By Elizabeth Prata
In biblical times, a shepherd’s main concern was the welfare of the flock. Providing the sheep with food and waters as well as guarding them from predators and thieves were primary responsibilities. Highlighting this relationship, Jesus says in the scripture, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). [from Logos Bible Software]
But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness. (Psalm 78:52).
Since moving to this county nearly 16 years ago, I have never ceased to enjoy the sight of numerous animals dotting the landscape.
There are many pastures. I regularly see cows, horses, donkeys, sheep, chickens, and sometimes emus, buffalo, hawks, foxes, and even coyotes.
Reading about the animals in the Bible is wonderful and interesting. However, being among the animals mentioned in the Bible and observing them is another layer of understanding entirely. Once I had a neighbor who was a shepherdess. I love watching the pastured sheep next door. Their life cycle, cavorting lambs, the nursing, the hay, grass, and stubble that they eat, the wool, their grazing, their recent escapes from the field lol, all interesting.
The Bible refers to the body of Christ as sheep. Am I a sheep? Yes, says Jesus, metaphorically. He is my Shepherd. What a glorious metaphor. I love to think of The Perfect herding me, caring for me, leading me, protecting me. Everything He does is perfect so His care of the sheep will also be perfect, and I can and do rest in that knowledge.
It’s a good metaphor. He could have likened us to badgers, angry and contentious. He could have called us after the evil one who is god of the earth- a lion, a prowling predator seeking after sin and devouring others. He could have called us spiders, an insect hardly anybody likes. I mean, really. A sheep is good.
In my Logos 6 software one can research by topic. I found these biblical facts about sheep:
The sheep is the first animal specified by name in the sacred writings. Abel, himself a shepherd, offered the firstlings of his flock to the Lord (Gen. 4:4). Abraham was very rich in sheep, and Job at one time had 14,000 amongst his herds. In 2 Kings 3:4 we read of a Moabitish shepherd-king who gave a tribute of a hundred thousand lambs and a hundred thousand rams; and this country is still inhabited by owners of vast herds of sheep, the Beni Sakkr sheikhs. Solomon celebrated the dedication of the temple by the sacrifice of 120,000 sheep.
The Sheep is perhaps the most important of all the animals in the Scriptures. It formed the chief portion of the wealth of the patriarchs, and it is not merely as an article of food that its value is to be estimated. The clothing of those days was almost entirely made of wool; cotton, silk and flax being hardly known or quite out of reach until a later period. The number of flocks was the chief measure of property. Tillage was, comparatively speaking, but little resorted to in Palestine, and there was only very local or in most places no possession in land. Hence sheep were of primary value; and from its nature the country was, and is still, better adapted to the rearing and feeding of sheep than other domestic animals.Source- Hart, H. C. (1888). The Animals Mentioned in the Bible (pp. 193–194). London: The Religious Tract Society.
Interesting! How about the beloved 23rd Psalm-
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
Here is Matthew Henry Commentary on the famous first line of the Psalm, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’
Confidence in God’s grace and care. – “The Lord is my shepherd.” In these words, the believer is taught to express his satisfaction in the care of the great Pastor of the universe, the Redeemer and Preserver of men. With joy he reflects that he has a shepherd, and that shepherd is Jehovah.
A flock of sheep, gentle and harmless, feeding in verdant pastures, under the care of a skilful, watchful, and tender shepherd, forms an emblem of believers brought back to the Shepherd of their souls. The greatest abundance is but a dry pasture to a wicked man, who relishes in it only what pleases the senses; but to a godly man, who by faith tastes the goodness of God in all his enjoyments, though he has but little of the world, it is a green pasture.
The Lord gives quiet and contentment in the mind, whatever the lot is. Are we blessed with the green pastures of the ordinances, let us not think it enough to pass through them, but let us abide in them. The consolations of the Holy Spirit are the still waters by which the saints are led; the streams which flow from the Fountain of living waters. Those only are led by the still waters of comfort, who walk in the paths of righteousness.
Do you have confidence in God’s grace and care? Do you have quiet contentment of the mind, knowing the Great Shepherd would not only lay down His life for the sheep, but He has done it? Are you consoled by the knowledge that His protection is mighty and everlasting? That His pastures remain green? That the waters are always living and fresh?
We are blessed with good care. Though we stray, the Good Shepherd brings the lost sheep home. This is the ultimate blessing, forgiveness of our many sins, and promise of eternal joy.
As Jonathan Edwards said in his “Farewell Sermon“,
Whoever may hereafter stand related to you as your spiritual guide, my desire and prayer is that the great Shepherd of the sheep would have a special respect to you, and be your guide (for there is none teacheth like him), and that he who is the infinite fountain of light, would “open your eyes, and turn you from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that you may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified, through faith that is in Christ;” that so in that great day, when I shall meet you again before your Judge and mine, we may meet in joyful and glorious circumstances, never to be separated any more.