Summary: 3rd of 4 messages: It comes down quite simply to a single truth: Sheep need care and protection.
A Shepherd’s Work
Last Sunday I spoke about the three distinctives that set apart the “good” shepherd from the hired man and the mediocre, self oriented shepherd.
The distinctives are: 1) The good Shepherd IS the door; 2) The good Shepherd KNOWS his sheep; and 3) The good Shepherd LEADS his sheep
These distinctives not only make clear that good shepherding is much more than doing a job. It also sets the framework of what the good shepherd does. It lays the foundation for a job description based on the needs of sheep in a world that is sometimes hostile and often ambivalent. It comes down quite simply to a single truth: Sheep need care and protection.
The Shepherd’s work is necessary because sheep live in a hazard filled world
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. 12 The worker who is paid to keep the sheep is different from the shepherd who owns them. When the worker sees a wolf coming, he runs away and leaves the sheep alone. Then the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them.
Sheep need a shepherd to protect them from the world
There are many dangerous destroyers of life.
There are wolves, bears, lions, panthers, and wildcats.
There are life damaging diseases. Scabbies is a skin ailment that destroys the sheep with an itching rash.
There are thieves and robbers who come into the sheepfold to steal and use.
There are flash floods, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, hailstorms, snow blizzards, hot summers, dry periods without any rain.
All of these things conspire to take away life or to reduce it to bare survival.
Shepherd carried several bits of equipment.
There was the shepherd’s rod or club that was used to defend against wild animals and to drive them off.
The staff or walking stick that was used to nudge and guide the sheep.
He also carried a sling. Two leather strips connected by a pouch in which a stone the size of a marble or even a little larger was place. Grasping the leather strips firmly he would spin the rock in the pouch over his head and then with a lunge forward he would release one of the leather strips and the rock would be sent at tremendous speeds with killing power at whatever he aimed at.
Shepherds would practice for hours and were so good that they could hit a specific rock on the ground or a branch in a tree from a great distance.
They carried a bag with food for themselves and a sheep that was sick. They carried oil to pour on the scabbies of the sick animals.
They also often carried a flute or a lyre to make music at night or during the long days while the sheep grazed.
Everything they carried and everything they did had a single focus – the protection and comfort of the sheep
The world we live in isn’t much different
There are many dangers in this world that we face daily. There are false teachers who bring life destroying philosophies clothed in the robes of intellect, reason, and value.
We live in a world of relativism where there are no absolutes. We live in a place where the existential moment of our present feelings matter, the past events are irrelevant, and future potentials aren’t even on the radar screen. We live in a time when the cry for tolerance is great and the damnation for right and wrong is even greater.
We live in a world filled with hypocrisies like laws against hate crimes and punishing murder with an average of 7 years behind bars. Where an executive in a corporation can “cook” the books to make the company look more profitable and be sent to prison for 24 years while a “Martha Stewart” can be the beneficiary of insider trading and complain about a 5 month sentence as being too harsh.
We live in a world where cancer lurks behind every tumor and every cyst. We live in a place where there is Alzheimer’s and arthritis combine to make old age a scary time. We deal with aches, pains, and rickety knees.
Our world has layoff’s, divorce, drug abuse, and angry young teenagers wearing black nail polish and studded dog collars.
This is a scary place we live in. To live in it well we need to have faith in the one who is the good shepherd and those who serve as his “under shepherds”
It is the loving, caring, compassion of a guiding shepherd that gives us the ability to keep on keeping on in this old world
D Hansen writes in “The Power of Loving Your Church” that
What Kills Faith
“What kills faith is not so much that people go through the valley of the shadow of death; it is that during and after their suffering they never felt God’s rod and staff comforting them. God is the great Shepherd, and we are his rod and his staff.”