03 September 2011

Follow Me...

John 10:27 Jesus said "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

I am going to spend time over the next few weeks talking about this verse, particularly paying close attention to the last two words of this verse "follow me".

But, before we look at the last two, lets look at the first two "My sheep." We know Jesus said he is "the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11) and calls us "His sheep." What does this mean? Why does he call us sheep? Moreover, why does he compare us to sheep? If Christ is going to compare us to something why not an animal that is majestic like an eagle or strong like a bear?

Let me share a few sheep facts with you:

1. Sheep are considered the dumbest animal on the planet.
2. They have no upper teeth.
3. They will stay in one spot and eat everything around them until nothing but dirt is left.
4. They have no sense of direction. No matter how long they are there, they can't find their way home without help.
5. If they fall over they can’t get back up without the shepherd.
6. They are sheared for health, comfort and coolness.
7. Their tales are docked for cleanliness. Yep for that very reason, poo will get matted in their tales and cause infections and other nasty stuff.

Now you can see why I would want to be compared to anything but a sheep.

I want to look at the shepherd/sheep relationship to see what we can learn, there has to be something more to it that I'm not seeing. But, where to look? I don't know any sheep farmers in urban America to ask and I felt that I couldn't trust the Internet for the information I was looking for. I turned to the only source I knew I could trust fully, God's Holy Word. But, who was a shepherd in scripture that I could look to for an understanding of the shepherd/sheep relationship? King David... remember, before he was king he was tending sheep for his father when Samuel came to see Jesse (David's father). Samuel was led to Jesse by God and Samuel was to anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel. This is where we first meet David as a young boy, tending sheep. David was himself a shepherd and he come to be known as the "Shepherd King" of Israel. But he saw Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel, as his shepherd. Later in his life David will paint for us one of the most vivid pictures of the shepherd/sheep relationship in Psalm 23.

Psalm 23
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

Verse 1 "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want..."

David speaks in this psalm as if he was one of the flock, one of the sheep. And it is as though he literally boasted aloud, "Look who my shepherd is -- my owner -- my manager! The Lord is!" David knew knew from firsthand experience that the lot of any particular sheep depends on the type of man who owns it. Under one man, sheep might struggle, starve and suffer endless hardships. But under another shepherd, they might flourish and thrive contentedly. So he says with pride that “The Lord is my shepherd.” The shepherd is the provider and protector of his flock. The sheep are helpless without him.

As a sheep in Christ’s care, David was confident that he would lack nothing. He knew that the Lord would supply his every need.

Verse 2 "He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,"

It’s not easy to get a sheep to lie down (it's not easy to get me to lie down either!). A strange thing about sheep is that they will refuse to lie down unless four requirements are met. (1) They must be free from all fear. (2) There must be no tension between members of the flock. (3) They must not be aggravated with flies or parasites. (4) And they must be free from hunger.

If a sheep is hungry he won't rest, if he won't rest he won't eat, if he won't eat he is cranky and easily agitated and fights with the other sheep causing tension in the flock. If he fights with the other sheep he won't eat, if he won't eat, he won't sleep. An interesting note about sheep fighting in the flock... they will only fight when the shepherd is not around!

There is a delicate balance between love and firmness, knowing what's best for the sheep even if the sheep do not like it. The shepherd, at times, will do things that are for the good of the whole flock and not just on sheep. We may find ourselves doing something we particularly don't want to do or being somewhere we don't want to be. When we find ourselves in one of these situations we don't like it because we want everything to be about us, it is our nature as man. But we know in Psalm 139:16 "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Every encounter we have is a God ordained moment in time and we need to be about Kingdom business.

More to come...

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