Kay Cude poetry. Used with permission. Artist’s statement below.
I was captured immediately by Samuel Palmer’s etching “The Lonely Tower.” I haven’t researched the reason behind this particular work of his; but that light shining from the tower became one of the particulars for developing my text. (“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105). The “lone traveler” with the ox-cart became the “example” of a true shepherd of Christ and the shepherds “at watch” a reminder of “inattentive” shepherds. The “traveler shepherd” had Christ’s name inscribed upon his forehead; the “sheep’s shepherds” were brought to the piteous reality they had been asleep with the sheep while on watch!
I begin my explanation with several absolutes: the Lord Christ Jesus is our “Light” shining; He is our strong tower; in Him we live and move and exist. No matter how dark the surroundings of this present world or our circumstances, He remains our beacon of God’s truth; our refuge, strength and confidence; our life’s purpose, reason and eternity! Finally, He has not left us without help, but has appointed shepherds to equip, protect and oversee us as we “journey” on this earth. We are His lambs, His flock.
Notice that the attention of the reclining shepherds is focused on the tower and the traveler. Although it appears the sheep are resting (or sleeping) securely, the shepherds’ attentiveness is no longer centered on their flock. Attention has shifted onto a nominal curiosity. In context for these “latter days,” how many of the redeemed are “resting” or “asleep,” assuming they are secure under the watchfulness of their shepherd? Do they understand that “watchfulness” includes their pastor’s ensuring that the following Christian disciplines are provided under his leadership: instruction in discernment–how to recognize true doctrine from false; discipleship training–the process by which we grow in Christ and are equipped by the Holy Spirit; understanding–true salvation versus false conversion; understanding–baptism of the Holy Spirit versus being filled with the Holy Spirit; knowledge–about the three distinct persons of the Trinity? And so much more!
It is through Scriptural TRUTH and the attentive exhortation of sound doctrine that our shepherds become the vigilant and effective leaders/teachers they are called to be. They must always be attentive to Christ’s flock, ready in season and out to rightly handle and administer God’s revealed Word; for these are the latter days, more perilous than ever before in the history of mankind.
If our shepherds preach Christ as revealed through the Canon of Scripture, we the flock are cared-for, protected and equipped to serve Christ. When shepherds are at constant guard, they will not allow inattentiveness to keep the door to the sheepgate ajar. (“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28).