trusting in God’s ultimate shepherding of all things) THE UNDER-SHEPHERDS need to lead the scared sheep by example – displaying a certain measure of courageous faith. Not faith or courage in themselves. BUT FAITH AND COURAGE that God will look after His flock. And again, I say I have seen this courageous faith in the old man – Geoff Miles. On a number of occasions I’ve seen THE OLD DAIRY FARMER A) stare down iced up meth heads or B) escort drunk and disorderlies off the premises for the sake of the sheep. (Not bad at 76 year of age). But I have already seen a similar COURAGEOUS FAITH in Seti – in his willingness to minister in Long Bay gaol as a chaplain and also his willingness to stand by his beliefs in the midst of coronavirus. In Geoff and Seti we have men who do not have courageous faith in themselves or their abilities. But courageous faith in a Sovereign God.

So what makes a good shepherd. FIRST you need to put the sheep’s needs and the sheep’s welfare before your own. SECOND, you must know yourself as a sheep, first, and a shepherd, second.

A decent shepherd must first WEEP BITTERLY over their own sin – before they will ever understand the words – “feed my sheep.” AND THIRD, a decent pastor LEADS BY EXAMPLE even in the fiery furnace because He knows that God is Sovereign in all things and (whatever happens) we are secure under his Mighty Hand. So as I finish – let me just share a quote with you from Isaiah 40 – about God’s Sovereign shepherding hand. (Slide 20-21). This is our God. Let us pray…

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