Talk to most people today about Messiah and many will tell you he came to bring peace and goodwill to all men. Yet when we read Scripture, especially Scripture that specifically addresses King Messiah Yahshua’s mission we get another story entirely. “I have come to set fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Matthew 12:49) “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”(Luke 10:34) “If any man comes to me, and hates not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters and--yes, his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) You’d have to agree that to the average religious person these statements sound pretty harsh. Sure, Messiah is speaking metaphorically, but there’s nothing metaphorical about the climate he’s describing.
Regarding sin, Messiah shot straight down the line. “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of Elohim with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell” (Mark 9:47)
In this age of the ‘come one, come all’ evangelistic catchcry we see a Messiah actually rebuking potential followers. When asked by people if they may follow Him, Yahshua is found rebuking a last minute farewell (Luke 9:62), funeral attendance (Matthew 8:22) and on one occasion refusing a follower outright (Luke 8:38). He even discourages a seasoned teacher of the Torah to follow him in Matthew 8:20. Yahshua also warns against the casting out of demons in the last days lest an occupant be in a worse off state than before (Matthew 12:45). John the Immerser, at seeing Pharisees and Sadducees arrive for mikvah, confronts them with such welcoming words as, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:7) Yahshua uses the same fiery vernacular in this address to the ‘Oh well, it’s what’s in the heart that counts’ brigade when he says, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)
Regarding the return of Messiah, which many say they wait for with jubilation, Scripture teaches one to be a little less jovial about the event. “Alas, you who are longing for the day of Yahweh, For what purpose will the day of the Yahweh be to you? It will be darkness and not light.” (Amos 5:18) Cherry picking positive passage and sugar coating meanings leaves little wonder that there exists a mountain of literature devoted to softening many teachings within Scripture.
The more one reads with great care the words of Messiah and the writings of the Apostles, the less one sees a Torah breaking Rabbi teaching an airy fairy cruise control lifestyle. Yahshua’s return will be with a great legion of host poised to lay waste to every corner of the earth. “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of Elohim Almighty.” (Revelations 19:15) To a follower’s perception of his standing before Yahweh we read challenging dialogue such as: “Therefore, let us be terrified of the possibility that, even though the promise of entering his rest remains, any one of you might be judged to have fallen short of it.” (Hebrews 4:1) “...work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12b)
So who was Messiah? Was he the good shepherd bringing peace or was he a warrior coming to vanquish an enemy and liberate his people? To the later the case mounts as we will see. But how did we get it so wrong? Let’s look at all the facts.
Three of Messiah’s most trusted disciples where recruited from Jewish Zealot movements. These were seen as terrorist groups through the eyes of Rome. They were Shimon (Simon) the Zealot (Luke 6:15), Rabbi Shimon Kepha (Peter) who was called “Bar-jona” (Matthew 16:17), which was an Aramaic word for "outlaw" commonly applied to Zealots, and Yakkov (James) and Yochannan (John) shared the nickname “Boanerges” meaning “sons of thunder,” also a common reference to Zealots.
In the so-called Old Testament we watch earth’s population drown in a great flood and in the so-called grace garnished New Testament we see mankind thwarted by such a creative and complex array of disasters that it makes all the Hollywood disaster films combined pale into insignificance. The description of only a remnant being saved says, according to basic math, that the vast majority will not.
So where does this leave us with Messiah? Did he come as the Good Shepherd or the Man of War?
Soldier or 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) The most fitting imagery imaginable that depicts Messiah and his followers is that of a shepherd tending his flocks.
Throughout his ministry the Messiah’s goal was always focused toward his people achieving a perfect peace. “Glory to Elohim in the highest, and on earth peace to those who please Him!” But this peace and the nature of his attaining it is woefully misinterpreted by the majority of his so-called followers today. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) The most efficient and well-adjusted soldier in any army is one who constantly strives for peace. On the other hand, a soldier who craves violence is plagued by instability and erratic behaviour. Such a one is a warmonger, despising peace and living only to inflict pain and torment. The profession of soldier is never discouraged within Scripture. If it was, do you think John the Immerser would have given the following advice to a group of soldiers who came out to meet him? “Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely--be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:14) The true definition of a soldier is a disciplined link in the protective wall of national security. The roles of shepherd and soldier are synonymous. A soldier is a disciplined and trained individual who does the will of his commanding officer. “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." (Matthew 8:10) A shepherd embodies many of the same attributes as a soldier. He has to be constantly alert, ready to act, able to protect and have the means to carry out dangerous missions. In the appropriate situation he must meet a threat with superior force to maintain the preservation of his flock. Every member of a flock is of equal value. The war slogan “No one gets left behind” is never truer in the case of a shepherd.
