God’s People as His Flock
Lesson 18 | Sabbath, 30 October 2021
“The relation of Christ to His people is compared to a shepherd. He saw, after the Fall, His sheep in a pitiable condition exposed to sure destruction. He left the honors and glory of His Father’s house to become a shepherd, to save the … wandering sheep who were ready to perish. His winning voice was heard calling them to His fold, a safe and sure retreat from the hand of robbers; also a shelter from the scorching heat, and a protection from the chilling blasts. His care was continually exercised for the good of His sheep. He strengthened the weak, nourished the suffering, and gathered the lambs of the flock in His arms, and carried them in His bosom. His sheep love Him. He goeth before His sheep, and they hear His voice and follow Him.” –Lift Him Up, p. 196.
A perfect symbol
1. As what are God’s people often pictured in Scripture?
Psalms 77:20; 78:52. Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron…. 78:52But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
“‘He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out…. And the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice.’ The Eastern shepherd does not drive his sheep. He depends not upon force or fear; but going before, he calls them. They know his voice, and obey the call. So does the Saviour-Shepherd with His sheep. The Scripture says, ‘Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.’ Through the prophet, Jesus declares, ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.’ He compels none to follow Him. ‘I drew them,’ He says, ‘with cords of a man, with bands of love.’ Psalm 77:20; Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 11:4.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 480.
2. In this connection, what did Jesus say what would happen to the church?
Matthew 10:16; 7:15. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves…. 7:15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Luke 10:3. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.
“‘Behold,’ Christ said, ‘I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.’‘ Ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.’ Matthew 10:16, 22. They hated Christ without a cause. Is it any marvel that they hate those who bear His sign, who do His service? They are counted as the offscouring of the earth.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 235, 236.
3. What do people need every day for their physical sustenance? Likewise, what does one need for spiritual sustenance and growth?
1 Chronicles 4:39. And they went to the entrance of Gedor, even unto the east side of the valley, to seek pasture for their flocks.
Joel 1:18. How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
Matthew 4:4. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
““Man is only finite. At best his sphere is limited. If he is a branch of the living Vine, he must, with other branches, draw nourishment from the parent stock. This makes him of value with God. If men do not draw daily sustenance from the living Vine, they cannot bear the fruit of the Vine, and are cast forth as worthless branches, to be consumed.” –Manuscript Releases, vol. 17, p. 198.
“Spiritual life consists in Christ’s being the light and life of the soul temple, as the blood is the life of the body. All who study the word are represented as eating the word, feeding on Christ…. Even as the bodily necessities must be supplied daily, so the word of God must be daily studied–eaten, and digested, and practiced. This sustains the nourishment, to keep the soul in health. The neglect of the word means starvation to the soul. The word describes the blessed man as one meditating day and night upon the truths of God’s word. We all are to feast upon the word of God.” –Counsels on Sabbath School Work, pp. 43, 44.
Characteristics of sheep and shepherds
4. What characteristics do sheep and lambs have that make them appropriate illustrations of God’s people and His church? How do these characteristics apply to Jesus?
Jeremiah 11:19. But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.
Isaiah 40:11; 53:7. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. 53:7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
“An innocent lamb was chosen as a representation of Christ.” –Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, p. 191.
“The innocent lamb slain in Egypt, the blood of which sprinkled upon the door-posts caused the destroying angel to pass over the homes of Israel, prefigured the sinless Lamb of God, whose merits can alone avert the judgment and condemnation of fallen man. The Saviour had been obedient to the Jewish law, and observed all its divinely appointed ordinances. He had just identified Himself with the paschal lamb as its great antitype,…” –The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, p. 128.
5. Furthermore, what will happen to the spiritual flock if those to whom God has entrusted them do not guide them properly? How does this apply even to those who may consider themselves intelligent?
Ezekiel 34:5, 6. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
Psalm 119:176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.
Isaiah 53:6, first part All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;…
“The church on earth is composed of erring men and women, who need patient, painstaking effort that they may be trained and disciplined to work with acceptance in this life, and in the future life to be crowned with glory and immortality.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 526.
“The sheep that has strayed from the fold is the most helpless of all creatures. It must be sought for by the shepherd, for it cannot find its way back. So with the soul that has wandered away from God; he is as helpless as the lost sheep, and unless divine love had come to his rescue he could never find his way to God.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 187.
The chief Shepherd
6. Subject as human beings are to the great danger of going astray, what does the Lord do? What is His constant, loving appeal to the members of His flock?
Ezekiel 34:12, 31. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day….31And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.
Hebrews 13:20, 21. Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.
Jeremiah 7:23. But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.
“As the shepherd loves his sheep, and cannot rest if even one be missing, so, in an infinitely higher degree, does God love every outcast soul. Men may deny the claim of His love, they may wander from Him, they may choose another master; yet they are God’s, and He longs to recover His own. He says, ‘As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.’ Ezekiel 34:12.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 187.
7. Although the Lord is the great Shepherd, whom has He appointed to watch over and protect His people?
Matthew 9:36-38. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.37Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
Numbers 27:16, 17 Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.
