Advent Devotion for December 3
In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says: “The Good Shepherd came to bring life.”
SCRIPTURE: Zechariah 11:7-14
7 So I cared for the flock intended for slaughter—the flock that was oppressed. Then I took two shepherd’s staffs and named one Favor and the other Union. 8 I got rid of their three evil shepherds in a single month.
But I became impatient with these sheep, and they hated me, too. 9 So I told them, “I won’t be your shepherd any longer. If you die, you die. If you are killed, you are killed. And let those who remain devour each other!”
10 Then I took my staff called Favor and cut it in two, showing that I had revoked the covenant I had made with all the nations. 11 That was the end of my covenant with them. The suffering flock was watching me, and they knew that the Lord was speaking through my actions.
12 And I said to them, “If you like, give me my wages, whatever I am worth; but only if you want to.” So they counted out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potter in the Temple of the Lord.
14 Then I took my other staff, Union, and cut it in two, showing that the bond of unity between Judah and Israel was broken.
SCRIPTURE: John 10:1-11
10 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant,7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.
VIDEO: Do sheep only obey their Master's voice? - Øyvind Kleiveland (YouTube)
SOME THOUGHTS: What often happens in Old Testament passages is that there is the immediate meaning of an event and at the same time it acts as a prophecy for a much later event. In some sense, it paints a picture of what is to come. Such is the case with these two passages. Judah, the southern two tribes, and Israel, the northern ten tribes had split. Both were in rebellion toward God, who had made a covenant with them. Zechariah, the prophet, is speaking God’s words to them. They had been in exile and were being harassed by surrounding nations. They had rejected their “shepherd,” the Lord God. As a result, the “shepherd” rejected them. Zechariah demonstrated the truth by breaking the staff in two. The rejected “shepherd” of the sheep (Judah and Israel) left and was paid thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. The money was thrown to the potter in the Temple. You will recall Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver as he rejected the Messiah and threw the silver back to the false “shepherds of Israel” in the Temple. They took the betrayal money and purchased a potter’s field. In John’s gospel, Jesus picks up on this idea of a shepherd and sheep. The crooked shepherd avoids going through the gate to the sheep but crawls over the wall instead. The sheep belonging to the shepherd recognize his voice and follow him. His voice they know. Jesus was even more specific in his conversation. He declared that he himself was the gate and he was the good shepherd who sacrificed his life for his sheep. He further characterized the Jewish leaders as thieves and robbers and not the true shepherds of God’s people. You see, even before Jesus’ birth, his purpose and identity were laid out in the Old Testament. The nativity of Jesus is one part of God’s story of the redemption of the entire universe and of everything that exists, seen and unseen.
PRAYER: O Lord, our Shepherd even unto death, grant us, I pray Thee, grace to follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest. In little daily duties to which Thou callest us, bow down our wills to simple obedience, patience under pain or provocation, strict truthfulness of word and manner, humility, kindness: in great acts of duty or perfection if Thou shouldest call us to them, uplift us to self-sacrifice, heroic courage, laying down of life for Thy Truths’ sake or for a brother. Good Shepherd, when Thou callest, may we ever recognize Thy voice as our Shepherd and may we not follow the voice of a stranger. — adapted from Christina Rossetti