About sheep and shepherds…

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.

He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters.

He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.

Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me. Psalm 23 AMP

You might wonder why David would compare the Lord to a shepherd.  There are many reasons.  One being that David himself was a shepherd boy for a time in his life and he “got” being a shepherd.  Having been a shepherd, a sheep herder, David understood a thing or two about sheep and their behavior.  Why sheep and not a similar animal, say a goat?

Let me explain a little about the differences between these two species…and then, take a moment to determine which we are the most like.  Many of you who know me, know that we are a 4H family.  Now, while I do not raise either sheep or goats, I have dear friends that do.  I have been blessed to learn a lot (honestly, it’s a minimal amount) about these animals from those girlfriends.   Let’s take a look:

Goats:  are headstrong; do not like to follow, so much that at the fair I have seen some goats take their leader for a ride; naturally curious, which tends to get them in trouble; as far as eating goes they will eat leaves, weeds and the such but not tender grasses

Sheep:  have a very strong flocking instinct and become very agitated when separated from the flock; fail to act independently of one another; much more easy to lead, as a matter of fact, sheep tend to not think for themselves and when threatened band together and just follow the sheep in front of them; eat tender grasses and sweet clover

At first glance, you might think, why in the world would the Lord want us to be like sheep?  Friends, like it or not, we are sheep.  And, I am here to tell you, be careful choosing the shepherd you follow.

Don’t most of us follow the leader?  Ideally, we look to Christ, right?  But, let’s face it.  This is the real world and we are completely human.  We look at the people around us as examples or leaders.  Sometimes, we are looking for those positive leaders and other times we pick someone who will run with us right off the nearest cliff!

Maybe you’ve never really had that positive leader in your life that you wanted to be like.  Maybe the leaders in your life have been less than trustworthy.  Truly, there is only one worthy.

So, let’s take a look at Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.  Christ says,“I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary.  A hired man is not a real shepherd.  The sheep mean nothing to him.  He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf.  He’s only in it for the money.  The sheep don’t matter to him.  I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me.” John 10:11-14 MSG

Funny how, in Psalm 23, David describes a sheep’s dream…a good shepherd who leads his flock to tender, green pastures, still waters for a cool drink and willing to protect his flock from the dangers they face with his rod and staff…and then many years later, Christ likens Himself to that same shepherd…not a hired hand, but THE shepherd who would go so far as to sacrifice Himself for His flock.

Oh friends!  I pray that as you and I find ourselves in those valleys, because we will, that we continue to listen to the voice of the Shepherd, who is Jesus Christ.  Impostors will come and try to lead us astray, but we KNOW His voice if we KNOW Him!  So, those days when you and I are feeling headstrong, rebellious and feeding on the “weeds” of life like a goat, let us remind each other that we are sheep who are following the Good Shepherd!  Listen to your Good Shepherd…He says,”I have called you and I know you by name.  You are mine.  You are the head not the tail.  Hold your head high, not because of who you are, but because of whose you are!  Come follow Me.  Walk with Me and work with Me.  Watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  Keep company with me and you will learn to live freely and lightly!”

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