Whose sheep are these, anyway?

“O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand…” Psalm 95: 6-7

It happens more often than I care to keep track of.  I look out the window or come around the corner of the house, and there, smack dab in the middle of our bean crop and sunflowers, or munching on those tiny baby trees I’ve been carrying precious water to; are a handful of munching sheep or goats, occasionally, there’s even a cow or two in the mix.  Our 1/2 acre field is surrounded by a fence.  Living trees, growing slowly, are carefully and painstakingly hacked from other trees with sprouts carefully tended, and planted in the middle of the rainy season so they’d have a chance to flourish, to create our fence.  A local gentleman carried each bundle on his head down the mountain, often walking it the hour and a half between his house and ours.  Sometimes, the animals are being chased by herdboys or herdgirls who got distracted by a game of soccer in my front yard or a conversation with a neighboring grandma or child.  On those occasions I often sigh, (never said I’d reached perfection just because I moved across the world to share Jesus’ love), and help chase them out of the ky/mo (farm) and go back to teaching/cooking/sweeping, etc.  Other times, there is no herder anywhere in sight and I have to herd them out alone and then go track down the herder who is suppose to be tending them.  (I might do more than sigh on those occasions; remember I already confessed I am less than perfect.)  This often involves questioning everyone along the way about who they might belong to and where they might be.  Often, I hear bleating and “just go peak” to make sure there are no animals eating the garden.  I even occasionally interrupt the soccer game going on in my front yard to make the herders corral everything back into a group away from our farm and the neighbors’ or to make them separate the bulls who will surely lock horns any minute.  (I’ve learned from experience it’s much easier to separate them prior to the locking of horns than post locking.) 

Why do I tell you all of this?  It’s certainly not the most flattering mental image of why I live in rural Africa (Though to be honest I herded my fair share of occasionally wandering animals in Rowan County too).  It really goes back to that visual image Jesus gives us on more than one occasion.  Ezekiel 34:31 says “And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.”  He is the shepherd and we are the flock.  How often does he want to sigh, or stamp his feet, or shout at me and wave his arms like crazy when I am not listening?  How often does he have to chase me when I am wandering into the fenced off field where I obviously shouldn’t go?  How many times would he have to say he’s chased me out of fields I don’t belong in or tended my cuts and scrapes when I was where I obviously shouldn’t have been in the first place?  If you’ve watched wandering sheep it might make you wonder what they think; if they think at all… Seems like sometimes they take a long look at what you’re asking them to do and then choose to do the exact opposite…even if it involves imminent danger or bodily hard. Then again, maybe Jesus looks at me and thinks the same thing.  Sometimes I am sure he evaluates my choices and wonders, “Just whose sheep are these anyway?”  Isaiah 40:11 reminds us “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”

My Daddy use to sing me a song.  It’s written by Brian J. Howard and it goes like this: “I just wanna be a sheep.  I just wanna be a sheep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep…I just wanna be a sheep (baa baa). I don’t wanna be a Pharisee, I don’t wanna be a Pharisee; ‘cause they’re not fair, you see…I just wanna be a sheep (baa baa).  I don’t wanna be a hypocrite, I don’t wanna be a hypocrite, ‘cause they’re not hip to it… I just wanna be a sheep (baa baa)  I don’t wanna be a Sadducee, I don’t wanna be a Sadducee, ‘cause they’re so sad, you see…I just wanna be a sheep (baa baa).  I don’t wanna be a goat, I don’t wanna be a goat, ‘cause they got no hope…I just wanna be a sheep (baa baa).  I just wanna be a child of God,  I just wanna be a child of God, walking the same path he trod…I just wanna be a sheep.”

Notice the lyrics never claim sheep get it right all the time.  The Bible doesn’t claim that either. In fact, there are several occasions where the Bible talks about sheep that wander away that Jesus, our good shepherd, has to chase after.   Ezekiel 34:11-16 teaches us: “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.  I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.  I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

Praise Jesus that he came to shepherd us and we have his word as written in the Bible.  Praise Jesus that he loves us and tends us and brings us back when we stray and cares for us with justice.  Praise Jesus he will strengthen the weak and bind up the injured. Praise Jesus that he will give us good pasture and rescue us from darkness and being scattered. I pray that I may find the grace our shepherd gives, to extend to our local shepherds.

May we be sheep, 

Grace and peace to you,

K, a sheep of the King