1 Peter 5:1, 2. The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.
“Christ is the chief shepherd. He has entrusted the care of His flock to under shepherds. He requires these shepherds to have the same interest for His sheep which He has ever manifested, and to ever feel the responsibility of the charge He has entrusted to them. Ministers, who are called of God to labor in word and doctrine, are Christ’s shepherds. He has appointed them under Himself to oversee and tend His flock. He has solemnly commanded these to be faithful shepherds, to feed the flock with diligence, to follow His example, to strengthen the weak, nourish the fainting, and shield them from devouring beasts. He points them to His example of love for His sheep. To secure their deliverance, He laid down His life for them. If they imitate His self-denying example, the flock will prosper under their care.” –The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, pp. 114, 115.
“A vital connection with the Chief Shepherd will make the undershepherd a living representative of Christ, a light indeed to the world. An understanding of all points of our faith is essential, but it is of still greater importance that the minister be sanctified through the truth he presents.” –Lift Him Up, p. 200.
For additional study
“We are not to follow Christ fitfully or capriciously, only when it is for our advantage. We must choose to follow Him. In daily life we must follow His example, as a flock trustfully follows its shepherd. We are to follow Him by suffering for His sake, saying at every step, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’ Job 13:15. His life practice must be our life practice. And as we thus seek to be like Him and to bring our wills into conformity to His will we shall reveal Him.” –In Heavenly Places, p. 298.
FROM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
“From the earliest times the faithful in Israel had given much care to the education of the youth. The Lord had directed that even from babyhood the children should be taught of His goodness and His greatness…. In the days of Christ the town or city that did not provide for the religious instruction of the young was regarded as under the curse of God.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 68, 69.
Almost forty years after the Seventh-day Adventist Church was organized, God gave Sister Ellen G. White a clear, direct message regarding His plans for the education of Adventist children. “In planning for the education of their children outside the home, parents should realize that it is no longer safe to send them to the public school, and should endeavor to send them to schools where they will obtain an education based on a Scriptural foundation.…
“In localities where there is a church, schools should be established,…
“Work as if you were working for your life to save the children from being drowned in the polluting, corrupting influences of the world.” –Child Guidance, pp. 304, 308.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church invested in schools early on. However, only twelve years after the above message was published, World War I erupted; and faithful Reformers found themselves without a church. By 1925, the General Conference of the International Missionary Society was organized. By the 1950s, the first primary schools of the IMS were established. In 1989, a General Conference Education Department was proposed, and in 1997 this department became part of the General Conference under the leadership of Sister Raquel Orce.
The Education Department continues to carry the torch of commitment begun in ancient Israel to instill the teachings of God into the minds and hearts of our children. Today, this department has three primary goals: to protect the innocence of the children and youth, to preserve their minds and moral values from erroneous teachings and practices, and to prepare an army of young people to share the gospel message with a dying world.
By the grace of God, and with an ever-growing team of dedicated professionals, these goals are being accomplished through the following methods: Sabbath School Lessons for children; children’s Week of Prayer Readings that summarize the adult Readings and include word puzzles and activities; bi-monthly newsletters for leaders, parents, educators, ministers, and youth leaders, providing helpful information regarding the physical, educational, and spiritual needs of the children; educational videos for Sabbath school classes and schools; Bible activities that challenge children and youth to learn more about the Bible (Hebron Challenge); symposiums for educators and school leaders; scholarships for students from underprivileged families; a volunteer program that allows young people to help at IMS schools around the world; books; support for Sabbath school teachers, education leaders, home schools, IMS schools, and more. Most materials are offered on the Education Department’s website free of charge so that children, churches, and schools everywhere can benefit without worrying about expenses.
As of this writing, the IMS has approximately 475 schools located in eighteen countries across Africa (458), South America (8), Central America (4), North America (4), and Asia (1). School enrollments range from less than ten students to more than three hundred. The great majority of students who attend these schools are not from IMS families. It is through the missionary work done in these schools that the children and their families learn about Jesus and the special message for this time. Because the children are very young when they hear the truth, results are not seen immediately. However, the seeds planted in young hearts today will bear abundant fruit in years ahead. About this Sister White wrote: “Teachers … should realize that they have the most important missionary field in the world.” –Christian Education, p. 31. “When I was shown by the angel of God that an institution should be established for the education of our youth, I saw that it would be one of the greatest means ordained of God for the salvation of souls.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 419.
Many of our schools work independently of one another, and not all are able to provide the same level of academic and spiritual excellence. To unite the schools, to help them reach the same high standard, and to better understand their needs, it is essential for members of the Department of Education team to travel, to visit the educational facilities, to tour campuses, and to review financial records and teaching methods, as well as to meet with teachers, students, and school directors to hear about their needs. Many schools struggle to pay fair salaries to their teaching staff, grapple with costly building repairs or safety concerns, are unable to afford a Christian curriculum, and continually agonize over having to turn away students who cannot afford to pay for their tuition. The recent Coronavirus Pandemic has only added to these financial burdens.
The Education Department works hard on a very small budget. Team members frequently donate from their own pockets to fund needed projects. The book Here Am I was written to help raise funds for such a purpose. The Department’s Facebook and Instagram pages describe the educational needs and also post follow-up information and pictures so that donors can see how and where their donations have been used. Through faith, much has been accomplished; but there is still much more to do. New schools need to be built; our own curriculum must be written; and new projects must be started.
The Special Sabbath School offering to be gathered next Sabbath is an opportunity for you to join in the blessed work of educating individuals for eternity by investing in the lives and futures of our children. May God bless your gift, so that through you a child will have the opportunity to accept Jesus!
–Margie Holmstroem Seely
General Conference Education Department Leader