Isn't it interesting that throughout the Bible God refers to His people as "sheep"? Have you ever really considered what that means? I'll discuss the particulars of "sheepdom" in a moment but, for now, keep this in mind: The welfare of sheep depends solely upon the care they get from their shepherd.
We all stumble in many ways... (James 3:2).
Even though we do dumb things and, according to this verse of scripture, "stumble in many ways", we can succeed because the Lord is our Shepherd. We are designed so that we would have a need for Him.
So, what are the characteristics of a sheep? Well, for one, they are DUMB. Animal trainers will tell you that is very difficult to train a sheep. Sheep are also DEFENSELESS. They have little instinct for real danger and cannot defend themselves against predators. Sheep lack DIRECTION. They will only see a small part of the landscape in front of them. They are easily DISTURBED. It doesn't take much to get a sheep "stirred up". And, finally, they are totally DEPENDENT.
If that is what sheep are like, then what about the shepherd? What are his characteristics?
1. A Shepherd PROVIDES.
According to Jesus, in Matthew 6:25-26, Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing. Look at the birds. They don't need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him than they are.
We were not created to be our own source of supply. It is usually when we try to "be our own boss" that we end up making the biggest messes of our lives. Think of Adam and Eve. They were perfect people, in a perfect place, with perfect provision. Then they decided that having a perfect life wasn't good enough. They tried to provide something extra for themselves instead of relying on God. I guess you know how well THAT turned out.
2. A Shepherd PROTECTS.
In Psalm 91:1 we are told, Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 23 tells us, The Lord is my Shepherd ... I will fear no evil. That doesn't tell us bad things will never happen to us. It tells us we don't have to live afraid of bad things happening. Sheep can, and do, get attacked by wolves. But if the shepherd is around, and our Shepherd has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), the sheep are safe because the shepherd will fight for them.
3. A Shepherd CORRECTS.
Ouch! OK, we don't like this one. But, truth is truth. Sometimes we need correcting. It is good for us. My Mom tells the story that when I was about three years old the doctor put me on Ritalin. She did not like what it did to my personality, so she, in her words, took me off Ritalin and put me on paddlin'. At our old family church in Chattanooga, TN there used to be a hickory bush just outside the front door. Me and my "Mama Pittman" (Grandma) used to visit that bush regularly on Sunday mornings (and Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights,etc). I have such vivid memories of that bush that I don't even like steaks cooked over a hickory fire (OK, maybe I will eat a steak like that). The happiest day of my life (until, or course, I got married) was when a new Pastor had that bush cut down! But, truthfully, I probably needed to visit that bush on occasion.
4. A Shepherd GUIDES.
John 10:27, My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me. Rick Warren wrote a little book called "The Purpose Driven Life". In it he states that the Bible teaches we all have five purposes: to worship God, to serve others, to fellowship with each other, to become like Christ, and to tell others about Him. These give our life meaning. Everyone wants a life of meaning. Our Shepherd guides us, He gives a life of purpose and meaning.
God is Jehovah Rohi. To see God as our Shepherd should radically transform the way we live. That is because if He is the Shepherd, then we are the sheep. And not many of us are naturally willing to admit to being sheep. Our natural proclivity is to see ourselves as strong, independent, self-sufficient, and competent. And in and of themselves, those are not necessarily bad qualities.
But, in so being all of that, are we able to overcome the idea that we are our own shepherd? As hard as it is for us to fathom, our American mindset just doesn't want to see things this way, God's goal for us is our total dependence on Him. He wants to use the "staff" to guide us to "green pastures", but sometimes has to use the "rod" to make us "lie down" in those pastures.
What about you? Who is God to you? Is He your Shepherd? Accept Jesus as your Lord today. Begin to pray about everything. And learn to depend on God, your Shepherd, completely.