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A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD

The One true Sheepfold

                   A SHEPHERD LOOKS AT THE GOOD SHEPHERD
                               AND HIS SHEEP


                                    by

                              Phillip Keller
                            (Published in 1978)



SETTING THE STAGE



     BEFORE WE BEGIN our study of this section of Scripture it is
essential to set the stage on which our Lord stated the three
parables contained in John 10. Only in this way can we comprehend
clearly the truths He was teaching.
     His own contemporaries, those to whom He addressed these
ideas, were totally baffled by them. In fact, His hearers were so
bewildered that some accused Him of being mad, or under the
control of an evil spirit. They insisted that such statements as
He made deserved death by stoning.
     On the other hand there were those who, having just seen Him
restore sight to the young man born blind, felt sure that what He
said contained truth. It was bound to, since He could perform
such miracles.
     So it was that a storm of controversy raged around Christ.
People were polarized by His parables. Some said He deserved to
die. Others hailed Him as a Savior.

     Down the long centuries of time since that desperate day in
which He declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, the
controversy has continued over what He really meant. Scholars,
teachers, theologians, academics, and preachers have all applied
themselves to this passage of Scripture. Commentaries and books
of various kinds have dealt with these parables. The diversity of
views, and explanations given, leave one almost as perplexed as
the people of Jesus' own time.
     Consequently it is no easy thing to be invited to do a book
on John 10. Yet it has been undertaken in humility and with the
full knowledge of what others have written previously. It is not
intended to discredit what has been drawn from these parables by
other teachers. They are fully entitled to their views. But it
should be said at the outset that the approach which I have taken
is a very distinct, personal one. It is based, not on the concept
of the nation Israel, referred to in the Old Testament as God's
flock, the people of His fold; nor on the New Testament emphasis
of the church being Christ's little flock; but rather on my
simply belonging to Him as an individual.
     The reasons for this are neither theological nor doctrinal.
They are the practical realities of the setting and events in
which these statements were made by Christ. And if, with open
minds and gently receptive spirits we look at what transpired
during the days immediately preceding this passage, it will be
seen that the personal approach is valid.
     Jesus was nearing the end of His public life. An increasing
hostility was building up against Him from the ecclesiastical
elite of His time. The religious leaders of His day felt
threatened by His enormous popularity and appeal to the common
people. The plain people applauded Him openly. His winsome words
drew them with magnetic and positive power.
     This continuous polarization around Christ created a
constant storm center of controversy. The Scribes, Sadducees, and
Pharisees tried every tactic to attack Him whenever He appeared
in public. The masses on the other hand came to love Him with
great affection. His healing, helping, and heartening life had
restored and lifted so many of them.

     He entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles,
or Booths, with His men. It was a festival commemorating
Jehovah's care of His people during their long wilderness
wanderings after their exodus from Egypt. The Master immediately
came under attack. In John 7 we see some claiming Him to be a
"good man"; others insisting He was a "deceiver." And they would
have lynched Him, if they could, but His hour of arrest had not
yet come.
     Then, on the last day of the feast He was assailed again.
Some asserted He was truly "the Christ." His antagonists on the
other hand claimed that Christ could not possibly come from
Galilee. Officers were sent to arrest Him but failed to do so,
declaring instead, "never man spake like this man!" So once more
He was spared from the clutches of His opponents.

     On the next day (the 8th day or the last Great Feast day -
Keith Hunt) He returned to the city and was confronted by the
Scribes and Pharisees with a young woman caught in an illicit
sexual relationship. She was to be stoned, but to bait Jesus the
frightened girl was brought to Him. Instead of condemning her, He
forgave her but instructed her to go and sin no more.
     The girl's accusers were furious. They engaged in a dreadful
diatribe with Jesus in which He insisted upon His oneness with
the Father. For this they again determined to stone Him to death.
Yet He eluded them and escaped. All of this is described in John
8.
     Later He was met by a man blind from birth. In a remarkable
manner He touched the sightless eyes and the blind man saw when
he went to bathe them in the pool of Siloam, as instructed. Out
of deep gratitude the healed man gave glory and praise to his
benefactor. This precipitated another angry controversy with the
religious skeptics and leaders.
     Because he believed in the Christ the poor fellow was
excommunicated from the religious life of his people. Jesus met
him again and declared His own identity. The healed man was
ecstatic and overwhelmed with adoration.
     But to the Pharisees our Lord declared bluntly that they
were both blind and steeped in sin and self-righteousness. All
their religiosity had done them not one bit of good.

