Word #72 – Shepherd
One who leads, protects, and provides for a flock of sheep
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
I once heard a guy ask, “What if Jesus had come to earth this century instead of the firs, and to some big city in the West instead of the rural Middle East? Might He have described Himself differently? Would He perhaps have said, ‘I am the good CEO’ instead of ‘I am the good shepherd’?”
The questioner paused and said, “I only ask because I don’t know anybody who’s ever met a shepherd, much less seen one in action.”
It’s an intriguing question. If David were writing Psalm 23 today, would he say something like, “The Lord is my life coach” instead of “The Lord is my shepherd?”
Interesting speculations aside, David 3wrote when he wrote and Jesus came when He came. The biblical description is that the Lord is a shepherd. It might not be a familiar image, but it’s beautiful and comforting. Here’s why.
In Bible times, sheep were valuable, prized for their wool, milk, and meat. Therefore, a shepherd guided his flock diligently, watering and feeding them, carefully monitoring their health, and calming them whenever they got skittish. Shepherds protected their sheep from predators and other stressful situations. (Neither rams nor lambs are a match for a hungry wolf or a mountain lion, and they have a tendency to panic and become separated from the flock.)
And so the Bible likens God to a perfect shepherd (Psalm 80:1). And in this holy metaphor, God’s people are compared to sheep, we’re valuable, but also vulnerable.
My late friend Kelli knew a thing or two about shepherding. She cared for sheep for ten years. (In fact, she wrote a children’s book about all the insights she gained about God being our shepherd.)
Mostly she came to see that being a shepherd isn’t like caring for a goldfish. A good shepherd , she told me once in an email exchange, is “vigilant and responsive in all areas of sheep life.” He or she watches the weather, analyzes soil content, checks an maintains fences, procures the necessary supplies and equipment. A good shepherd closely monitors the condition of the whole flock and its social dynamics, down to the needs of each individual sheep.
Kelli said, “And when I see that hay stored in the barn for winter, I am reminded of Jesus’s faithful provision for us ahead of time, for every situation, including the ones I cannot yet see.”
What if it’s true? What if Jesus really is a good shepherd? What if He stands ready-today-to lead you to good places and to restore your soul and watch over it? What if He’s calling you right now?.
Guess what…it is true. He is a good shepherd. We are never more secure-or more satisfied-than when we are following right behind Him.
For God’s sake, and your own, listen for His voice.
- Have you ever seen a shepherd in action?
- What do you know about that occupation, and why is it an apt description of Jesus?