Living on a farm and watching animals every day is a very educational experience! The parallels between living creatures going about their normal activities and lessons from the Bible are amazing. In their innocence they fulfill teachings from the Bible, show us an example of humility and obedience and provide a clear picture of complete trust and unconditional love.
Across the dirt road from where we live is a pasture filled with sheep. Several of the ewes have recently become mothers. Many times I have stopped to listen to the mothers and babies communicating with each other. A lamb will cry and out of the 32 ewes, the only one who answers this lamb is its own mother. Another lamb will cry and again the only ewe who answers is the mother and she will continue to call until her baby is safe by her side. Its cry touches her heart and her desire becomes centered on making sure that no harm comes to her little lamb and that it feels her love and protection. In this same way the Lord cares for us, the sheep of His pasture and His desire toward us is that we trust in the love and protective hand that He extends to each of us.
From time to time several of the lambs will gather together and play like a group of children, chasing each other and jumping around in the grass. They have such a good time, but before too long they become tired. When it’s time to rest they look for the comfort of their mothers just as we seek the comfort of our heavenly Father when the cares of this life weigh us down and we are tired from our everyday struggles.
The sheep know that there is a pond in the middle of the pasture where they can drink their fill of water. There is green grass for them to eat and hay that has been put there for them by the shepherd. Each day he watches over them, makes sure they have plenty to eat and that all are healthy and without injury. If one has been hurt, the shepherd tends to the injury. They are in his care and he is responsible for their well-being. He learns to love them and they learn to love and trust him. When he calls they run to him but if a stranger calls to them they do not respond. ” My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” John 10:27 “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” John 10:5
As the shepherd walks through the pasture the sheep follow behind him. If he walks through the briers, they follow. If he walks through the mud, they follow. When he takes the crooked path or stumbles across a rocky piece of ground he can turn and see the sheep doing the same. The wise shepherd who walks the straight pathway leads his sheep safely across the smooth ground. They follow him to green pastures and clear water to nourish and refresh them. He is leading them and they trust that he will do what is best for them. In this same way our children follow our leadership. We can lead them through the briers and rocky paths of this life when we ourselves do not follow the Good Shepherd. He encourages us to do good and make the right choices and no matter whether we do or not we are leading our children by our example. Jesus teaches us to follow Him and to raise our children according to His instructions so that they will learn to follow Him.
The shepherd cares for the sick and injured sheep. They trust in him to help them when they are not able to help themselves. He cleans and dresses their cuts and sores and will give them what they need to restore them to health. With tenderness and care he looks after their needs, the young and the old, the weak and the strong, they all depend on him. We can go to the Good Shepherd for healing, for support, for comfort, for guidance, for help with anything that may happen in our lives. He cares for us and is touched with our infirmities. He rejoices in our good times and is sorrowful in the times that bring us pain and suffering.
There have been several times when coyotes have terrorized the flock, even killing on one occasion. The shepherd stands guard to keep the remainder safe. Through the dark of night when the wind is howling and there is no moon to give light, the shepherd watches over the sheep. He is there when the rain comes, through the cold he is alert and mindful of the responsibility which rests on him. The Lord never fails to watch over us in the worst situations of our lives when there seems to be no hope and evil is ever present. He does not forsake us no matter how hopeless we may feel.
Sometimes one of the sheep will slip through the fence and wander away from the flock. From the safety of the pasture the outside world looked beautiful and inviting. Freedom was waiting just beyond the fence. Once outside, things are no longer as nice as they seemed to be before. There are dangers that appear from nowhere. The green grass is now on the inside of the fence where all the other sheep are. They are together and now she is alone on the outside of her safe place. When we stray away from the Lord looking for something better, more fun, more exciting we will always find that the things that take us away from our Lord will in the end bring us heartache and sorrow.
As the sheep trust their shepherd, so should we put our trust in the Good Shepherd. He will always do what is best for us. When we follow Him our path is clear and our rewards will be rich. His word never fails, His truth is everlasting and His love will endure forever.