The rising sun cast its rays on budding bushes and trees. The smell of Spring was in the air—fresh and green. As morning dawned on the Quinn Farm in central Texas, the seasonal sounds intensified.
Baa…Baa…Baa—a ewe bleated for her newborn lamb. Baa…Baa—the baby responded. This constant cry of communication, multiplied by hundreds of pairs of sheep, filled the air with a near-deafening sound during lambing season.
There is always plenty to be done on a sheep farm. One of my morning responsibilities was to check the flock. One ewe might need assistance in bringing her newborn into the world. Another might need a cut or sore treated. It didn’t matter what needed doing, I relished it all.
I remember this as though it were yesterday. It is one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. While doing pastoral counseling with Richard the other day, these pleasant memories resurfaced.
Richard, a precious man, had wandered away from his church congregation. Now he felt isolated—outside the fold. Would Jesus take him back? I began describing the love of our Good Shepherd and opened my Bible to share.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost (Matthew 18:12-14, NIV).”
“Richard, do you see how much Jesus loves you?”
A moment of silence followed, broken by his weeping. Oh thank You, Holy Spirit, I thought, for intervening to do that which only You can do—touch the very core of our being, and restore us to harmony with God.
“Richard, Jesus also said, ‘I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own….My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:14, 27 NKJV ). He wants you to read your Bible and listen for His voice of guidance.”
As a young shepherd on the farm, I spent many hours searching for ewes and their lambs. Preferring privacy before and after giving birth, the mamas would run off and hide, not realizing their separation from the flock could endanger them and their babies.
Our family had a special call we used to gain our livestock’s attention—they associated this call with food and safety. Calling and searching for the missing ones, my hope was they would hear and respond to my voice. Usually, when I entered their range of hearing, they would answer. What a comfort to know I had been responsible in protecting them from wild dogs and coyotes.
It wasn’t always a happy ending. Some ewes died giving birth, because in their time of need they had hidden from their shepherd. I still sought after them to retrieve their young and bring them into the fold. It was difficult to get another ewe to suckle an orphaned lamb, so many seasons would find me bottle feeding as many as twenty lambs or more. I was more than just their shepherd. I was their adoptive parent as well, and they depended on me to keep them from harm and danger. I accepted my duties with deliberate devotion.
In all ways, Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He passionately pursues us. He protects us. He adopts us, feeds us and cares for us. The life of a shepherd is a good analogy for Jesus.
Richard was greatly consoled as we discussed how Christ shepherds us. He was very appreciative for me “rescuing” him. God had used me as a shepherd.
It’s true. Today, I am still serving and functioning as a shepherd. My farm is different—spiritual, not physical. I thank Jesus for the experience I had as a youth dealing with real sheep and their lambs. I know what it’s like to physically carry a lamb back to camp. I know what it’s like to nurture and mend the wounded. I know what it’s like to aid the lost and dying, to bring comfort and peace to them. This knowledge gives me a better understanding of the types and symbols Jesus refers to in the Bible.
I continue to ask the Lord to give me the strength to be His laborer and help those in need. I also ask God to give strength and stamina to those who are on the front lines helping the less fortunate and downtrodden. I know our great Shepherd will equip us for His work.
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever (Hebrews 13:20-21).”