Follow the Good Shepherd

Throughout the scriptures the metaphor of sheep and shepherd is frequently used. There is a reason for this; the culture. It was a large part of their lives, it was what they were, and thus they understood it well. It would be like today using a metaphor of cops and robbers, we all understand the nuances invoked.

God is portrayed as a shepherd, as are those who shepherd for him and as him (in his name) “And he [ruler of Israel, out of Bethlehem 5:2, Messiah] shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth (Mic 5:4). Sheep are not driven, but guided. The shepherd leads by voice and by word, the sheep know the voice of the shepherd and respond accordingly. Hence we have a natural theological guideline displayed of how God relates to his people by voice and leading. They follow him as they hear him lead.

In our culture today cattle are a more commonly encountered livestock than sheep. Even shepherding is not done in this culture as it is/was done in the east. Cattle are driven. When cattle scatter or are being driven, they go wherever they can, like an open gate, whether or not they were intended to.

In our faith communities today, we have seemingly adopted a policy that dictates whenever a gate/door is open, it is assumed it must be the desire of the one doing the driving for us to enter, and so we do. When many of those “open gates/doors” turn out to be to our determent, we shrug our shoulders and say that God is “leading us on”. This is often done even in ministry. (As a side note, it always amuses me when someone is “called” to a better, higher paying, more prestigious ministerial position. After all, isn’t that always “God’s will”?). Why do we think this way? Just because a “door” or opportunity presents itself, does not mean it should be followed; this is terrible logic. If anything, we should be more cautious. There is no gate around a mousetrap for a reason. It is easily accessible and oh so appealing. Why do we operate this way?

We have a shepherd who is leading. Do we listen for his voice? Perhaps there is too much noise and chaos in our lives to hear. We are not cattle looking for any door or gate that looks great. Scattered herds or flocks are those who run without direction anywhere they please, and in the scriptures this image always carries with it negative connotations. A scattered flock is a shepherd-less flock, or at least a flock without a good shepherd. The shepherd provides the shelter, the safe paths and knows where the essentials of life dwell. 

When God closes a door, Satan is always right there to open one for you.

As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. Ezek. 34:12

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