January 14, 2011

Shepherding

In our modern society, and for this modern girl, it is difficult to take hold of the concept of a shepherd.  Sure, I know what a shepherd does in practical terms (feeds, cares and keeps the sheep that are put in his care), but we are far removed from the day to day tedium that is tending livestock.  I can only imagine that it is a hard, lonely, dirty and thankless job dealing with sheep that are renowned for being less than intelligent.

I have a dear friend that owns two sheep and a llama named Bandido.  I admire her devotion to caring for her livestock; every day, regardless of weather or how she feels personally, she is out there feeding them and making sure they are doing well.  She keeps them in a pasture on her property, and as I've been over to visit, I have enjoyed being as close to the animals as they would allow.  On a visit this last fall, one of the sheep, the female I believe, was definitely more curious of me and inched closer to get a more intimate view of me getting a better view of her.  What is it about animals that makes them lock eyes with you as if they were looking into your soul?  If I stood real still, she would just stand and look, but if I looked away, she would take a tentative step towards me, so when I turned back to look, she was closer, still locked onto my eyes.  Kinda creepy and funny at the same time, honestly.  In fact, it made me chuckle and start talking to her.  It was at that point that she couldn't deal with the 'closeness' anymore, and skittered away.  She couldn't resist looking back at me from a safer distance, though, as if I had betrayed her somehow.

I never fail to find it absolutely fascinating that Scripture paints those who are believers as sheep.

So, back to this idea of the shepherd.  I would like to paint a picture, with words of course, of what a shepherd looks like, what traits characterize a shepherd and how they think of their flock. We all know Yeshua is called The Good Shepherd, and we should know what His traits are, but perhaps it would benefit more than just myself to meditate on it once again.  Can we expect our earthly shepherds to do everything in their power to emulate the Good Shepherd?  Are not we, even as sheep, to 'be transformed into His (Yeshua's) likeness with ever-increasing glory'? (1 Corinth 3:18) 

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23)
(The Good Shepherd provides all that the earthly shepherds and the sheep need.)

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (John 10)
(The shepherd is willing to sacrifice all for the good of the sheep.)

For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2)
(The shepherd keeps in mind and does all in his power to guard the soul(s) of the sheep.)

He blessed Joseph, and said, "The G-d before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The G-d who has been my shepherd all my life to this day.." (Gen 48)
(The shepherd is faithful and loyal always.)

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of G-d which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20)
(The Holy Spirit is the one who chooses shepherds for the flock.)

When Yeshua went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. (Mark 6)
(The one with a shepherd's heart has compassion for the flock and teaches them diligently.)

They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. (Ez 34)
(The flock needs a shepherd to protect and guard them from evil.)

All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats... (Matt 25)
(The shepherd is keenly discerning of who is part of their flock and who are not; or more abstractly, discerning between good and evil spirits.)

...shepherd the flock of G-d among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of G-d; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5)
(Shepherds are to be above reproach, always with the interests of the flock as their foremost motivation.)

I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. (John 10)
(The shepherd is always looking for those who may belong in his flock, eager to bring them in.)

I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me. (John 10)
(The shepherd and the sheep know each other closely, even as family.)

...for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and G-d will wipe every tear from their eyes. (Rev 7)
(The shepherd will lead the flock in the ways of righteousness and truth, even to joy and peace.)

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock; In His arm He will gather the lambs. And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Is 40)
(The sole intent and mission of the shepherd is to tend to and care for the flock with gentleness and loving compassion.)

He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, " Shepherd My sheep." (John 21)
(Shepherds must have a deep and abiding faith and love of the LORD.)

He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. (John 10)
(The shepherd takes full ownership responsibilities for the flock put under his care, as for the Master.)

"Woe to the worthless shepherd, Who leaves the flock!  A sword will be on his arm, And on his right eye!  His arm will be totally withered, And his right eye will be blind." (Zech 11)
(There are severe consequences for the irresponsible actions of the "worthless" shepherd.)

From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs
He brought him
To shepherd Jacob His people,
And Israel His inheritance.
So he shepherded them according to
the integrity of his heart,

And guided them with his skillful hands. (Ps 78)
(Shepherds are not only to be honest men of integrity, but skilled in guiding others, as well.)

Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding. (Jer 3)
(Shepherds must have a heart of compassion, just as the Merciful Father, and are adept at teaching the flock.)

For the shepherds have become stupid, And have not sought the LORD; Therefore they have not prospered, And all their flock is scattered. (Jer 10)
(The shepherd who becomes proud or lazy in his walk with the LORD will bear the consequences as they watch their flock scatter.)

Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD G-d of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: "You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds," declares the LORD. "Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply.
(Jer 23)
(The LORD takes the care of His own very, very seriously, does not overlook evil and will take care of the flock if the shepherds will not.)

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I 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 have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness
will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalm 23)

Blessed are You, LORD our G-d, King of the Universe
Who shows great faithfulness, compassion and lovingkindness toward Your flock.

Shabbat Shalom, my friends.

2 comments:

Ari C'rona said...

Yes, this makes me think, my friend. Well said. :o)

Sue KuKu said...

Then there is the nature of the sheep (us, believers, when we are not being shepherds ourselves.)

I have been told many times in Scripture studies that sheep are really, really dumb.

We will wander all over the place, even when we know better, because we need our wise shepherd.

Susan (KuKu)

baaa baaaaa baa