The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
(Psalm 23:1, NLT)
Although Christmas is over and most mangers have been tucked away into attics or closets until next year, it seemed fitting, with the first words of this Psalm, to revisit the manger and those who appeared on the scene. Specifically the shepherds. I love how our Savior’s birth was not announced in Rome or even in Jerusalem. But in the fields. Not to an emperor or a king. But to common shepherds. When I think about it, its really not that surprising for shepherds to be the ones first blessed to hear good news of great joy.
Because the Psalm says the Lord is my shepherd.
And Jesus called himself the Good shepherd.
I asked myself, then, what does it mean to be a shepherd and is it important to understand how that image relates to our God?
The problem is, I’ve never been around sheep or know any shepherds. So how can I understand this concept better?
Today, of course, the answer is the internet. Using our good friend Google, I decided to ask a question: What are the specific tasks of a shepherd?
An article came up in Christianity Today titled: The Surprising Truth About Shepherds, An excerpt from Margaret Feinberg’s latest book, Scouting the Divine
She provides several pieces of insight. First, a shepherd pays attention to the well being of his sheep, watching for weakness or illness and keeping an eye out for those prone to wander. A shepherd also leads his sheep rather than pushing them because pushing sheep creates anxiety and fear. And finally, a shepherd knows there is safety in the flock and keeps them together, especially when danger is present.
Bible History Online also popped up and provided an extensive list under the Manners and Customs section. One thing stood out for me; shepherds have tender hearts toward their sheep. A good shepherd always puts the well being of his sheep above his own. He cares for sick sheep, often using olive oil as ointment for many ailments, carries them in times of need and protects them from danger. A shepherd knows his own sheep and can pick them out. The shepherd may even have special names for them. And the sheep know their shepherd and will respond to his call.
If you’re familiar with the gospels, especially the book of John, then you know Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd. He takes some of the very attributes mentioned above and applies them to himself.
As I look at the fact that the Lord is my shepherd, then I can say my Father knows me. He calls me by name. He knows whether I’m prone to wander. He knows my weaknesses. He knows when I need to be carried. He watches out for my safety. He leads and expects me to follow.
But, do I know His voice? Have I spent enough time with Him to recognize when He speaks to me? When He leads, do I follow? Do I trust him to take me to good places? Or do I try to find my own way?
I’m sure there are so many other things I could learn if I could watch a shepherd with his sheep. Maybe one day, instead of relying on the internet search function, I will find a shepherd, with some sheep, and do some first hand investigating for myself.
And one day we will see our Shepherd face to face. Revelation 7:17 says “For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.”
I want to follow Him then. So I need to learn to follow now.
Prayer, Good Shepherd, You give me rest, strength, protection, and blessings beyond measure. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live your house forever.
Grace & Peace