Shepherd and Overseer

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

- 1 Peter 2:25

Isaiah 53 is perhaps the most well-known Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament, as it depicts in great detail the suffering and death that the King of Israel would have to endure in behalf of His people. It is a text frequently cited in the New Testament, and verse 6 — “All we like sheep have gone astray” — is essential to understanding today’s passage. When Peter says that we were “straying like sheep” before we knew Christ (1 Peter 2:25), he has Isaiah 53:6 in mind.

A flock of sheep in the field can be quite a humorous sight. If they do not have a shepherd present to guide them, they wander about aimlessly. Individual sheep can even end up separated from their brethren and exposed to great danger. Thus, it is little wonder that Isaiah 53:6 compares sinners to sheep that have gone astray. Born in Adam, we are spiritually rudderless. We cannot walk the straight and narrow way but are always wandering off into sin. If there is to be any hope for us, we must have a shepherd to guard us, lead us in righteousness, and keep us in God’s fold.

Jesus, 1 Peter 2:25 tells us, is the Shepherd we need (see also John 10:11). He alone can protect and guide us. He alone can restore us when in sin we try to leave God’s fold. But Peter also says that Jesus is the “Overseer” (1 Peter 2:25). The Greek word translated as “Overseer” is episkopos, and in ancient times, the episkopos was like the general of an army. He reviewed the troops, evaluated their preparedness for war, and made sure everything was in order. Sometimes he came to the camp unannounced in order to discipline or reward the unit based on its condition.

We see certain parallels with what Jesus does as our episkopos, or Overseer. Yet the Apostolic writers do not use the title primarily to liken Jesus’ work to that of the secular episkopos but to describe Christ’s intense, loving concern and care for His people. It is an image of great tenderness that shows us how Jesus keeps us secure out of His great love for us. He never takes His eyes off us, guaranteeing that our souls will be preserved and that we will fulfill the purposes for which God made us. Our Father has numbered even the hairs on our heads (Matt. 10:26–33), so there is no reason to doubt that He and His Son are concerned with the smallest details of our lives.

Coram Deo

We should never think that our problems and concerns are too insignificant for Christ to address. There is a sense, of course, in which we should have some perspective about what we face each day. Nevertheless, Christ is concerned with what concerns us. Let us not be afraid to come before Him with our concerns, and let us always endeavor to follow the guidance He provides us in His Word.

Passages for Further Study

Ezekiel 34:11–16
Matthew 6:25–34

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