Monday, June 6, 2016

The Good Shepherd

Robin and I recently read Psalm 28.  It is a psalm written by David, where in the first part David cries out to God for protection and strength and in the second part he praises God because God has answered his prayer.  The Bible we were reading from had some notes about the psalm and this thought caught my attention: God is a Shepherd who cannot abandon His sheep.

I have heard first-hand stories from people in our congregation about the days of living out on the reservation and caring for sheep.  Sleeping in a tent year-round, gathering wood for cooking, moving the sheep south in winter and north in the summer.  Spending so much time with the sheep that they smelled like sheep.  I have heard stories of sheep camp but never a longing to return to those days.  There are certainly many fond memories of that time but the work and way of life were much harder than things are today.  They may not have abandoned the sheep but there seems to be a sense of progress in moving from caring for sheep to other ways of making a living.

When we think about the images in the Bible of God as a shepherd and His people as the sheep we know that we have all the characteristics that make being a shepherd very hard work.  We have a poor sense of the dangers around us and often run gladly after them.  We have little regard for the shepherd and wish that he would just take a break, or perhaps quit, so that we can be left to our own desires.  And when we come face-to-face with something that we see is truly threatening to us we tend to run blindly in any and every direction, seeming to end up in the arms of the shepherd more by chance than through our own good choice.

But as the note in our Bible said, with great truth, God is a Shepherd who cannot abandon His sheep.  He cares for His sheep faithfully, without ever having a single thought of giving up on them.  It is in His very nature to care for His sheep, no matter what they do.  If He took even ten minutes to do something else, then He would be a failure at His calling to be our Shepherd, and  God cannot fail at anything He takes on and still be God.

When it comes to seeing God as a Shepherd and His children as His sheep there is more to His role than the truth that God cannot abandon His sheep.  It is also true that God could not abandon them.  God would not abandon them.  God does not abandon them. And looking forward, God will not abandon them.  And so today we can rejoice with David in the closing verse of the psalm,

"The Lord is the strength of his people;
    he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
    Be their shepherd and carry them forever."

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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