     It is on this pathetic theme that John 9 concludes.
In blazing, bold contrast, Christ had personally touched and
entered both the lives of the young adulteress and this
supposedly sinful, blind man. He had brought them into an
intimate, new relationship of abundant living with Himself.
Put into the language of the New Testament, these two individuals
had discovered what is meant by "Christ in me," and "I in
Christ." They had both entered into that dynamic new dimension of
living which Christ Himself later referred to as "[Abiding] in
me, and I in you."

(And, note again, it was the Last Great Feast day that this all
took place. The time when the multitudes of the spiritually
blind, who were not called to repentance in their life time, will
be raised in the White Throne Judgment day of Revelation 20, and
be given the Bible and the book of life will be opened to them.
They will see the truths of God. They will be given a chance of
seeing salvation laid before them. If they will, their blinded
eyes of the mind will see the Great Shepherd, and they will
accept Him as their personal Savior - Keith Hunt)


     To depict and dramatize this remarkable relationship with
Himself He then proceeded to tell the three parables of the
Shepherd and His sheep in the next chapter.

     By contrast, in Psalm 23, David the author writes from the
standpoint of a sheep speaking about its owner. In John 10 the
approach is the opposite. Our Lord, Jesus the Christ, here speaks
as the Good Shepherd. He describes His relationship to His sheep;
we, the common people, who have come into His ownership and under
His care.


WHAT IS A SHEEPFORLD?


     It is an enclosure open to the wind. It is an enclosure open
to the scrutiny of the owner. It is an enclosure not covered in,
roofed over, or shielded from the eyes of the shepherd.
     It is not a barn, shed, or closed-in structure.
     Its walls, open to the sun, the sky, stars, rain, and wind
may be made of rough-laid stones, sun-dried bricks, timber, mud
and wattle, or even tightly packed thorn brush, called a corral
in some places, a kraal in others, and a boma in parts of Africa.
     The main purpose of the sheepfold is to provide protection
for the sheep - especially at night and in stormy weather. Its
high thick walls are a barrier that prevents thieves or, to use a
modern parlance, rustlers from invading the flock to plunder the
defenseless sheep.
     The enclosing walls are also a safeguard for the sheep
against all sorts of predators. These vary, depending upon the
country in which the sheep are kept. In some areas it is a case
of keeping out wolves or jackals. In others, especially parts of
Africa, lions, leopards, and even hyenas are guarded against.
Even then, despite the barricade of thorn brush, there are
occasions when predators will prowl around a sheepfold stealthily
searching for some spot where they can leap over the enclosure to
capture and kill their prey. This produces panic among the flock.
The carnage is terrifying and the losses among the flock can be
enormous. For the sheep owner the raids on his sheep represent
serious financial reverses which may take years to recover.
     I had a neighbor whose flock was raided one night by a
cougar. By daybreak more than thirty of his finest ewes lay dead
on the ground. Fences and walls had been cleared by the powerful
predator without it ever passing through a gate or open door.

     "Sheepfold," besides being the name for an enclosure where
sheep are generally kept at night, is also a term for managing
sheep. In sheep countries we often speak freely of "folding"
sheep. By that we mean the much wider sense in which a flock of
sheep are said to be "enfolded" by a certain owner or sheepman.
The sheep come under his special management and his direct
control continuously. He folds his flock exactly as he sees fit
in order that they will flourish and prosper under his care.
Folding sheep is another way of saying a shepherd is managing his
flock with maximum skill. It is to say that he handles them with
expertise, moving them from field to field, pasture to pasture,
range to range in order to benefit them as much as he can, as
well as to enhance his own land.

     So a sheepfold conveys the idea of the special relationship
a sheep has to the ownership and care of a certain shepherd. And
when our Lord, who referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd spoke
these parables, He saw the overall picture of the unique
relationship between Himself and His followers - between Himself
and those who had come under His good hand for the management of
their lives.

