Written by Fiona Holburn
I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me –Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)
In a story from Turkey in 2005 some men were looking after hundreds of sheep. Oblivious to looming disaster, they gathered for breakfast. The sheep gradually wandered further away, however they were close to a ravine. Suddenly one of the sheep went over the edge and plummeted to the bottom followed horrifically by all the others -1500 sheep. Four hundred were killed, the other 1100 only survived as they were cushioned by the dead bodies of the first sheep to go over the precipice, though many were obviously badly injured. An appalling disaster.
Could these men have been the owners of the sheep? I think not. Good shepherds love their sheep knowing each one intimately, and understanding any little quirks of character that for example may cause one to be considerably more adventurous than the rest. Good shepherds would also have known the terrain like the back of their hands, would have been alert to the danger so would have probably had a look out in case of the above danger, and would have taken much more care of where they would allow the sheep to forage.
I once had a mini experience of what it must be like to be a shepherd. Battling through a fierce wind, head down on the island of Lewis, I came to a wire fenced field. Suddenly a whole flock of sheep were racing towards me and stopped looking expectantly at me from over the fence. They soon realised their big mistake, I had no food so they wandered off but their lively expectation and enthusiastic approach filled me with sheer delight! I found out later that the farmer often came there with food!
One of the best examples of a shepherd in the Bible is of course David.. He really cared for his father`s sheep to the extent of killing marauding lions or bears with his own hands, 1Samuel (17:34-36) totally astonishing, he could easily have been killed. His father couldn`t have asked for a better son, who was willing to risk his own life for his sheep. David also being a musician had such a joyful love and complete trust in the Lord, which was so beautifully expressed in the 23rd Psalm. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
David the shepherd knew exactly what was entailed in being a shepherd. He needed to provide food and water, protection from seriously wild animals and dangerous terrain. Sick or injured sheep needed care, only then could he rest to just enjoy his sheep, the beauty of the surroundings and make music and songs in praise to the Lord.
Certainly in the verses above we are looking not at `a` good shepherd but `The` Good Shepherd, Jesus declared Himself to be The Good Shepherd who didn‘t just risk his life for us, but was in fact willing to give up that life for us. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13) How much more can we ourselves give thanks for Jesus The Good Shepherd and lift our hearts in adoration to Him. He never turns us away in fact is delighted when we approach Him,for He knows us intimately and loves us with an everlasting love. He never loses sight of us and is never otherwise occupied. He understands our character and is more than able to comfort, strengthen, guide and teach us in whatever the situation. Then of course there are times when we can just rest in Him and in that place is perfect peace. What a glorious saviour!
Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, This is my story this is my song
O what a foretaste of glory divine, Praising my saviour all the day long
Heir of salvation, purchase of God. This is my story this is my song
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood Praising my saviour all the day long