In Psalm 135, a vivid contrast is painted in broad strokes that compares the almighty and robust God of King David to the puny and powerless idols of the Canaanites. The Psalmist describes the inept and impotent gods: They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.
A recent viewing of some photography reminded me of this Psalm. The photographer had captured the image of some artifacts that portrayed their gods with smashed ears and crushed noses. I wondered if these ancient scars were the work of vandals or mischievous imps.
After reading Julia Wolkoff’s article on the subject, I found my answer: The ancient Egyptians, it’s important to note, ascribed important powers to images of the human form. They believed that the essence of a deity could inhabit an image of that deity, or, in the case of mere mortals, part of that deceased human being’s soul could inhabit a statue inscribed for that particular person.
By smashing the ears and crushing the noses of these images, the perpetrator thought he was castrating the idol and nullifying its power.
My worship and prayer aren’t focused on a toothless god who can be rendered impotent by the hand of man; my devotion is to the Omnipotent God who is great, above all gods, and the One who does whatever He pleases.
The God who is the focus of my attention is the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah: I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose (Isaiah 46:9-10).
Look at the noun and the adjective. God describes himself as more than a shepherd. He added the descriptive tag “good” to His chosen name of shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd.
If you live the nomadic life and sheep and goats are a part of your daily existence, you know much more about shepherds than most people. Central Asia, West Africa, the Middle East and Israel are regions of the world that know the importance of a good shepherd.
And that’s an important point. God could have said: “I’m the Shepherd,” but He didn’t. He also did not describe Himself as being a so-so shepherd or a little above average shepherd. He said He is the Good Shepherd, and He means GOOD is every sense of the word.
Notice the use of the analogy in Scripture:
• The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:10)
• We are your people, the sheep of your flock (Psalm 79:13).
• We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3).
• I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11).
The people to whom Jesus spoke were people who knew the job description of a shepherd: It is the job of the shepherd to:
• Find a sheep when it is lost.
• Carry a sheep when it has fallen and is injured.
• Rescue a sheep that is about to drown because its wet wool is dragging him down like an anchor.
• Doctor a sheep when it is sick.
The prophet Isaiah (53:6) explains why sheep need a shepherd: “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Any time you stray from the way of the Shepherd, there is the potential of danger. Peter said you need to, “Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).”
I’ll close with Paul’s benediction to the Hebrews (13:20-21): “Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen.”