     He begins this first parable by asserting that anyone who
forces a way into the "sheepfold" other than by the proper
doorway or entrance may be a thief or robber. In other words, He
is saying that my life is a sheepfold to which He alone, the Good
Shepherd, is the rightful owner.
     Within the fold of my life there are all kinds of people who
come in and out. There are the members of my immediate family
circle, my wife, children, grandchildren, cousins, or more
distant relatives. Then there are friends, neighbors, business
associates, schoolmates or strangers who from time to time pass
in and out of the circle of my life.
     In reality none of our lives are totally closed in, roofed
over, and so completely sealed and safeguarded as to forestall
the entry of others. Each of us is a sheepfold in our own
private, individual way. We are within a fold, a circle, a life,
which really cannot be roofed over.
     It is true some of us may have high walls of self-defense
erected around us. We may even go so far as to try and enclose
ourselves completely to forestall invasion from others, and we
may feel we have actually succeeded in this. However, we may fool
ourselves into believing that we can withdraw into our own
secluded little domain where we are exempt from the entrance and
intrusion of others.
     Christ's assertion is that in fact this is simply not
possible. It is true I am in an enclosure. It is true I live
within a limited circle which, however, is shared by others who
enter it. But over and beyond this my life is surrounded and
enfolded by the encircling care and provision of a providential
God. Nor is it closed off from His loving care and concern. It is
in fact wide open to the wind, the wind of His gracious Spirit.
There is no way He can be kept out, any more than the wind
blowing across the countryside can be kept out of an open
sheepfold.
     The truth that there is no one anywhere who can escape or
elude the coming of God's Spirit, is portrayed in exquisite
detail in Psalm 139. There is no way known to man in which he can
prevent the gracious presence of God's Spirit from making an
impact on the fold of his life. We are surrounded by Him; we are
found by Him; we are touched by Him. His impact is upon us. We
are beneath the influence of His hand ... His person ... His
presence!

     O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my
     downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought
     afar off.
     Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art
     acquainted with all my ways.
     For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou
     knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before,
     and laid thine hand upon me.
     Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot
     attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit?
     or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up
     into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell,
     behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning,
     and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there
     shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
     If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the
     night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth
     not from thee; but the night shineth as the  day:
     The darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
     (Ps.139:1-12)


In the light of all this we must conclude quietly that though we
may be able to exclude others from our lives, to a degree, we
cannot do this with Christ. He comes to us again and again
seeking entry.

(True, IF you are being called of God. What Keller did not
understand is that God is NOT calling everyone to Himself in this
life time. Psalm 139 was from David, a man called of God to be
His child. Then indeed there is no hiding from Him anywhere. The
truth of the matter is that the Lord is NOT giving salvation to the
masses. Most today are spiritually blind, only the election
of grace can know the Good Shepherd. See Romans 9 through 11.
There is a plan of salvation being worked out by the Father. All
will have a chance for salvation in the time frame that is of
God. This plan of salvation is fully explained and expounded upon
in studies on this Website - Keith Hunt)


     He does not force His way in. He does not gate-crash my life
or yours. He chooses to enter by the proper entrance which is
really His privilege. Yet He is so gracious in requesting our
cooperation in this.
     Still, in fear and apprehension we often exclude Him, while
at the same time, unknowingly, we are invaded by adversaries.
     Many who force their way into my life, who slip in by means
that are cunning, who impose themselves by devious and
destructive tactics; often are bent on deceiving and destroying
me. They are thieves and predators who are determined to plunder
and exploit me as a person for their own selfish ends.
     We live in a world and society rife with those who hold and
propagate false teachings, false philosophies, false ideologies,
false concepts, false values, and false standards of behavior. We
are approached on every side by those who would penetrate our
lives to pillage them if they could. Their aim is to exploit us.
They would rob us of the rich benefits which could be ours as the
sheep of God's pasture.

