He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.
Friend to Friend
As a little girl, I really did have a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow. I can remember the day my mother showed me the lamb and explained that the lamb needed a bottle so it could eat. I agreed to let the lamb have my bottle if I could have the lamb. She agreed, and I have been fascinated by the unique relationship between sheep and their shepherd ever since.
Shepherds live with their sheep, finding places for them to eat and drink, providing shelter from the storms and protection from the heat. The type of shepherding referred to in the Bible is not the farming of fenced pasturelands, but nomadic grazing. The shepherd must carefully plan the path and lead the way so that the sheep have neither too little nor too much grazing and are able to get to the water hole on time. Pastures are often lost to extreme heat, which means the shepherd has to scour the countryside in search of green grass.
Several flocks of sheep are gathered together at night in a sheltered place so shepherds can share the watches of the night, protecting the sheep from wild animals and thieves. Good shepherds are always willing to risk their lives to save their flocks from any harm.
Sheep are dumb, can never be left alone and often stray, requiring the shepherd to find and rescue them. A shepherd never pushes his sheep. He leads his sheep, going before them, making sure they are not walking into danger. The needs of sheep, compared to the needs of other animals, are greater because of their instinct to be afraid and when faced with a fearful situation, to run. Without a shepherd to care for the sheep, they will not last long.
I definitely fit the profile of a sheep. I can’t count the number of times I have stubbornly stuck to my plan, foolishly thinking that it was better than God’s plan, only to end up in some pit somewhere, calling for help. Psalm 40:1-3 has become my life maxim – with one exception. I rarely wait patiently. Remember, I am a sheep.
Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD” (NIV).
I sometimes allow fear to drive me to a place where I am trapped by doubts and darkness until He rescues me. I try to satisfy my hunger by eating the wrong things found in the wrong places at the wrong times. The result is always the same; my soul remains ravenous for what is good while stuffing my heart and mind with what is bad.
Like every sheep, I don’t like to be pushed. Good shepherds do not push, no matter how great the temptation. A good shepherd stands in front of his sheep, gently calling their names, leading them to a place where he has already been, positioning himself between danger and his sheep.
When I am tired and ready to give up, I tend to withdraw from the other sheep and even from my Shepherd. Many of us have somehow bought into the lie that we can make it on our own or that the rules, the commandments of God, do not necessarily apply to us … just those other sheep.
The longer I serve God, the more I realize just how much we need each other and how much we need Him. When will I learn that I cannot do life on my own – as a sheep or as a shepherd?
A good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep, just as Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. I am so glad He was willing to lay down His life for every single sheep – the cute, fluffy ones as well as the dirty, broken lambs like me.
Maybe it is time for us all to stop, listen for His voice, seek His plan, and remember that we are indeed needy sheep who are called to love and lead other needy sheep to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Lord, I am so thankful that You are my Shepherd, and that no matter how deep the valley or dark the pit, You have gone before me and made a way. Forgive me when I complain that the way You have made for me is harder than I want it to be. I surrender my life to you, Lord, my God, and my Shepherd.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Write Psalm 23 in your journal, on a card or a piece of paper. Tuck a copy in your purse or your Bible. Memorize Psalm 23 – one verse at a time. Meditate on each word, each phrase and each truth in each verse.
More from the Girlfriends
Mary’s book, Escaping the Stress Trap, is a verse-by-verse study of Psalm 23 filled with Mary’s life stories that are humorous and helpful in dealing with the pressures of life. The chapter-by-chapter study guide included is ideal for both personal and small group studies. Check it out!