The "shepherd" image is in all three of the Scripture passages Rev. Dr. Don Scandrol will use this Sunday.
The first is Psalm 23--which I often describe as one of the most comforting passages of Scripture. Often used at a funeral/memorial service, it reminds us that even in the "valley of the shadow of death" we are comforted by the Lord who is our Shepherd. Leading us by still waters, where we as sheep he cares for can drink; letting us lie down in green pastures to rest and refresh, all while his "rod and staff' comfort us--and protect us. No surprise that if "The Lord is my Shepherd", then "I shall not want"--I do not have need of anything because of the care and protection and support that the shepherd provides for me, for us, the sheep.
Revelation 7:9-17 is part of John's vision of God pulling it all together and making it right at the end of things. Its imagery begins differently--rather than us being the sheep and Jesus being the Shepherd (as in Psalm 23), we find JESUS as "The Lamb" who is on the throne with God. It would seem that Jesus as "the Lamb" may have been in need of the same care as we other sheep have needed--but yet this passage ends this way: "for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Just as in the comforting passage from Psalm 23, Jesus the Shepherd (the Lamb who becomes The Shepherd) cares for us, sustains us, comforts us--has "got our (collective) back".
And that "having our back"--while true even if we don't realize it--is even more assured when we DO realize it, when we live the comforting reality that, as Jesus tells the skeptics in John 10:27-28: "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand".
How do we have that reassurance? If we indeed know The Shepherd well enough that we recognize his voice (and maybe even his sneeze?).
PSALM Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
NEW TESTAMENT Revelation 7:9-17
9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ 14 I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
GOSPEL John 10:22-30
22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ 25 Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.’