Philip Keller was a sheep rancher. In his book, “A Shepherd Looks at the Twenty-third Psalm,” he says that sheep require more attention than any other livestock. They just can’t take care of themselves.
Unless their shepherd makes them move on, sheep will actually ruin a pasture, eating every blade of grass, until finally a fertile pasture is nothing but barren soil. Sheep are near-sighted & very stubborn, but easily frightened. An entire flock can be stampeded by a jack rabbit.
They have little means of defense. They’re timid, feeble creatures. Their only recourse is to run if no shepherd is there to protect them. Sheep have no homing instincts. A dog, horse, cat, or a bird can find its way home, but when a sheep gets lost, it’s a goner unless someone rescues it. So, the over-riding principle of Psalm 23 is that sheep can’t make it without a shepherd.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23)
Its no mistake that we are often referred to as sheep in Scripture because, we too, would be lost without the shepherd. We have proven that, left to our own devices, we will stray. Without guidance we will become lost. We are feeble, stubborn and easily frightened. Without the shepherd to protect us, the wolf finds it easy to feast.
Psalm 100:3 urges us to, “Know the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” God knew that because of sin we have become lost and that only a Shepherd could save us, so He sent us His Son who makes us to lie down in green pastures, beside still waters. Because we could never find our way home without Him, Jesus Christ was sent to direct our way and lead us to paths of righteousness.
Because we are so vulnerable to the wolf called satan, our God never looses sight of us. He never stops calling for us back to the safety of the flock. Though He has to use His staff at times, He is gentle with His sheep, and if one becomes lost, He never ends His search for them.
Luke 15:4-7 tells this story of the one lost sheep, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:4-7).
Though we are often near-sighted and stubborn, God never gives up on us and, when He has found us through repentance and forgiveness, He and the angels rejoice because what had once been lost has now been found. That is how great His love is for us.
In our world, those who are lost far outnumber those who remain within the flock of the faithful. As sheep who are also sons and daughters of the Most High, we carry the added responsibility to look to the welfare of those who have lost their way. We are greater than regular sheep in that we have been gifted with the ability to aid the shepherd.
Together, we can not only protect the faithful, but we can find lost sheep to add to the flock. God is looking for willing sheep to listen for the shepherd’s voice, not only as a way to remain within the flock but as guidance as to how to increase the flock. Are you a willing listener? More importantly, are you prepared to look out not only for yourself but for all the others who are in danger of being attacked? Find your direction and courage in Christ, the Good Shepherd. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Your only Son to be our Shepherd and Guide through life. Help us to always keep our ears open to His calling and may we always find our safety in Him. Amen.