By Henry Mahan
The Lord has been pleased to use prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastor-teachers to preach the gospel of his grace to his people that they may hear, believe, and be converted (Eph. 4:10-14). 'It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe' (1 Cor. 1:21). While these men are called 'shepherds,' the Lord Jesus is the chief shepherd, the good shepherd, and our great shepherd. These undershepherds labor as his servants, stewards of the grace of God, and as those who must give an account of their stewardship (Heb. 13:17; Luke 16:2).
Our text begins with the Lord's rebuking some unfaithful preachers who have not done what they were called to do.
v. 2. Their first concern was for themselves and not for the sheep. Should not a true shepherd's first concern be for the well-being of his flock?
v. 3. These preachers eat well, live well, and are clothed and cared for by the sheep; but, while they take from the flock, they do not feed them the word! Isaiah said, 'They all look to their own gain' (Isa. 56:10-11).
v. 4. In this verse we encounter for the first time four words which are found later in this chapter to describe the ministry of our chief shepherd, the Lord Jesus! Here is the charge against the shepherds: 'You have not sought that which was lost.' 'You have not brought again that which was driven away.' 'You have not bound up that which was broken.' 'You have not healed that which was sick.'
If this is the ministry of the chief shepherd, then it should be our ministry. If this is the work of our Saviour-God, then let us who preach and teach his word, who are called to feed his sheep, study his person and work and be about our Master's business (John 10:14-16).
vv. 11-16. He says, 'I will both search my sheep and seek them out' (v.11); 'I will feed them in good pastures (v. 14); 'I will feed my flock and cause them to lie down' (v. 15). And, as he has always used faithful men, he will raise them up and send them to his sheep today! But the under-shepherds must understand the character of his sheep and the character of his gospel, which is given in Verse 16 using these four words--lost, driven away, broken, sick!
'I will seek that which is lost.' This is a term our Lord used often to refer to those whom he came to save. 'The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost' (Luke 19:10; Matt. 10:6; 15:24). A lost sheep is away from the fold, separated from the shepherd's care, does not know the way back, and has no power nor ability to return to the fold. Paul describes us as 'without Christ, having no hope and without God' (Eph. 2:l2).
The good news of the gospel is that our Lord will seek that which was lost. He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:10-13). He will seek and save the lost sheep and welcome home the lost son.
'I will bring again that which was driven away.' What took the sheep away from the shepherd? We are out in the wilderness of shame and iniquity, away from God. How did we get in this condition? 'Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you' (Isa. 59:2).
(1) The fall of Adam has driven us away from God (Rom. 5:12), and (2) our vain, religious ceremonies and attempts at selfrighteousness have driven us away from God (Isa. 1:11-15; Rom. 10:1-3). Thank God, he will not leave us away from him, but our Lord Jesus 'died the just for the unjust to bring us to God' (1 Peter 3:18).
'I will bind up that which is broken.' Read Psalm 34:18 and Psalm 51:17. Is that which is broken good for anything? One cannot see in a broken mirror; one cannot drink from a broken glass; one cannot use a broken arm; one cannot walk with a broken cane. Only the heart is at its best state when it is broken.
It is acceptable and well-pleasing to God (Psalm 51:17).
It makes up for defects in our duties (Psalm 51:17).
The Lord is nigh unto the broken heart (Psalm 34:18).
The Lord will save the broken heart (Psalm 34:18).
God dwells with the broken heart (Isa. 57:15; Ezekiel 34:1-6)
A broken heart implies a godly sorrow over sin, is humble before God, claiming no merit nor goodness, and yields sweet fragrance like a sweet-shrub crushed.
'I will strengthen that which is sick.' It is true that the Lord sometimes heals his people when they are ill, and sometimes he does not. He is able to deliver us from any distress, trial, or trouble if it is his will to do so. But our sickness in this scripture is a spiritual sickness called sin, iniquity, and transgression.
Isaiah's prophecy in Isa. 53:4 declares, 'himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses' (Matt. 8:17). Also, 'By his stripes we are healed.' This is not teaching that our bodies will not be sick because of his atonement. We shall endure physical suffering, pain, and death, but not our souls. They are perfectly healed and whole from all disease, sin, and death. 'He that believeth on the Son shall never die' because 'by his stripes we are healed,' perfectly whole forever.
v. 17. One word must be added. While our Lord delights to show mercy to the lost, driven away, broken hearted, and sick, he will destroy those who think that they are fat, strong, and have no need. Luke 9:11 says, 'He healed them that had need of healing.'