Shepherds and Sheep
As a former New Zealand sheep shearer returning home I was impressed by the whiteness of New Zealand sheep. Sheep are everywhere. Sheep are big business. Shearers and shearing have exerted a huge influence on New Zealand and Australian culture. The wool industry has given our language terms and expressions that are unique “rouseabout” “dagging” “pull the wool over your eyes” “ducks on the pond” (women in the shed), “long blow” “whipping side” and so on.
Much of the Bible was written by people being in an agrarian society. Naturally the images of sheep and shepherd are peppered throughout Scripture. Church hymns celebrate Jesus as our shepherd. Some speak of the lost sheep returning to the fold.
Jesus is described as the good shepherd who would gives his life to save his sheep (Gospel of John chapter 10). He is the “chief shepherd” who will hold every pastor/minister/priest accountable for the way they have cared for his flock.
The most celebrated Bible passage about sheep and shepherds is Psalm 23. We turn instinctively to this Psalm at the hour of death, at funerals, when we need comfort. This Psalm depicts the faithful and diligent shepherd caring and providing for his sheep in diverse circumstances. In every situation God the shepherd comes up trumps.
There is the provision of pasture, locating fresh water. Though the route to pastures may be hazardous, the shepherd protects his sheep from evil. Jesus taught us to pray saying “deliver us from evil.” Evil is real, coming in the form of corruption, lies, cheating, pornography, exploitation, drunkenness, violence, verbal abuse and drugs.
Regardless of our situation, as a follower of Jesus, God is with us. He can give us the ability to cope with all sorts of adversity. In fact through trials he wants to make us better persons not bitter persons (James 1:1-5). That requires us to submit to his wisdom.
King David witnessed God providing us a veritable wedding banquet of food when on the run from his son Absalom who was intent on usurping the throne. As David flees out into the desert east across the River Jordan his friend Barzillai turns up with a donkey train of food.
Christians today, suffering in prisons in China because they are followers of Jesus speak of experiences like David. God miraculously provides for them in dire circumstances. At other times, Christians are martyred, they experience God’s presence as they enter heaven through death.
For anyone who can say “The Lord is my Shepherd” they can look forward to eternal enjoyment in the house of the Lord.
Dr Keith Graham