In the previous post we discussed the nature of sheep and how “we the sheeple” are pretty much the same. Understanding the work of the shepherd among the sheep, and the response of sheep to a good shepherd, will help us in our response to the Lord as our shepherd..
An old friend was a man from a Basque family that raised thousands of sheep in the coast range mountains in California. I learned a lot from Steve about sheep and shepherds. Steve’s family hired only Basque shepherds from Spain to care for their flocks. They had found that only the Basques knew how to truly care for the sheep.
How does a good shepherd take good care of His flock?
Relationship – A good shepherd lives among the sheep and is always present with them. The Basque herders had their little round-roof wagons which were always at the edge of the herd. The sheep and shepherd bonded because they were always connected. Tenders who only worked during the day did not have the same relationship to the sheep. Steve’s family knew this, and therefore hired only true and good shepherds.
A good shepherd has a relationship that is strong and deeply familiar to the sheep because he is always among them. It has always been that way. David was out among the sheep when Samuel came to anoint him king of Israel. The shepherds were out with the sheep the night Jesus was born and the angels announced His arrival.
Under the Old Covenant, the presence of God among the people was experienced in the temple. The New Covenant is based upon our God having moved out of the temple and into the hearts and lives of His true disciples. Our Good Shepherd is truly always among us and within us by His Spirit. He lives within us to guide us and empower us with His own life.
Trust – The sheep learn to trust the shepherd because he always provides for their needs. Daily, the Basque shepherd walks among the sheep to check on their welfare, to unite lambs and ewes, to tend to their needs. He moves them to new pastures when the old pastures are in danger of being over-grazed. He sees to the water supply and to their safety in a land of coyotes and mountain lions.
Often, what the sheep want will harm them. The shepherd is concerned with bringing the sheep to their best life and knows that if they get what they want it will at times compromise that best life. He always gives them only what they truly need.
Daily, the Good Shepherd of our souls lives within His true disciples, seeing to our welfare and tending to our true needs. He provides everything for life and godliness by His indwelling Spirit and protects us from dangers. He gives us only what is best for us in every single moment. Like sheep, in our willfulness we often ignore or disobey Him. When we do, He also gives us the correction that will yield the rich fruit of godliness in us over time.
Most sheep come to trust the shepherd and give themselves to his leadership. They know him. They begin to look to the shepherd to give them guidance and care every day. They know his voice and will follow his lead, something to which Jesus spoke in John 10:3-5
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
So it is to be with “we the sheeple” and our God. The Good Shepherd lives among us and within us. He intends to provide the best life possible, which is a life intimate communion with Himself every day. Only by surrendering to the will of the Shepherd daily can we ever hope to gain our best life. It will be in this relationship with the Great Shepherd that “we the sheeple” can honestly say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I truly have no want.”