Forever Shepherd King

Ocieanna FleissBy Ocieanna Fleiss9 Minutes

Excerpt taken Awaiting the Manger: Whispers of Advent in the Old Testament by Ocieanna Fleiss


Forever Shepherd King
You were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:25

As woolen clouds wafted across the moon on a certain night in Bethlehem, the shepherds—a lowly breed, base, unwelcomed by society—remembered their secret confidence, their royal lineage.

A shepherd told his son. “Our father David, he tended his sheep on this very hill.”

“King David, abba?”

And the father’s face brightened as he repeated the history that echoed through each generation. “Yes, the mighty shepherd king.”

“What’s that in the sky?”

Centuries earlier, young David’s fingers danced freely over his lyre, his love for the Creator soaring to the star-dappled sky. His sheep gently bleated from their fold like his own little choir. He thought of the song Miriam sang when God’s people crossed the Red Sea, and Moses’s psalm, pleading with God to “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love” (Psalm 90:14). Comparing their divinely inspired songs to the coughs and bleats of his tired sheep, he smiled to himself. Well, they’re not exactly like a choir.

The breeze carried the aroma of sage bushes, sweetening the sheep’s musty stench. Gazing down the mountain, David could see Bethlehem, the town of his birth, marked by the dying light of cooking fires fading to embers. What were his seven brothers doing? Relaxing after their evening meal? He glanced at what he’d packed with him: his jar of olives, bag of dates, figs, almonds. He set down his lyre and leaned back against the sheep gate. He’d rather be here than home. Outside in the quiet of the night, he could worship the Shepherd who stirred the songs in his heart.

A rustling snagged his attention, and he scanned the pen’s low wall. A stone was jarred from its place. His heart sped. A lamb had wiggled out. Taking stock of the flock, he knew exactly which one was missing—the youngest one, the smallest one, the one who could most easily slip through the cracks. She had been born only a few weeks before, and so he kept a mindful eye on her to ensure the mother was feeding, cleaning, and nurturing her. Being so young, she was perfect prey for lions, bears, and wolves. “Protect your lamb, Lord. Keep her safe from the predators that lurk in the night,” he pleaded, an early outcry for deliverance, foreshadowing words he had not yet penned. “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me” (Psalm 59:1).

Leaving the other sheep in the safety of their pen, David grabbed his shepherd’s staff and set out to rescue the lost one. He tromped over rocks and weeds, finding the little lamb wandering near a cliff’s edge.

A whispered praise, “Thank you, God, for keeping this little one safe,” would be echoed years later in his many psalms of worship. “The Lord is good to all; and his mercy is over all he has made … The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:9, 14). With gentle skill, he hooked the young lamb with his staff and drew the trembling creature to him. Hoisting her to his shoulders, he returned to the fold—but as he drew near the flock, he heard discordant bleats assaulting the air like the wailing of funeral mourners.

A lion vaulted past him, another lamb in its jaws. David hurried the retrieved lamb safely into the fold, then warriored on sure, quick feet after the predator that threatened his sheep.

He tackled the beast, striking it with a large rock pulled from the ground. When he grabbed the beast’s mouth, the sheep fell from its grasp to the safety of the ground. “Go back!” David yelled at the ewe, but she just bleated and watched as David’s gaze turned from hers to the predator he was about to fight.

Then, by the moon’s light, the eyes of the enraged lion seemed to glow as it released a low growl. Instantly, David lunged forward and grabbed the lion’s beard, yanking its head away from him, then pulled his knife and killed the beast (1 Samuel 17:34-35). Years later David’s skills—worshipping, shepherding, protecting—would mold him into the greatest of Israel’s kings.

But a King was coming who was even greater than David.

Even more intensely than worshipper David, Jesus the worshipper would love his Lord (John 14:31).

Even more tenderly than herder David, Jesus the shepherd would nurture his sheep (John 10:14).

Even more fiercely than warrior David, Jesus the champion would defeat great enemies (Romans 6:5-10; Colossians 2:5).

But a deeper mystery even more clearly defines Jesus’s shepherding. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The keeper of sheep who was worshiped in song by myriads of angel choirs that night those lowly shepherds witnessed—that shepherd died willingly for his sheep.

Jesus and Jesus alone is the shepherd you can
trust, and Jesus and Jesus alone is the one who
can come between you and the wolves.
Tim Keller


Dear friends, today, crawl into your Shepherd’s arms, confident
in his committed care for you that was bought at a high price.
Remember that Jesus goes to every length so he can ensure the safety
of his vulnerable sheep.


When do you find yourself living as your own shepherd,
made anxious as you try to defend yourself from life’s lions?
What personal experiences or verses from Scripture remind you to
trust God as your perfect protector? (Psalm 91:1-6; John 10:27-29;
2 Thessalonians 3:3)


Shepherd of my soul, as David sang to you, let worship arise from my
own heart. Like the sheep David shepherded, let me follow you. Like
the lambs David guarded, let me rest in your protection. And make
me, dear Father, ready to act as your hands and feet in defending the
vulnerable and providing for the needy.


Psalm 23


Angels We Have Heard on High
Traditional French carol, translated by James Chadwick (1813-1882)

Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o’er the plains.
And the mountains in reply
Echo back their joyous strains.

Gloria in excelsis Deo,
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
Say what may the tidings be
Which inspire your heav’nly song? [Refrain]

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King. [Refrain]

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