"He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd."
Moses expressed this same concern in Numbers 27:15-17 after the LORD told him he was about to die. Moses asked God to "appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd."
In the OT there were occasionally men, like Moses and Joshua, who were concerned about the "congregation" of Israel; shepherds who put the interest of the sheep before their own. But they were outnumbered by those who profited at the sheep's expense. In Jeremiah 50:6 the LORD says, "My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray." Ezekiel 34:1-11 (NLT) is God's indictment of those shepherds. "You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve...You have not taken care of the weak...tended the sick... gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty...the Sovereign LORD says, 'I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock.'"
The most well know passage concerning a shepherd and his sheep is Psalm 23. David, having been a shepherd, understood the necessity for sheep to have one. He was aware there was only One good Shepherd, The LORD. So, for the son of David to have compassion for these sheep without a shepherd is to be expected. Micah 5:2 prophesied this shepherd, a descendant of Judah and David, would come from Bethlehem. Matthew 2:6 says, "And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."
In John 10:11 Jesus declares, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." The NT describes Jesus as this promised Shepherd in several passages. Hebrews 13:20, "Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will." 1 Peter 2:25, "For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." 1 Peter 5:4, "When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."
I delight in the description of Jesus as a shepherd. My difficulty is seeing myself as a sheep. Sheep are foolish and unable to care for themselves. Why the struggle when I know the compassion of the Shepherd? It's my ridiculous pride because I don't want to consider myself foolish and dependent. Like David, I, too, know I desperately need a shepherd.
Sovereign Lord Jesus, thank You for calling me by name as one of Your sheep. I want to be a sheep who listens intently for Your voice and follows as You lead. Thank You for being the good Shepherd who laid down His life for me, a foolish dependent sheep.