November 24, 2013

Like a sheep

Some years ago, a book called “A Shepherd Looks at theTwenty-Third Psalm” showed me how Christians are like sheep and Jesus is like a shepherd. Before I read that book, I was living on a farm and I tried raising sheep. I learned much about their negative qualities. They are easily frightened, not too bright, and they smell bad.

But sheep make a good analogy for God’s people. Under God’s care, we become harmless and meek, trusting our Shepherd. In Him, our feisty dispositions are brought into submission by an amazing conversion. Our arrogant, sinful and violent human dispositions become gentle, humble, and useful to God. The Bible compares us to a flock of sheep because we tend to dwell together, feed in the same pastures, and when in danger gather into a close herd and look for protection to our great Shepherd.

A shepherd is a good illustration describing Jesus. The Bible uses this analogy in both Testaments.

Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 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. (Isaiah 40:10–11)

When Jesus appeared in the New Testament, He said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14) and is often pictured carrying a lamb. He feeds and nurtures us, protects us from our enemies and soothes us when we are afraid.

The followers of Jesus are a little flock. Even though multitudes followed Jesus when He walked this earth, the deciding point eventually came and instead of the entire Jewish nation recognizing Him as their Shepherd from passages like Psalm 23, they rejected and crucified Him. He rose from the dead and yet only a few obscure individuals joined His followers, His flock.

Even though the number of genuine Christians has been small compared with the mass of humanity, this will not always be the case. Jesus will finally conquer his enemies and the people of God will inherit a kingdom . . .

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

They (His enemies) will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him (His sheep) are called and chosen and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)

As one of God’s sheep, I can look at the world around me and feel outnumbered. But God’s small flock has the promise of a kingdom, so with that prospect, I should not yield to doubts or fears. God takes great pleasure in caring for His family, His little flock. He has invested His very life into our life. It is His delight to fill us with joy because our happiness and His glory are inseparably connected. Therefore, I can commit myself to His pastoral care without fear or anxiety.

Someday He will take me to His heavenly sheepfold. Whatever else it might be like, I do know that in that place all enemies will be conquered and together with all His sheep, we will spend eternity with our heavenly Shepherd.

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