Week of Monday, April 17 ­– Sunday, April 23
The Shepherd’s Voice – Man as Battle Buddy

"As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.  I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God." - Ezekiel 34:12-15 ESV
The Bible often uses sheep as a metaphor for God’s people. Psalm 95:7 is one example: “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” 
After the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, God offers some words of encouragement in Ezekiel 34 that remind the Israelites in exile of His close relationship with them, which He likens to a shepherd’s relationship with his sheep. Jesus uses this same imagery in John 10 when He declares Himself the “Good Shepherd” and says: “The sheep hear [the shepherd’s] voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3).
That verse reminds me of a true story I read about a shepherd in the Holy Land:
During the riots in Palestine in the middle [nineteen] thirties a village near Haifa was condemned to collective punishment by having its sheep and cattle sequestrated by the Government. The inhabitants however were permitted to redeem their possessions at a fixed price. Among them was an orphan shepherd boy, whose six or eight sheep and goats were all he had in the world for life and work. Somehow he obtained the money for their redemption. He went to the big enclosure where the animals were penned, offering his money to the British sergeant in charge.
The N.C.O. told him he was welcome to the requisite number of animals, but ridiculed the idea that he could possibly pick out his “little flock” from among the confiscated hundreds. The little shepherd thought differently, because he knew better; and giving his own “call,” for he had his nai (shepherd’s pipe) with him, “his own” separated from the rest of the animals and trotted out after him.[1] 
 When everything is taken away, when hopelessness abounds, the familiar voice of the Good Shepherd remains! Although this loving God hates the sin that separates us from Himself, He still compassionately calls to His children: “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.”
 The psalmist David has written comforting words familiar to all of us: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). It would be wonderful if we never had to go through any difficult seasons, but they will come to each of us, like they came to God’s people in Ezekiel’s day. Earlier in the Psalm, David speaks of God in the third person: “He makes me lie down,” “He leads me,” “He restores my soul” (verses 2-3). But when David enters “the valley of the shadow of death,” he changes to the second person (“you are with me”). Before, David was speaking about the Shepherd, but now he is speaking to the Shepherd who is right by his side!
 Men, just as the Shepherd of our soul is close by when we are in need, so do we need to be close to those we know who are going through the most difficult moments of their lives. In moments of chaos and suffering, many find themselves in a vulnerable state that requires the voice of a true friend to speak biblically into their hearts and minds. May we emulate the Good Shepherd and stand courageously with our battle buddies!

- Think of a guy friend in Christ who needs a word of encouragement right now. Ask God to help you speak to him and point him to the Good Shepherd.
- Do you have a battle buddy like the Good Shepherd who not only knows your “ups and downs” but shows up when you truly need a friend?
- Ask God to help you identify and build a relationship with a man of God for whom you connect as battle buddies!
   [1] Eric F. F. Bishop, Jesus of Palestine: The Local Background to the Gospel Documents, (London: Lutterworth, 1955), 297-98.