Hymn writer (lyrics): James Montgomery
Music composer: Thomas Koschat
The primary job of a shepherd is to make sure the sheep have plenty to eat and water to drink. Sheep are not fed in pens like some other animals. In the summer and winter they must depend upon foraging in order to live (Psalm 23:2).
Anciently, shepherds frequently carried a pail from which the sheep could drink if they could not access a spring or other water source. After drinking, the sheep would usually lie down or huddle together in the shade as the shepherd took a nap. Every shepherd had a unique sound which was used to call his sheep. When the flock heard his call they would follow him to a new place. An interesting aspect regarding sheep is that, even if several flocks are intermingled together, and more than one shepherd calls his sheep, they never mistake their own master's voice (John 10:3 - 5).
Rachel, Jacob's (later renamed Israel) favorite wife whom he loved dearly, was a shepherd (Genesis 29:1 - 2, 4 - 6). Moses was working as a shepherd before God called him to free his people from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 3:1). David was a shepherd boy when God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint him the future King of Israel (1Samuel 16:1, 10 - 11). Jesus Christ referred to himself as the Good Shepherd, one who not only protects the sheep (those who are called of God and truly converted) but is willing to give his life for them.
1. Truly, truly I say to you, the one who does not enter the sheepfold through the door, but climbs up some other way, that one is a thief and a robber. 2. But the one who enters through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4. When he brings the sheep out, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5. But they will never follow a stranger for they will flee from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.
11. I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12. But the one who is a hireling, and who is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep, and flees. And the wolf seizes the sheep and scatters them . . . 14. I am the good Shepherd, and I know those who are Mine, and am known of those who are Mine.
15. Just as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:1 - 5, 11 - 12, 14 - 15, HBFV)