Many people misunderstand King Messiah Yahshua’s mission, because they misunderstand the office of shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) Imagine if you will, a devoted shepherd facing the reality that his flock has scattered to the four winds. Immediately he scrambles to their aid, ready to face whatever trail awaits him in the course of reacquiring every last sheep. “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:40) This dynamic suddenly changes the whole persona of the peaceful shepherd stereotype. From the perspective of whomever or whatever caused the flock to scatter, the shepherd now becomes a man of war, functioning in an aggressive and proactive manner. “Yahweh is a man of war. Yahweh is His Name.” (Exodus 15:3) In Messiah Yahshua’s case, he is compelled to go into environments not normally frequent to ferret out his followers. “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ Then Yahshua told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?’” (Luke 15:2-4) The Pharisees who opposed Yahshua were not concerned with the major Scriptural mandate of seeking out the lost. “Then Yahweh your Elohim will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.” (Deuteronomy 30:3) Many of the Torah experts had grown more accustomed to insulating themselves from the world rather than going out into it. So Yahshua’s opponents are often found questioning his actions. “But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” (Matthew 15:24) “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John10:16) This is an interesting declaration because it is directed toward Jews and suggests that they reside in the correct “pen.” This teaches us the major deficiency in both Houses of Israel. That is the Jews are blind and the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel (The Ten Tribes) are lost.
Come out Come Wherever You Are?
Messiah never directed any of his disciples to wander around spreading the message blindly. These twelve Yahshua sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10:6) “Do not go…or enter any town…” literally means ‘don’t wonder around without sound direction.’ This is because the occasional town showing inhospitality to Yahshua and his disciples would receive an earmarking for destruction. That town then became off limits. “And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Adon, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ But Yahshua turned and rebuked them and they went to another village.” (Luke 9:52-57) “…if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them." (Mark 6:11) “I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.” (Matthew 10:15) This might seem a little harsh but this directive lines up with Jonah’s mission to Nineveh. On occasion, Yahshua would resort to other options for an unreceptive town. In his encounter with the demon possessed man in the region of the Gadarenes we read the following: “Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. Then the people began to plead with Yahshua to leave their region. As Yahshua was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Yahshua did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much Yahweh has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." (Mark 5:16-19)
If lost sheep could be identified in a given wilderness location or in the clutches of wild animals, a shepherd would go out after them. Physical evidence or the distressed sound of a wayward sheep elicits the search and rescue in an otherwise undesirable location. A good shepherd narrows down his search as much as possible to affect a swifter rescue. Rabbi Sha’ul (aka the Apostle Paul) still preached in synagogues after his conversion. “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Yahshua is the Son of Elohim.” (Acts 9:20) When he did eventually entered a Gentile city he would immediately head toward a synagogue to preach. “When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of Elohim in the Jewish synagogues” (Acts 13:5a) “From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.” (Acts 13:14) Sha’ul did go to the Gentiles, but the majority of them had already starting attending local synagogues. “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4) “At Iconium Sha’ul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed.” (Acts 14:1) In the next verse we have another example of Jews and Greeks together in the synagogue, but there is also a reference to Sha’ul preaching in a general market area. “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the Elohim-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.” (Acts 17:17) Here the shepherd is capitalising on his call in a visible location. Some towns allowed this, while others did not. If a town or city had no synagogue (or none that would welcome him), Sha’ul would head toward the nearest river because Jews and converts would be found there practicing ritual immersion. “From there we travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.” (Acts 16:12) Jewish women and female converts were found predominantly near rivers to uphold their role in fulfilling family purity laws.
When the Full Messianic Message (comprising both the Torah and the Testimony of Yahshua) is revealed to a lost lamb it resinates like a familiar voice. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) “But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." (John 10:5)
With these findings it becomes evident that a higher revelation of King Messiah Yahshua’s mission can only transpire when one is fully cognisant of a shepherd’s role.
Sheep in the Stars
The word ‘pastor’ used synonymously with ‘shepherd’ is Latin and denotes an agricultural term, meaning ‘to take charge over a group or gathering.’ The Hebrew word for shepherd is רעה roʿeh (Strong’s No. 7462). It means to ‘graze, pasture,’ ‘tend’ or ‘lead.’ In Scripture its most frequently referred to in its metaphorical context.
Because a shepherd was responsible for leading his flock to good pasture and water. A shepherd’s life was nomadic, mimicking the constant upward movement required in one’s walk with Yahweh. He wore some kind of cloak signifying Yahweh’s protection (Genesis 4:20; Jeremiah 43:12). A shepherd carried a staff, signifying the crossbeam carried by Messiah. He also kept a sling representing Yahweh’s might in battle (1Samuel 17:40).
Ancient Israel began as a predominantly pastoral people who produced many shepherds and it is no accident that shepherding was often a job prerequisite for some of the most successful leaders in the nation’s history.
The first martyr Abel kept sheep. “And she (Havah) again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Genesis 4:2) Abel’s martyrdom took place in the vicinity of the Temple Mount likening him to Messiah.
