Mar 14, 2014, 10:29 AM
"For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25)
"Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture." (Psalm 100:3)
Have you ever noticed when your dog dashes towards you frantically wagging its tail to welcome you on hearing your voice; particularly after a long absence? That move is in sheer recognition of its master's voice. It speaks audibly of the kind of relationship the two have knit - one of total reliance, one of trust and confidence. The shepherd's voice tells a similar story; it is reassuring to the sheep.
Sheep is voiceless.
Like some constituents, sheep have no influence, no votes and therefore voiceless. When nobody considers you; when as a constituent you have no sway in the scheme of things, you are marginalised and voiceless. Jesus, our Lord, is ready to take on the cause of the voiceless sheep and speak on its behalf. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." (Matthew 23:13-15)
To the voiceless, the shepherd offers a platform where the sheep could be heard. In leading them, he is ready and willing to uphold all their rights and not have them trampled upon.
Many who seek soft targets and easy victims would head for the sheep. Therefore the task of the shepherd is not an easy one to accomplish. The wounded he would have to nurse and tend; the weakling he will take into his arms for comfort. He becomes the help of the helpless. "Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded." (Zechariah 11:17)
Sheep is defenceless.
Jesus is saying I will be your shield against all danger and any harm from whatever quarters they may come. The shepherd can take either of two positions: either he leads from a vantage point, and that is, he goes ahead of the sheep or when he senses danger he falls back to protect from the rear. When he positions himself in front, not only does the sheep see him but they could also see his rod or staff high above his shoulder and as he hits it on the ground as they progress they know he is there with them and that is what gives them the assurance that they are safe. The Lord assures us he will never leave us nor forsake us. (Joshua 1.5)
The sole refuge of the sheep is the shepherd. Each time the flock looks up and sees his profile it is certain there is a shield that is protecting it. Thus he gives guidance as he leads the way through difficult paths. He identifies green pasture and leads the sheep to graze from it. From behind he wards off the attempt of sneaky animals seeking to devour any of the sheep.
As a shepherd boy, David boasted of having to confront a lion and a bear when each wanted to devour his sheep. He tore them to pieces with his bear hands. Imagine the strength he would have needed at the age of twelve to accomplish such a deed. Are your sheep worth risking your life for? How gladly would you lay your life for your sheep?
It is a challenge that only the love for our fellow men (Bible calls them our neighbours) can ignite. Unfortunately, for much of the time the approach is 'it is none of my business.' When would you get yourself involved? When your own relative is concerned? Who are my neighbours, someone once asked Jesus? In response he told them a parable - the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) The story talks of a stranger who left all he had to do to take care of a wounded person who had been aggressed by highway brigands. He spent his own resources to take care of a complete stranger. Jesus then concluded by saying: "Go and do likewise." Go and do as he has done. That is the model behaviour required of us. We ought to show concern for our brothers and sisters in the widest sense of the word.
One is tempted to ask, 'Why would the shepherd do what he is doing?' It is because of love. Our Lord Jesus looked at a crowd of over 5,000 men not counting the women and the children who had followed him all day as he taught them and he could read the pangs of hunger on their faces. He questioned his disciples as to what could be done for these people. One said it would take eight month's salary of an average worker to feed them. The other had even dismissed the thought by asking that they be sent away so they could go and find something to eat themselves.
The Bible account tells us that Jesus looked at the crowd and had compassion on them. That feeling could only come from the true shepherd who asked that they find something for them to eat.
Nothing can successfully describe our relationship with our Saviour than this picturesque image of the Lord leading his sheep. Whilst their may be false shepherds, the distinction is apparent in who is ready to lay down his life for his sheep.
Not all of the Shepherd's sheep are in the pen however. Some have heard his voice not once, not twice, but several times and are still resisting. "Today if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts..." (Hebrews 3:8) Some of his sheep are still wandering like lost sheep, without any clear direction. They need to come back home under the shepherd's care and his watchful eye, because "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) The Good Shepherd is saying "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)
There is a sharp division amongst his sheep remarks the Good Shepherd and it is disturbing. He wants them united. "I have other sheep that are not of this pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." (John 10:16)
Who is your shepherd? To whose flock do you belong? Pray to God that you belong to the right flock in order to graze from his pasture. Beware of the shepherd who is a hireling who is unable to save. For Scripture teaches, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1Timothy 2:5) Paul admonishes: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Do get Shepherd Jesus to lead you, you won't go astray.