My son's first grade was on a field trip to the zoo. I had three energetic six-year old boys to look after - my son and two of his classmates. We got off the bus and walked through the entrance gates. The boys ran ahead and scattered in three different directions. I yelled for them to come back. They were still young and submissive enough to respond to the desperation in an adult voice. I managed to herd them back together and keep them with me. Somehow, I didn't lose any of them.
I only had a flock of three that day at the zoo, but God has a much larger flock he is looking after. He is seeking to add to it those who have strayed and those who are lost.
Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
Isaiah wrote, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6 NIV) Those words are familiar to many because of Handel's Messiah.
Very few people in this modern world have any experience
with sheep especially the methods of sheep husbandry in the Middle East
of 740 to 700 B. C. of Isaiah's generation. Sheep could not be left
to fend for themselves. They needed the continual vigilance of a shepherd
or shepherdess as that first-grade class needed adult supervision at the
“The Judean Desert is easy to get lost in because the bare, wind-worn, undulating chalk hills all look alike. Furthermore, one of the most remarkable things about the Judean Desert is that each hill is covered with hundreds of paths worn onto every hillside by the herds of sheep and goats and wild ibex. With so little rainfall, these paths never wash away. So, left alone, sheep have a myriad of options to take, each path possibly taking them to something better, or so they may think. The shepherd must be alert and choose the best path upon which to lead his flock. He is the one who knows where there is food, water, and safe places to rest. He also knows the dangers ahead and which path may lead to a cliff. Staying close to the shepherd assures the right path is taken.” (Bridges for Peace Israel Teaching Letter Vol. #771103, November, 2003)
In today's world, we have a “myriad of options” to choose from in religion, lifestyle, and standards of morality. To our hurt, we have discovered that many of our own choices have left us with broken lives and broken hearts.
Too many children, who were left to themselves, have drunk deeply of the polluted waters of sexual sin. Too many are drowning in the flash floods of addictions. Too many have been murdered pre-birth so the parents could continue exploring their many options.
God wants his children to have clean lives full of love, joy, and the peace that comes out of security and good relationships. He compares his care for us to the good shepherd or shepherdess who leads his or her flocks to clean water and safe pasture. He wants to warn us against following paths that take us to dangerous and polluted places.
God is able to protect us from those who would exploit or deceive us just as the good shepherd protects his flock from predators. A good shepherd would risk his own life to protect his flock as the shepherd boy, David, risked his to protect his father's sheep from a lion and a bear. ( I Samuel 17:34-37)
The Apostle John recorded these words of Jesus, “I am the good shepherd;... I lay down my life for the sheep...The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life - only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord….” (John 10:14-18)
But God did something no shepherd can do. Jesus became one of us, a lamb in the flock, and saved our lives by giving up his physical life. He put himself between us and the predator we fear most, death.
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
God gave John a vision of the Lamb of God in heaven:
“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders... And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:6,9)
Jesus taught that there is only one path to life for every person whatever his or her racial, cultural or national origins. “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." (John 10:9) “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
There may be a “myriad of options” for people to choose from today, but only one option, only one path, leads to eternal life. Jesus likened himself to the gate, the entrance, to that path. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Don't let one of those other options seduce you away from the Good Shepherd. “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25)
Listen for his voice and stay close to him because
he loves you and wants the best for you. He is your only way, the only
path, to a full life now and for all eternity.
By Scarlett Stough