Read His Words Before Ours!
The shepherd walked with sure footing down the rocky path. To the left, a drop-off reminded him of the descent he and the sheep had traversed in their journey to reach the green grass and still waters found in the valley before them. He projected a sense of calm, one that seemed to blanket the sheep as they clopped along the path. In the midst of that calm, the sheep remained unaware of the depth to which the shepherd was attuned to the world around them.
His ears listened to the sounds filling the air. The bleating of the sheep and the sound of their hooves were constant companions on the journey, and he knew his sheep’s voices. A cry from any one of them would cause him to spring into action.
Not only were his ears focused on the sounds rising from the flock, they were filtering the noises found beyond the sheep. Predators threatened, and if one attacked, the shepherd stood as the only safeguard between it and the sheep.
His eyes scanned the flock to ensure not one ran astray or was left behind, while also looking to the horizon towards their destination. His hands gripped his rod and staff with a relaxed firmness, the mark of a seasoned shepherd. This allowed him the mobility of using them for walking support, and simultaneously maintaining the ability to react quickly. At a moment’s notice, his rod and staff may need to become a weapon to battle an enemy or a safeguard in his hand. A sheep getting too close to the edge and needing a nudge back? A threat to the flock? The rod and staff were tools in the well-trained hand of the shepherd.
One of the most well-known shepherds in the Old Testament is David. Long before he ascended the throne, David tended his father’s flock. This became his training ground and preparation in many ways for all the Lord had prepared for him. David explains this best when telling Saul why he would face Goliath:
“Your servant has been tending his father’s sheep. Whenever a lion or a bear came and carried off a lamb from the flock, I went after it, struck it down, and rescued the lamb from its mouth. If it reared up against me, I would grab it by its fur, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed lions and bears; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:34-37)
David knew how to be an effective shepherd for sheep and God grew him to shepherd His people with a heart like His own, but even David falls short compared to the Lord as He shepherds His children.
The shepherd above is one the sheep are blessed to have leading them.
He is trustworthy and brave,
strong and gentle,
intentional and caring.
If I were a sheep, I would choose his leadership. However, I am not a sheep.
I choose the Lord as my shepherd,
yet how often I find myself second guessing Him,
or failing to see how He fights for me.
“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Late on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Hebrews 12:11 is one of the verses that I am grateful is in the Word,
but sometimes wish I could skip that part of the Christian reality.
When I apply it to the analogy of a shepherd and ponder my history, I see moments where the discipline of the Lord, and His telling me “no,” firmly yet lovingly, was the staff that kept me from tripping over the edge. The times that He held me back were not to smother me, but to protect me. He has the vantage point that I do not, and His shepherding skills have proven the test of time.
While I reflect, and cringe, at those times I responded to the Lord with levels of pre-teen angst, I also see times where He fought for me. Those times where He picked up His rod and went swinging for the fences at the lions and bears that threatened my existence. Those moments when He gave me a way out from a temptation or the times when hopelessness or doubt threatened to overwhelm me and He spoke to me through His Word or brought encouragement through another person.
Sometimes He calmly spoke with authority to the winds that blew and the storm stilled.
He has proven Himself as a warrior who saves me over and over.
His rod and His staff truly do comfort me.
Lead me on, dear Lord, my Shepherd, lead me on.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!