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The Shepherd's Lesson

The Parable

I am not a shepherd, nor do I understand the ways of sheep or the life of a shepherd.  Nevertheless, I heard a shepherd’s story that I think makes sense and one from which we can learn and grow in our daily life.

There is a shepherd or perhaps two, their dog and many sheep according to their various types: ewes, rams and lambs.  It’s the shepherd job to feed the sheep, protect them from predators, keep them from being lost, and to bring them home safely. 

Occasionally there is an obstinate sheep that does not follow the guidance of the shepherd.  She will not come when called.  She will stray out of sight, perhaps to get lost, injured or attacked by a beast.  The shepherd must give less attention to the rest of his fold in order to run after this one sheep. 

To make matters worse, sheep follow a leader.  If this obstinate sheep strays from the pasture, the flock will follow.  Thus, this one sheep endangers them all.

If the shepherd can or should no longer allow the wayward sheep to stray, he must take drastic action… drastic to the sheep.  And so, he gets the sheep, brings it to himself and with his staff he breaks the sheep’s leg.  Not only does that cause pain, it also renders the sheep helpless. 

This sheep is then utterly dependent on the shepherd for her daily sustenance.  The shepherd brings the sheep water and food, for she can no longer forage for herself.  The shepherd sits with the wounded sheep, binds her leg, comforts her and talks to her every day as he watches over the flock.  When he wants to move, he carries the sheep where he goes.  Thus she comes to recognize his voice and trust him.

Because of all the shepherd’s care and nurture, the sheep comes to love the shepherd.  When her leg heals, she will no longer stray from the shepherd, but will always stay by the man she loves and come when he calls.

The Explanation

I’m told that we are like those sheep and God is like the shepherd.  God pretty much lets us alone, to go as we please and do as we want, as long as we are under his watchful eye and feeding in his pasture. 

Let me add one more condition here.  There are many flocks and many shepherds.  Each shepherd cares for his own flock.  One shepherd does not go over and begin attending another man’s flock.  Instead, he cares for and is responsible for his own.  If we are fortunate enough to belong to God’s flock, then God is caring for us, and that is the flock I’m addressing.

Sometimes God takes drastic action to show his love for us.  We don’t like that action because it’s painful and stressful, yet it creates in us the obedience necessary for a safe and productive life.  Both God and we would prefer us to grow in a godly manner, without requiring action on God’s part that would make us totally helpless and dependent solely on him for those things we see other people easily providing for themselves. 

God said, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.  (Psalm 32:8-9)

God wants us to listen to him and follow him; not to be like a lower animal that must be controlled outwardly by circumstance and fetters.  We are spiritual creatures made in the image of God.  But, alas, some of us are like the wayward sheep that must be forcefully restained by God.

Actually, that’s good news although often painful to us.  You see, God doesn’t discipline the people who don’t belong to him.  But for those who come to God, or over whom God has otherwise put his claim, God will keep and fit for his kingdom and purpose.

The Bible says,

Endure hardship as discipline because that means God is treating you as his own child.  If you are not disciplined by God, then you are illegitimate and don’t really belong to God.  (Hebrews 12:6-8). 

God loves whom he disciplines.  (Proverbs 3:12)

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.  (Revelation 3:19-20)

The Lesson

Almost everybody agrees, regardless of their relationship to God, that humans have something more in them than just flesh and bone.  There is a spirit whose work we see paraded before us every day.  It’s like getting a sunburn on a cloudy day; we may not be able to see the sun, but the effect of the sun is evident on our bodies.  In the same way, we see the effect of the spirit every day.  If we ignore or deny the spiritual force in our life, we do so at our own peril.

The Bible says, Make up your mind!  Are you going to serve God or not?  Are you going to believe or not? 

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”  (1 Kings 18:20)

If serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served… or the gods of the Amorites…. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  (Joshua 24:15)

God’s friendship and faithfulness is not just a promise for a future spiritual life in some far-off Paradise.  It is for here and now.  Serving God is for now.  Receiving God’s protection is for now.  Having spiritual fellowship and friendship with God is for now. 

Don’t wait as do so many others and lose half your life before you discover you have wasted it for all those years, when you could have been productive, protected and building something magnificent.