(Yes, when called by God, Satan the Devil often works overtime,
sending and doing his best to side-line us, to prevent the Spirit
of the Lord from leading and teaching us, so we move from being
called to being chosen. There is a full study on this Website
entitled "Called and Chosen - When?" - Keith Hunt)


     Sad to say that in many lives they have actually succeeded.
People have been pillaged. Countless lives have been robbed by
the enemy posing as proper owners. Yet in those same lives, in
those very sheepfolds, the door has never been opened to the Good
Shepherd who really does have the right to enter, and who in
truth is entitled to their ownership and care.
     This is one of the enduring enigmas of human behavior that
is so baffling. We human beings will allow all kinds of strange
ideologies and philosophies to permeate our thinking. We will
allow humanistic standards and materialistic concepts to actually
rob us of the finest values that would otherwise enrich us. We
permit false aims and ambitions to penetrate our thinking and
dominate our desires, scarcely aware that in so doing we are
forfeiting the richest values our Good Shepherd intended for us.
     On every side we see people robbed, not necessarily of
materialistic possessions, but of the much more enduring assets
of eternal worth and duration.


(Jesus did say indeed, many are called but few are chosen. Many
called ones are robbed from moving on by the cares of the world,
the physical riches of the world, the pleasures of the world, the
whatever of the world; anything that prevents us from having the
Good Shepherd enter fully into our lives, our hearts, our minds -
Keith Hunt)


     The simple solution to this whole dilemma is to discover for
ourselves that in truth the only One who really has a right to
manage the fold of my life is not myself, but God.
     Most of us labor under the delusion that we have every right
to our lives; that we have the right to go where we wish, do as
we please, live as we choose, and decide our own destiny. We do
not. We belong to God. He made us for Himself. He chose us in
Christ out of love, from before the foundation of the earth to be
His own. He has bought us twice over, both through His generous
death and also by His amazing resurrection life.
     Every faculty I possess in my body, mind, emotions, will,
disposition, and spirit has been entrusted to me as a gift,
bestowed by the bounty of a generous, gracious, self-giving,
self-sharing God in Christ. There is no such thing as a
"self-made" man or woman. To assert this is colossal conceit of
the first magnitude. It is an affront to the living Lord who
alone has a rightful claim on me. Even the total earth
environment, the biota, of which I am a part, and which sustains
me during my brief earth sojourn is God's doing. Only at His
pleasure is it maintained in perfect balance and poise. It
provides the precise support mechanisms which insure my survival
upon this sphere in space.

     Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God.
He was before creation began, for it was through him that
everything was made, whether heavenly or earthly, seen or unseen.
Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion,
ownership and authority. In fact, all things were created
through, and for, him. He is both the first principle and the
upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation.
(Col. 1:15-17, Phillips).

     In view of the fact that all of life originates with Christ
we should be able to see the reasonableness of admitting His
ownership of us. We ought to discern the inescapable conclusion
that He is entitled to enfold us with His loving care and
concern. We should recognize the fact that He is fully and
uniquely qualified to manage us with a skill and understanding
far surpassing our own.

     In spite of all this He does not insist on imposing Himself
upon us. He does not override our wills. He refuses to rush into
our experience by gate-crashing His way over our decisions.
     Having made us in His own likeness, free-will agents able to
choose as we wish, whether or not we shall be His sheep, enfolded
in His care, is ultimately up to us. This is a staggering
decision facing each individual.
     The amazing generosity of Christ in so approaching us stills
our spirits and awes our souls before Him. Yet at the same time
He insists anyone else who attempts to invade my life as an
imposter, a counterfeit shepherd, is in truth none other than a
thief and a robber ... a plunderer of my life who will impoverish
and cripple me.

                            ...................

To be continued

NOTE:

This is all so true, and especially so true when God is calling
you to hear the Gospel and when you then can decide if you will
accept the call and move into God's realm of being CHOSEN!

By reading from this Website you are certainly being called to
hear the Gospel of Christ, and the Kingdom of God, which will
come to this earth, in the age yet to come. I pray you will go on
to accepting the Good Shepherd as your personal Savior, and so be
one of His sheep. You will then inherit eternal life when Jesus
the Shepherd comes again; you will help Him rule the world for a
thousand years, and then live with the Father in the new earth,
as told to us in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.

Keith Hunt


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