Monte Hunt – Associate Worship Pastor
There is a brilliant simile the Bible often uses to describe people throughout time: we are like sheep. God’s Word is always trying to help us better understand who He is, who we are, and who we can be in Him. The analogy of the shepherd and his sheep is found throughout scripture. And if we look closely we will find out much about our relationship with God.
First, sheep…are dumb. They just are. Well, compared to most animals, and certainly compared to humans. And so are we when compared to God. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than ours, too (Is. 58:8-9). So far higher it’s like trying to compare your deep and profound ruminations, contemplations, and meditations to those of a sheep. A sheep’s thoughts (which probably consist of “eat grass” and “don’t die”) are in a completely different realm. And again, so too are our thoughts when compared to God’s.
It’s seems like the older I get, the more to which I am exposed, and the more I come to know and realize…the less I understand. So many times, and it seems like it is on a weekly or daily basis, I ask the question: “God, why?”
We just finished up a sermon series called PIXELATED, which was all about perspective. Our perspective on life is often shortsighted and narrow. But if we can take a step back and try to see the big picture we will realize that God is at work through it all. I often see this from God’s perspective through my three small children. So often they can only see and respond to the immediate, to what is right in front of them in the moment. But as their father I am able to pull them back to see what is to come and to hopefully help them make a better choice based on this new and broader perspective.
God knows what he’s doing. I may not get what he’s up to. I may not like it at times, but will trust him. I will choose to trust in my Shepherd (Ps 23:1).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (because it’s dumb compared to God). In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Second, sheep are dependent. In the wild they do not have a shepherd to protect them, so they gather in herds to protect one another. But a sheep that finds itself separated from the heard is a dead sheep and a tasty meal. Watch Discovery – you’ll figure it out. But a flock of sheep with a shepherd is well protected and safe.
Again, like sheep we are all totally dependent upon God as our shepherd. And those who have not placed their faith in God are not any less dependent because of it. For now they will rely and lean on the things of this world to sustain them and keep them safe (like a heard), but it all leads to the same end result: a desire for a shepherd to protect and lead them to what lies ahead.
As believers, completely dependent upon God, we can rejoice in knowing that we don’t just have a shepherd. We have the good shepherd. Jesus’ words as recorded in the book of John say this:
“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.” John 10: 10-11
God wants to see his sheep live life fully! His principles and statutes are there not to take away from a life of joy, but to see our lives be full of it! Our good shepherd always knows what is best for his sheep. And again, we must trust in Him to show us the way.
Third, and finally, sheep wander. A shepherd’s job is endless, primarily because they are incessantly working to keep the flock together because the sheep have a tendency to wander off, unknowingly at times. In the heard there is safety. But a sheep isolated is an instant and easy target to predators.
My life with God is like that sometimes. I find myself living life one day at a time. Then one day I wake up and think, “How did I get here?” And then I realize just how far I’ve wandered away from my shepherd. It wasn’t on purpose. Often times in the midst of it I didn’t even realize it was happening. But it did and now I am faced with the reality of getting back to my shepherd.
I am reminded of another proverb that is fitting here:
There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12
Like sheep we see a way that may seem right to follow, but that way (away from the shepherd) will only lead to suffering, sorrow, pain, loneliness, and the list goes on. I love the wording of that passage: it seems right. That is so true sometimes! There are choices to be made everyday, and sometimes the choice that really, truly seems like the right choice – is not at all. In those instances, always look to the wisdom of God to discern what is actually right.
But even though we may continue to make those choices that seem right, but aren’t. And even though we wander there is a way back! First, God is always speaking to you, and if you will listen you can find your way back. Again from John 10:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10: 27-28
And even if we cannot find our way back, our shepherd will come to us.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:4-7
If you find, even now, that you have wandered away, the good shepherd is searching for you. He is calling out to bring you back to his flock where there is hope, peace, joy, and life! Come back to him.
Remember, we are all like sheep: terribly dumb, hopelessly dependent, and habitual wanderers. That’s the bad news. But the good news is the gospel of Jesus Christ: for he is both the good shepherd and the sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
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Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6