Dr. Andrew Bonar told of how, in the Highlands of Scotland, a sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they couldn’t get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can’t jump back again, and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around them, and he will go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death. “Why don’t they go down there when the sheep first gets there?” I asked. “Ah!” He said, “they are so very foolish they would dash right over the precipice and be killed if they did!” And that is the way with men; they won’t go back to God till they have no friends and have lost everything. If you are a wanderer I tell you that the Good Shepherd will bring you back the moment you have given up trying to save yourself and are willing to let Him save you His own way. SOURCE: Moody’s Anecdotes, pp. 70-71. In “Blessed Promises From the Good Shepherd” by Paul Fritz on www.sermoncentral.com
The people of God are often referred to as His flock. The metaphor works in two ways. In one regard we are all one people under the loving care of our Shepherd Jesus Christ. On the other we are often mindless masses looking for the sweet grass without regard to the dangers.
Flocks today are often found within individual churches and within each of these churches God has appointed certain individuals as overseers. Whether they are called deacons, pastors, or priests, they have been appointed by God to be His representatives, serving as a sort of under-shepherd. In this role, God gives His overseers these instructions:
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:1-4).
To take on the calling of under-shepherd one needs patience because, as with real flocks of sheep, the one’s God has placed under their care can be unpredictable. A sheep they see as contented within the flock can one day venture off on his own, lost in the enticements away from the protection of the shepherd and the other sheep. Predators can come within the flock to steal whatever they can grab and disrupt the peace within the flock and disagreements can emerge within the flock which can cause factions to form.
But with all the possible interruptions, there is still no better place to be as a child of Christ then with other people of like mind coming together to worship the one true God. The flock provides safety and protection from the world. God’s Word becomes like the soft singing of the shepherd to calm the sheep and the fellowship within the flock can help to bring stability and comfort in times of need.
As members of the flock, then, we are to serve each other, unified for one purpose, to follow the true Shepherd wherever He may take us. Each can help the other to keep their eyes firmly affixed on the Shepherd direction, eagerly anticipating where the next sweet green grass might be found.
Isaiah 40:11 speaks of the coming Messiah this way, “He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” As His sheep, we can count ourselves as forever blessed because He is always good to His promises. One day He will come again to gather His sheep together so that they might live in peace and harmony forevermore.
Until that day, we are to help both the shepherd and His under-shepherds to keep unity within the flock, eyes fixed on the prize of everlasting life. We are also called on to grow the flock by sharing the Good News of salvation in the place of our final destination where the grass is always sweet and green.
Are you a member of the flock or have you decided to wander off to places that seem to offer more worldly benefit? Trust in the Shepherd to guide you. Only He knows where your ultimate happiness may be found. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Son, our Shepherd. Keep our focus always on Him and help us in times of trial to overcome the predators. Amen.