Next on the scene was Abraham. Abraham unlocked a significant revelation in the initial stages of his journeys regarding the profession of shepherd. In his time, the highest agricultural office was a cattle herder. This is because the major consolation that rose on the spring equinox that sets the astronomical clock was the constellation of Taurus. Taurus represented the bull. Therefore the vocation of cattle herder, (the most revered profession among pagans) was considered to part agricultural and part divine. Then Abraham, a wealthy shepherd toting his own personal army, steps in and turns everything on its head.
Contrary to popular belief, Abraham starts out as an aristocrat, because his father Terra was the captain of Nimrod’s host. In other words, he was like a ‘Chief of Staff’ over Nimrod’s army. This is why Josephus writes concerning Abraham (who was supposedly just a shepherd), “Yet he had three hundred and eighteen officers under him, with unlimited manpower at his disposal!”
But after his encounters with Yahweh in the desert, Abraham takes his wife Sarah and his father Terra, along with his father’s army, out toward Canaan. “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.” (Genesis 11:31)
Around this time there is a divine shift in the stars. Aries now becomes the chief constellation of the Zodiac (representing the shepherd), which causes Taurus (representing the cattle herder) to get nudged from the top spot. This celestial timing mimics the earthly nudging of the pagan world as Abraham wars principally against Taureans (cattle herders).
In the Israeli army the battle cry “Acharai!” means “follow me!” and is the traditional battle cry given by infantry commanders in enemy assaults. Whilst in Arab armies officers normally direct their troops to attack the enemy while they themselves remain at the rear of their company. This is interesting because a shepherd leads his flocks while a cattleman drives his cattle.
Abraham’s son Isaac was also an overseers of many flocks. “But the shepherds of Gerar strove with Isaac's shepherds, saying, The water is ours. And he called the name of the well Esek, because they had quarrelled with him.” (Genesis 26:20) Isaac’s offering up on the Temple Mount with the addition of a ram was a type of foreshadowing of Messiah.
Occasionally, Scripture shows the conflicts between Taureans and Arieans, but if you don’t know what to look for, you miss it. “Is Gilead wicked? Its people are worthless! Do they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal? Their altars will be like piles of stones on a plowed field. Jacob fled to the country of Aram; Israel served to get a wife, and to pay for her he tended sheep.” (Hosea 12:11-12) Jacob also worked faithfully as a shepherd to marry Rachel whom he was initially denied and Yahweh blessed him. “Jacob said to (Laban), ‘You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and Yahweh has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?’” (Genesis 30:29-30) Laban tried to cheat Jacob many times to keep him as a blessing, but Elohim allowed Jacob’s flocks to increase, whilst Laban’s did not.
The Prophet Moshe kept the flock of his father-in-law Jethro for forty years before shepherding Israel in the wilderness. “Now Moshe was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of Elohim. There the angel of Yahweh appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.”(Exodus 3:1-2a) Here Yahweh choses to elevate Moshe whilst occupied in tending Jethro’s flock. Moshe’s devotion to a flock that essentially wasn’t his draws favour. Reference to Moshe leading the sheep “to the far side of the desert” also exhibits his ability to shepherd over long distances and for extended time periods.
King David was a master shepherd, who performed his task with such selfless devotion that he would risk his own life to retrieve a single sheep from the jaws of a wild beast. Such acts he did whenever they were required. “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.’” (1 Samuel 17:34-35) Like Moshe, David receives elevation whilst still in the performance of his duties as shepherd. “So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ ‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered, ‘but he is tending the sheep.’ Samuel said, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives. So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then Yahweh said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one.’ (1 Samuel 16:10-11)
Before the prophet Amos appeared on the scene, he ran a sycamore fig farm and owned a wealthy shepherding business. His key statement, the same declaration that validates all good prophets was, “I am not a prophet nor a son of a prophet." (Amos 7:14) Interestingly, despite being of the southern Judean descent, his ministry was focused on calling the Northern Kingdoms of Israel.
Abraham, Jacob, Moshe, David and Amos all exhibited faith and wisdom in small matters and in doing so they received elevation. "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew 24:45) "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:23)
Outside Yahshua’s parents, Messiah’s birth was first officially announced to shepherds. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of Yahweh appeared to them, and the glory of Yahweh shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Messiah the adon. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising Elohim and saying, “Glory to Elohim in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which Yahweh has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Miriam and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Miriam treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising Elohim for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:8-20)
It is every Israelite’s responsibility to lead a person or group of people toward salvation. When they had finished eating, Yahshua said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Adon,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Yahshua said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Again YahShua said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Yahshua said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Adon, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Yahshua said, ‘Feed my sheep.’ (John 21:15-17)
The roles of shepherd and soldier are interwoven. One profession represents peace, the other, war. But both professions in their truest sense are peace seeking. This is the key to understanding the two contrasts of a Messiah that has come to bring peace and also disunity.