Our Shepherd Feeds Us

February 27th 2024

Our Shepherd Feeds Us

Continuing to look at the goodness of Christ as Shepherd, let’s focus now on how he feeds and nourishes the sheep; how he teaches us. We could rightly look at the provision of food and basic needs that he provides. Shepherds know that sheep need food (green pastures) and water (quiet or still waters), which we see in Psalm 23. But Christlike shepherds know the goal is to restore the soul. That treasure, found in verse 3, is the crowning benefit of all else found in the chapter. We’ll look at this restoration more deeply in a future article.

Biblical Feeding

Biblical and Christlike teaching is the mechanism to feed and nourish both mind and soul. It transfers truth in the form of knowledge, wisdom, and always in love. This is a work fully dependent on God; a work of the Holy Spirit. A human teacher can speak truth and a human listener can hear truth, but the actual imprinting of truth onto the heart cannot occur without divine accomplishment. Consider the following:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Cor 2:12–13).

Biblical teaching, then, is both the human responsibility of those who teach (Rom 10:14) and an act of divine accomplishment (Eph 2:10; 2 Tim 3:16). It is never separated from the word of God or the action of God, and has the goal “to love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5). This teaching fosters faith (Rom 10:17), trust (Ps 119:42–43), understanding (Luke 24:45), spiritual growth (Col 2:6–7), obedience (2 Tim 4:2), purity (Ps 119:9), encouragement, thanksgiving (1 Thess 5:11), strength (Ps 1:1–3), and so much more.

How can I say so much more? Consider 2 Peter 1:2–4: The Apostle Peter writes that “all things that pertain to life and godliness” come to us “through the knowledge of him who called us.” This is unambiguous. Anything we can imagine in our spiritual life, or any pursuit of godliness, all comes through the knowledge of Christ. It comes through his “divine power” alone, and “has been granted” as a gift. We see that the gift-giving continues as he gives us his “precious and very great promises,” in order that we would be “partakers of his divine nature.” And all this comes through a centerpiece of the “knowledge of him who called us.” His teaching here is a divine act and a gift of grace, amen?

In this, we remember that useful teaching involves application, and the application of God’s word is truly a gift. It involves the right handling of God’s word (2 Tim 2:15) and doing so in love (1 Cor 13:1–7, Eph 4:15). It also carries with it the weight of speaking “the oracles (or utterances) of God” (1 Pet 4:11). That should overwhelm us all! We are correct to pray at every turn for the Spirit to guide and protect our words whenever offering his word to others (John 14:26). This is true for the pastor, but it is also true for all Christians, as we shepherd those around us in some context. Consider again all the relationships and roles you have in this life. Where are you called to teach rightly and faithfully?

A Generous Shepherd

In ancient times, shepherds were the lifeline for sheep, and it remains so today. Sheep remain dependent on someone to bring them to food, or to bring food to them. Sheep haven’t evolved past some point where they no longer need a shepherd. And neither do we! Even as God graciously sanctifies and matures us, we never grow apart from our need of shepherding. Certainly not from our Good Shepherd, right?

Just consider what happens when you aren’t spiritually fed, either in your own lack of devotion or the absence of others speaking truth. Have you been there? Are you there now? This is where we turn to the Lord, for he is sweetly good in his shepherding toward us. It is the Lord who will feed us on good and rich pastures (Ezek 34:14).

In Deuteronomy 8:3, we see God’s nature to feed us his revelation, in that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” In John 4:34, Jesus equated his own food as being “to do the will of him who sent me.” Jesus’ food was doing his Father’s will, so we see that both receiving God’s word is nourishing, as is doing his will. And Jesus was always feeding, always teaching, and he did so in every context of life. In synagogues, on hilltops, in boats, over meals… from the manger to the cross and beyond, he teaches in word and deed.

When we teach, and in whatever context, our desire is to reflect our nourishing Shepherd. We teach in order to offer truth and hope. We teach to encourage others to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength. We teach obedience. We teach others to abide and dwell in him. Certainly, to repent and believe. But ultimately, we decide “to know nothing… except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2), and then we simply teach that; Jesus Christ and him crucified. This is the hallmark of the Gospel; the person and work of Christ. As we are being taught, let us consider that this is a generous work of the Good Shepherd who feeds us in rich pastures of truth, and deep waters of grace.

Beyond this article, take some time to go back and read the entire first chapter of 2 Peter. Look for the workings of God in and through his truth, knowledge, and teaching. The interweaving of teaching and knowledge point again and again to the amazing power of God’s word and to his glory.

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Author: David Mataya

David serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is a trained biblical counselor (CCEF @ Westminster Theological Seminary) and oversees counseling and small group ministries at Redeemer. David has served in a variety of ministries in previous churches, as well as having an earlier career in technology. He and his wife, Colleen are now empty nesters with two adult children, Morgan, Riley, daughter-in-law Bailey and grandson Owen.