Monday, June 30, 2008

The Good Shepherd

"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice... I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep... I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." John 10:1-5,7-11,14-16

As i find myself voicing the same prayers over and over, struggling with what seems like the same issues time and time again, i realize how desperate i am and how much i am longing to hear my Saviors voice. I read this passage the other night before i went to bed... it stirred something inside of me and i started to do some google searches and studies. You often hear people call sheep 'stupid'... i mean that's just what they are! In their very character they are just not very smart. Ever think about why Christ compares us to them? In His word He continually calls us the sheep of His pasture... His flock! Is He calling us stupid? In Matthew 9:36 Christ labels sheep without a shepherd as harassed and helpless, yet He has compassion on them. Appearently we need a Shepherd. Looking up all these sites, reading about sheep, their character, and the role of their shepherds, has really made me dwell on what He could possibly be saying to us in His scripture.
In the East, shepherds brought their flocks into one central sheepfold every evening where half-a-dozen flocks gathered together and were guarded by a porter or gatekeeper behind locked doors. In the morning the shepherds returned and each called his own sheep. Although the flocks had been mingled together, each flock knew its own shepherd's voice, and each would follow its own shepherd and no other. This is the picture our Lord uses with regard to the encounter between the man who had been born blind and the false shepherds, the Pharisees.

It is amazing to me that out of all of those voices, and in the midst of their mingling, they can hear and recognize their shepherd. And this is what Christ calls us to be like. We should recognize His voice, no matter how many others are sounding off in our head, and we should run to Him, and NO other.

I found this picture while googling information. As i stared at the picture i realized that the sheep were made out of telephones. Immediately, i began to think about this passage in John 10 where it talks about our Shepherds voice. When is He calling you will you recognize it, will you hear it? Will you pick it up, be obedient, and go exactly where He calls you? such an IRONIC picture! (I wonder if they were thinking about this passage while constructing these, or if it's completely coincedental?)

Here is one thing i found...

People often say that sheep are "stupid" because of their strong "flock mentality." A sheep will become very agitated if it is separated from the rest of the flock. However, it is this flocking behavior that provides their best defense against predators. (sheep101)

This reminds me of the body of Christ. Do you think there is some kind of connection between Him calling us the FLOCK of His pasture, and insisting on there being Unity in the body of Christ? We need each other to stand against the enemy (predator) and his evil schemes. If we all came together and were truly unifired, i'm sure he'd go running in the other direction at the massive flock starring him down.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart... "I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will i look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered... I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak... You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-16,31)

I read an article online from a man who had taken a trip to visit the Bedouin people, whom are nomadic shepherds. As he sat in his tent one night realizing that he had nothing in common with this man, he began to tell him the story about the shepherd... he had 99 sheep and one other had wandered off and gotten lost. He left all of the others just to go and find the one. The Bedouin man called the SHEPHERD stupid, and said if the lost sheep ever came back he would kill it. When asked why he would kill it, he responded with...

"Because he had shown himself to be stupid. A sheep that stupid will just get
lost again tomorrow."

This is a beautiful picture of our Lord, our Good Shepherd. He knows that we are going to get lost tomorrow. But He still over and over again leaves the rest of the flock just to come and find US! Instead of this Bedouin man seeing this as an act of kindness on the Sheperds part, he continually called the Shepherd stupid, wasting his time on a beast that would never even appreciate his being rescued. If that is not a better picture of how we are, then i don't know what is? Over and over in the bible you see the Lord as the Shepherd, and we are the sheep, the flock of His pasture. No one is a waste to Him. He took what man calls the stupidest beast on earth, and compared us to them. Yet He rescues us over and over and NEVER gets tired of it. I think of my mother telling me not to do something whenever i was younger, but something inside of me insisting on trying to defy everything else and do it anyways. No matter how many times she told me, "baby you shouldn't do that, you are going to get hurt", i ended up trying it. Why don't we listen? She is only protecting me, because she's been there and knows better than I.

So does my Father in Heaven, my Creator. He knows exactly what i need to satisfy and fill me. Yet i go and try to find something else, that in my mind, will satisfy some need that He will never be able to meet. You think being compared to something stupid would kind of hurt, but i love the picture. No matter how stupid we are, no matter how far away we go, He is waiting to hear that little (and you would think annoying) cry for help 'BAAaah', and He will leave everything else to come and rescue us.... it NEVER ends!

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

In John, Christ used the analogy of the shepherd going out INFRONT of the flock, guiding them. The shepherd knew exactly which path to take so that they wouldn't lose any of their sheep. And that's exactly what i think about when reading verse 3 in this Psalm. He is guiding me along paths of righteousness, He is walking right infront of me, leading me. He knows the WAY!

Isaiah 53:6 says, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way... Maybe we should stop trying to find some short cut or detour and just trust that He has something beautiful that He wants us to see on His path! He tells us that He knows the Way, He is the Way, and if we just look to Him and follow Him, we won't get lost.

Christ wants to be our Shepherd! He wants to carry us close to His heart, He wants us to recognize His voice and come running. He wants us to follow Him because He knows exactly which road we need to take, so that we won't fall off the edge. We should realize that we are helpless with out Him... we need His guidance. He wants us to know that no matter how stupid we may act, seem, or feel, He is willing to continually come and rescue us. He loves too! He is there waiting, right out infront of you... open your eyes and recognize your Shepherd! He will guide you! We should flock together, be unified as a body, just like sheep. We might be stupid in character and need someone to guide us, but one thing we can learn and have the ability to do, is recognize His voice over any other!

It's like i picture Jesus standing there pleading with these people, "please please listen to me! It's me! I am the good shepherd! I need you to understand and get this... I am this good shepherd, I will lay down my life for you!" Everytime i read this i can't help but get excited! I love the analogy of the shepherd and his sheep. I NEED HIM - I AM COMPLETELY HELPLESS WITH OUT HIM! I want that voice to be so dear to me. I want to cherish it! Any time He speaks or shows Himself, i want to stop dead in my tracks and be in awe. I want to follow it. I want it to be so near to me that i don't even recognize the strangers (satan) and completely resist and ignore it.

Psalm 95:6-7 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

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