The images of Jesus as a shepherd are especially dear to me in that He is Our Good Shepherd. Jesus' gentleness and kindness has always been manifest to me in the thought of Him being the Shepherd. Living in the Middle East in Jesus' day, sheep and shepherding was a way of life. There were not farms or ranches like we have today, but smaller flocks herded for a family or community. There was always a shepherd "on duty" to watch over their safety and keep the predators at bay.
In the Bible there are many references and analogies pertaining to sheep and lambs. They were destined for martyrdom in that they were called to be the sacrifice at the temple for remittance of sin. The number of sheep and lambs killed for sacrifice upon the Israelites' alters would be mind boggling. It always bothered me that something so gentle would have the dubious honor and calamity of being the sacrifice. So also, Jesus was known as the Lamb of God as He too became our sacrifice.
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
"My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside [on] the mountains; They have gone along from mountain to hill And have forgotten their resting place.
And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.
1 Peter 2:25
For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
When I sat down to do this post it made me wonder about what sheep were really like. I know I love them, but not having been around them much I guess I really don't know much about them. The following came from a Christian site and I thought it was very telling why Jesus used the analogy of "sheep". Not only were they very common in Jesus' day, most people had come into contact with them up close and personal. So don't be offended, but read these characteristics and think of us, as human beings. These sort of sound like a few of us out here, me included.
Characteristics of Sheep
1. timid, easily panicked, fearful
2. dumb stupid, gullible
3. very vulnerable to fear, frustration, pests, hunger
4. easily influenced by a leader, by the shepherd
5. stampede easily, vulnerable to mob psychology
6. little or no means of self-defense; can only run
7. easily killed by enemies
8. the shepherd is most effective, calming influence
9. jealous, competitive for dominance
10. constantly need fresh water, fresh pasture
11. have very little discernment in choosing food or water
12. best water source is early morning dew
13. perverse, stubborn - will insist on their own way , even eating poisonous
plants or drinking dirty water
14. easily "cast" - flipped over on their back, unable to right themselves
will die of starvation if not turned over by shepherd; helpless
15. frequently look for easy places to rest
16. don't like to be sheared, cleaned
17. too much wool can cause sheep to be easily "cast"
18. creatures of habit; get into "ruts"
19. need the most care of all livestock
20. need to be "on the move"; need a pre-determined plan, pattern of grazing
21. totally dependent of shepherd for every need
22. need "rod and staff" guidance
Hmmm... I saw a few characteristics that I share. Now let's look at what a Good Shepherd is about.
Characteristics of A Good Shepherd
1. loves his sheep and develops a close, intimate relationship with them so that they know his voice and trust him.
2. understands the needs of the sheep better than they do
3. understands what threatens sheep and what makes them sick
4. works tirelessly to provide protection, security
5. leads them to fresh pastures and fresh water
6. searches out sheep when they stray
7. defends sheep against all their enemies
8. provides protection while they sleep
9. shears them and examines each one for injury or disease
10. goes ahead of sheep and prepares the path
11. disciplines and corrects them
12. comforts sheep when they are hurt or fearful
13. keeps sheep "on the move" so they don't get into a rut
14. Liberally anoints them with oil to prevent disease or to heal an injury
15. keeps sheep from fighting, from hurting each other
16. cares for, loves sheep and sacrifices his life for them.
17. rejoices in health, well-being and prosperity of his flock
18. will leave the flock to search for lost sheep and
19. experiences great joy in finding lost sheep
20. carries the lamb s close to his heart,
21. gently leads those with young
22. gets deepest satisfaction from seeing that sheep are contented, well-fed, and safe
1. Psalm of David]. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. 4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. 5. Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Taken from the website of Calvary Chapel of Fredricksburg, Virginia)
What Our Good Shepherd Provides
Perfect Protection— "The Lord is my Shepherd"
Perfect Satisfaction — "I shall not want. "
Perfect Rest— "He maketh me to lie down. "
Perfect Nourishment— "In green pastures "(pastures of tender grass)
Perfect Guidance— "He leadeth me."
Perfect Peace— "Beside the still waters"
Perfect Restoration— "He restoreth my soul"
Perfect Walk— "The paths of righteousness"
Perfect Confidence— "I will fear no evil"
Perfect Companionship— "Thou art with me."
Perfect Discipline— "Thy rod,"
Perfect Support — "Thy staff,"
Perfect Consolation— "They comfort me."
Perfect Fellowship— "Thou preparest a table before me"
Perfect Triumph— "In the presence of mine enemies."
Perfect Strength— "Thou anointest my head with oil."
Perfect Joy— "My cup runneth over."
Perfect Love -- "Goodness and mercy shall follow me"
Perfect Habitation— "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever
Now, thinking about this scripture in light of our speaking about Walking in the Spirit, in the East the Shepherd stays with his sheep, even sleeping with them. He is a companion. He talks to them. When it is time to leave he lets them hear his voice, gives a command, then they follow him. In the West we treat sheep like we treat cattle, "driving" them. Many times dogs barking at their heels. Rounding up and "driving them", no personal contact, and no speaking in a calm voice; no guidance or direction, just orders.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
I like to think of Jesus as my Good Shepherd, and then also in Walking in the Spirit, I sure prefer the Holy Spirit's kindness and gentleness; that He is with me leading, guiding and directing. He's not a cowboy, racing with a lasso, dogs nipping at me. He's the loving shepherd, that will search until He finds each one, and lays down His life for his flock.
Blessings for this Holy Week
as we prepare for Easter and all that it signifies.