# 39 RETURNING TO THE SHEPHERD

In 1Peter 2:25 Peter wrote: ‘For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.’

Was Peter, perhaps, remembering Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep? Or Jesus’ teaching that he, the good shepherd, came to seek and to save the lost?

Whatever was in Peter’s mind, here in these few words he speaks of three significant biblical truths:

Human lostness

Like the sheep in Jesus’ parable, our default position is that we are lost, alienated from God. In this state of lostness and separation from God we do not know who we are or why we are here. We are severed from the source of spiritual life. We seek meaning, purpose and identity in all manner of things, and, if we are religious, we seek ‘god’, but do not know which ‘god’, if any, is the real one.

So great is this lostness and alienation from God that we are, in fact, incapable of ever, by our own efforts, finding our way back.

The grace of God

But hidden behind the English translations of this verse is the saving grace of God. The English sounds like it is we ourselves who found our way back – ‘you have returned ...’ But the Greek text indicates clearly that this is not at all the case. The Passive Voice of this verb teaches us that the turning was not done by us. Someone else turned us. We are the passive recipients of the gracious action of God, by which he turned us back. In Jesus’ parable (Luke 15) the shepherd goes seeking the sheep and carries it home. And that is what Peter is speaking of here: the Shepherd has sought us, found us and carried us back home.

This evidence of our inability, and of our need for the Shepherd to seek us out and bring us back, was expressed by Jeremiah, when he wrote

‘... turn thou me, and I shall be turned’ [Jeremiah 31:18 KJV].

Repeatedly the prophets exhorted the erring Israelites to ‘turn to the LORD’ or ‘return to the LORD’, but they also knew that such a turning or returning was utterly impossible unless God himself intervened.

The Shepherd and Overseer of our souls

David knew God as his Shepherd:

‘The LORD is my Shepherd ...’ [Psalm 23]

Isaiah understood that the coming of the Christ was the coming of God, the Shepherd:

‘He tends his flock like a shepherd:

 He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;

he gently leads those that have young’ [Isaiah 40:11].

Ezekiel knew the gracious, saving work of the divine Shepherd:

‘I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered ...

‘I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd ...’ [Ezekiel 34:11,12,23].

Jesus said of himself:

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep ... My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand’ [John 10:11,27,28].

There is a grand certainty in Peter’s statement in 2:25. A decisive and effective turning has taken place – a turning accomplished not by us, the lost humans, but by Christ the divine Shepherd. He has sought us out. He has turned us, and in turning us has saved us at great cost to himself. We are now, from that point onwards, safe in his keeping, safe under his watchful, caring oversight.

Safe in the arms of the Shepherd. Precious to him beyond our understanding.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018