If you follow me on any social media platform, or have had even one in-person conversation with me, it is probable (definite) that you know about my dog. I've grown up in a household of dog-people, and since the early age of 7, I've had a pair of floppy paws running across the hardwood floors of my house.
And like pets tend to do, each little furry boy has taught me lessons no lecture or self-care manual could even attempt. I've learned responsibility, knowing that if said dog isn't periodically given the chance to go outside, it will inevitably choose the room with the newest carpet to take care of some business. I've learned what it means to truly grieve, as I've had to give my final cuddles and last kisses to two sickly pups. And what I believe to be the greatest lesson of all? Unconditional love.
However...I've also learned that animals are clueless. We tend to really hype up their abilities, them mastering a new trick or sleeping through the night (both major victories at my house...) but at the end of the day? They still chew up the socks and they still get into the trash.
Don't let this question shake you, but are we maybe a bit like dogs?
Giving in to impulses, intentionally disobeying commands that we know are only for our good, seeking attention from literally anyone willing to notice us?
This isn't some new idea, either. We've been referred to as worse animals before. Jesus himself straight up labeled us as sheep.
The Gospels and Old Testament prophecies alike use this (borderline insulting, yet completely accurate) metaphor to explain our relationship with Jesus. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We are the stupid sheep.
Now of course, as the writers of Scripture often did, much more eloquent and professional sounding descriptions were used for our lack of competence, but if you've ever spent a good deal of time on a farm (I have not, but I do have Google), you can attest to the questionable decisions some sheep make. For instance, they literally will just jump off cliffs without thinking twice or once. The lack of direction seemingly embedded within their DNA will lead one or two sheep to the edge and the rest follow. Morbid, yes. Relatable? Maybe more than you think.
Sheep need their shepherd. When left to their own devices, the blinding absence of their own devices becomes apparent. One farmer-turned-writer told of the time one of his ewes decided to fend for themselves. While the sheep did manage to find a sustainable source of food, it also managed to get its head stuck in a fence while reaching for it.
When it comes down to it, I think we often forget how directionless we are as well. How many fences we've gotten our heads stuck in. We forget that our very existence is entirely dependent on the providence of our Good Shepherd. And friends, our Shepherd is a shepherd who loves his flock.
Psalm 23 is an oldie and a goodie in most churches, homes, and hearts. This idea of the Shepherd and sheep is the very nature of the psalmist David's words.
David reminds us that as the Lord is our Good Shepherd...
1.) We shall not want. Our every need is provided for.
2.) He longs to bring us rest. Our God is in the restoration business. Whether a radical lifestyle change, or recovering from a demanding day, He will bring us rest.
3.) We have no reason to fear. Our reality in this world is that we will walk through the valley, but our Shepherd has a strong rod, and a ready staff. Just as a shepherd wards off threats against his flock, God wards off threats against his Beloved.
4.) We have all the reason to be grateful. Our souls are living and breathing examples of the goodness of God. We are overflowing with this goodness, and there is no where we can run from it.
Find peace in this today. You may feel discouraged, constantly getting stuck in sticky situations or running after a flock headed towards destruction. But we can never go to far from the goodness of our Shepherd. He cherishes us, as he sees it as his duty to provide for us. Remember who is filling the troughs, and who is leading you to safety. -Taylor