March 2024

The Good Shepherd

My family had been invited to stay at a sheep farm in the northern island of New Zealand. My father’s pastoral duties had brought us to the country a year or so before, and this brief holiday was the result of friendship that had sparked between him and the owner of the farm. My sister and I had been given a small room set under the eaves of the old house, complete with hand-crafted twin beds and stacks and stacks of home-made quilts in brilliant jewel tones. We each sat on a bed, pulled our knees up under our chins and grinned. Without saying a word, we were already sharing the wonder of being smack in the middle of a fairy tale. Who knew there was such a marvel as this bright nest, seemingly made just for us, in the rafters of a drafty old farmhouse?

The next morning, we bundled up in thick wool jerseys and marched after the adults, on a tour of this working sheep farm. The air was quite crisp and chill even though it was Spring, and the leaves were still a thick coat, though dry and brittle, upon the ground. The pungent smell of sheep became more so the closer we walked to the barn where they were being herded for shearing. I remember being surprised that the sheep were not overly distressed by this business. In fact, they were quite docile and gave vent only to gentle sounds. I was captivated. We watched for a while, and I’m sure there was a great deal of adult talk about the nature and business of sheep farming, but my memory only holds the sound of buzzing machinery, the sweet faces of the sheep with their pink skin being revealed, and the mountains of wool waiting to be baled.

One of the workers handed me a fist full of the newly shorn wool. Much softer than I expected. And smellier, too. I kept that little bit of wool for a long time, as children are wont to do with small treasures found along the journey.

Sheep require care and tending, as they are not frightfully intelligent creatures. A shepherd must take great care to see that his sheep have good grass, clean and still water, and he protects them from themselves as they are prone to falling down without the means to right themselves. “All we like sheep have gone astray.” (Isaiah 53:6)

And it is no surprise that David, both a shepherd and a psalmist, speaks of the Lord as his shepherd. (Psalm 23) Jesus, too, indicates His nature as a shepherd when He tells the parable of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine and going to rescue the one, and He instructs Peter to, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17)

“Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3 ESV)

Dear One, do you know the reality of belonging to Him, our dear and glorious Shepherd? Do you know that with Him there is no want or lack for you? He is the greatest caregiver of all time, and He loves you with an everlasting love. He does not intend for you to seek your own pastures or find your own still water. When you fall down, He Himself, will put you right. Thanks be to God.

Until next week, beloved, know that you belong to Him, and He will lead you home.

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