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The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. Psalm 23:1 (NCV)

First of all, we need to get rid of the romanticism behind being a shepherd. We’ve seen the pictures. Soft little lambs playing in an open meadow while adult sheep lay enjoying the sun. In the background a shepherd sits against a rock looking out over a peaceful valley. Blue skies. Green grass. Gorgeous scenery. Life is good.

Without a doubt there were days like that but have you ever really thought of what life as a shepherd was like? Occasionally (as in the night Jesus was born) you may be lucky enough to spend some time with other shepherds and other flocks. But much of their time is spent alone.

Shepherds didn’t go home at night. Their home was with the sheep. Smelly, stubborn, stupid boring sheep 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They endured hot days and cold nights. They endured storms and winds and were under constant threat of enemy attack, especially in the dark. And the picture of peaceful sheep following a shepherd? Forget that too. Sheep are stubborn. They don’t know where to eat. They won’t go find good grass on their own. They don’t know enough to stay out of rushing water. If they tried to cross a stream that was too deep their wool would turn them into an effective anchor! They certainly aren’t fighters. Bears, lions and other predators see sheep as fair and easy game and an easy, instant meal.

Sheep rebel constantly, lack motivation, vision, passion, desire and wisdom. Even so, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what a shepherd was like. David, of course, was a shepherd. Shepherds were the first ones told of the birth of the Christ-child. 

Jesus calls himself the good shepherd. Here’s what he says about a good shepherd. A good shepherd knows your name. He may have hundreds of sheep in the flock, but he knows you. personally. That doesn’t mean he knows your name alone. He knows your likes and dislikes. He knows the intricate things about your personality. To me all sheep look the same. To Jesus every sheep is unique and exciting. That’s you. Unique. Exciting. 

The good shepherd protects. He lies down at the gate so no predators can get through. The only way to get to you is if they get through the shepherd first. Not much chance of anyone getting past Jesus. He’s passionate about protecting you.

Good shepherds know what is best for you. He prepares the day’s journey. He’s walked the path many times. He knows the best and safest route to take. We aren’t cookie-cutter sheep. Jesus knows that. Since we aren’t cookie-cutter sheep we don’t have one-size-fits-all needs. He won’t try to force you into some mold for life; rather he molds life events around you to make you the best you can be.

Jesus calls us sheep. We are described as sheep without a shepherd wandering aimlessly, getting into danger, struggling with survival, defenseless against the enemies in our life. So why would Jesus spend so much time with you, a silly sheep? Jesus knows that will all the faults you have, you are worth the fight. He’ll fight to the death to protect you. He’s willing to endure all of your negative qualities, your weaknesses and your rebelliousness. Why? Jesus loves you and you are worth the risk!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. Thank you for a love that goes so deep. Thank you for understanding my weakness. Thank you for loving me enough to fight for me, cry with me and walk with me through the night. Most of all, thank you for forgiving my sin. Amen.

All of us were like sheep that had wandered off. We had each gone our own way, but the LORD gave him the punishment we deserved. Isaiah 53:6 (CEV)

Jesus wants each of us to know two things, we are all sheep and we’ve all wandered. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a major company or a Single parent living in low-income housing. You are a sheep. It doesn’t matter if you are a teen struggling to get through school or a leading professor in a major university, you are a sheep. It doesn’t matter if you have a bank-roll the size of Rhode Islandor are unemployed and living on welfare and food stamps, you are a sheep. It doesn’t matter if you are on your sixth marriage (and it’s in trouble) or are celebrating your 75th wedding anniversary with your high school sweetheart, you are a sheep.

Before you conjure up in your minds the picture of a cute little lamb drinking from a bottle and looking all cute and cuddly, take a look at some sheep facts.

  • Sheep have to have a leader to follow. Experiments with sheep have shown that usually one sheep is the dominant one. If that sheep is taken from the flock and the sheep are sent out to the same pasture they’ve gone to a thousand times, they will become confused. Some will lie down. Others will wander aimlessly or simply stand in one place and not know what to do.
  • Sheep are crowd followers. They rarely think for themselves. They’d just as soon have someone else do that for them. As long as they are fed and comfortable they are happy.
  • Sheep become very stressed with change and when separated from their friends. When danger comes they tend to panic and flee in different directions without thought of the consequences.
  • Sheep tend to be closest to those who are ‘related’ to them and don’t interact well with sheep ‘of another color’ so to speak.
  • Although not considered intelligent at all, sheep do tend to remember faces and voices very well and can differentiate between a familiar voice and an unfamiliar voice.

Consider, for a moment how many times we react like sheep in our daily lives, in our relationships with others and with God and during times of stress. Remember…we are ALL sheep.

Secondly, we have all wandered away. When I was young I remember hearing testimonies of men and women who had been delivered from the most horrendous lifestyle imaginable. I often wished that I could have a great testimony like that. One that speaks of God’s deliverance from terrible things. Of course, since then I’ve learned two things. One is that I’ve made enough blunders of my own to qualify. Secondly, in God’s eyes we are all sheep (have I mentioned that?) and we have all wandered. It doesn’t matter where we’ve wandered or how far or why. We have all wandered away from God. We all have stories of his deliverance.

It’s no wonder then that Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd. The good shepherd knows the struggles sheep have. He knows they depend on him for protection, guidance and companionship. He knows their ways and they know his voice. Even though we, as sheep, wander we have a good shepherd who constantly looks after us to guide comfort and forgive.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. Thank you for being the good shepherd. Thank you for forgiving me, being patient when I wander and seeking me out when I stray. Help me to follow your voice and not the other voices. In your name, Amen.

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RSS Podcasts from Zion

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    From our series, "Who Am I: the Seven I AM Statements of Christ". Jesus shows us that as our bread of life he fills us in ways that will help us live life to the fullest.
  • Healing Prayer
    From our series, "Praying with Purpose". Pastor Mike teaches us from Jesus' parable in Luke 18:9-14 on the Pharisee and the Publican. Prayer that heals is prayer that sees us as we are and accepts the mercy God offers.


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