September 2009

September Devotional 

Sheep are dumb.  You may have heard this before, but sheep are not the smartest of animals.  They can’t sit up and beg, heel, or catch a Frisbee.  On the contrary, they must be corralled and are directionally-challenged unless they are led.  Sheep would be good candidates for a GPS, but alas, they are technologically inept as well.


Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd.  He says He guards and protects His sheep and that no one can snatch them out of His hand.  In John 10, as well as numerous other places in scripture, Jesus teaches that He is the ultimate keeper of the sheep.  In that chapter, He describes a fold of sheep that is guarded by Him in a sheep pen.  A sheep pen was a crude enclosed area made of mud with an opening “gate” that was kept secure by the shepherd himself.  The shepherd (in this analogy it is Jesus Himself) lays himself across the opening of the sheep pen and guards the sheep from any outside intruders.  Jesus explains that some intruders will try to go over the gate or enter the pen in some other way, but those are thieves and robbers who do not have the interests of the sheep at heart.  The Greek meaning of “thieves and robbers” means those who will use trickery as well as violence to accomplish their goals.  Jesus protects His sheep from those villains. 


Jesus also said He is the Gate – the very means of lawfully entering and exiting the sheep pen.  There is only one way for His sheep to find safety, and it is through Him, the Gate.  And His sheep hear and know His voice and respond only to it.  A wolf or intruder may also try to call the sheep, but their voice or call will not be acknowledged.  A shepherd in Palestine would likely use a distinctive call or whistle to gather his sheep together, and the sheep, as in the ancient RCA tagline, “hears his Master’s voice.”


When the sheep return to the sheep pen at night, the shepherd counts them and makes sure that not a single one is lost of missing.  In Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7, a parable is given describing how the Good Shepherd will, upon noticing that one sheep is missing from his fold of 100, leave the 99 sheep in a secure place and go hunting for the one lost sheep until it is found.  Jesus never leaves behind even one solitary sheep.  Luke says that there is great rejoicing in heaven when even one sheep that had been lost is found.  That sheep is placed upon the shoulders of the Good Shepherd and carried back joyfully to rejoin the other sheep.  Jesus also tells His listeners that He has sheep that are not of this sheepfold, and He will ensure that all of His sheep are brought into the sheep pen.  Not one tiny lamb will be lost, left behind or forgotten. 


As the sheep are being returned to the sheep pen and counted, the Shepherd also inspects the condition of each sheep to see if they are okay.  Any that are hurt are anointed with oil, and any that are thirsty are given water.  Jesus tenderly cares for his sheep. 


The Bible contains many references to sheep and to God being our shepherd.  Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall have no needs.”  Jeremiah 23 warns of evil shepherds and says that God will raise up good ones to protect His sheep.  In Ezekiel 34, God says that he will gather his sheep from all the places they have been scattered and feed them in a good pasture.”  And Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd.  He will gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in His bosom and gently lead those who are with young.” God is a loving shepherd, concerned for his people – the sheep of His pasture. 


As long as the sheep hear His voice and follow, they will be safe.  They are protected, loved, cared for, fed, watered, healed, carried, and treasured.  And once they have grown to know the Shepherd, that is exactly what sheep seem to do – they follow, they obey, they allow themselves to be led, and they accept the wonderful care of their Shepherd.  Unlike me, who often goes my own way, does my own thing, and thinks I know what’s right.  Even if it’s contrary to what the Good Shepherd is whispering in my ear.  Oh, to be a sheep that follows the Shepherd no matter what! 


Hmmm.  Now that I think of it, maybe sheep aren’t so dumb after all.