She wanders afar
My prayers for rescue
Tag Archives: Sheep
The other day I posted a “found poem” that my son wrote for his social studies class. After reading a bit about this form of poetry, I decided I wanted to try writing one. I thought of all the references to sheep and shepherds in the Bible and chose to focus on these references for my found poem. Biblegateway came in handy so that I could easily search and “find” the verses I wanted to include. I thought about including all of the scripture references as footnotes, but decided that would make the post too cluttered.
I’m posting this poem as my Thankful Thursday post because I am thankful that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. I am also thankful for the consistent theme of God as the shepherd of His lost and wandering sheep throughout the Bible.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who sit enthroned
between the cherubim.
Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep
without a shepherd,
each will flee to his native land.
Save your people and bless
your inheritance; be their shepherd
and carry them forever.
He had compassion on them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who only take care of themselves!
Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
“I will place shepherds over them
who will tend them, and they will
no longer be afraid or terrified,
nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.
Then I will give you shepherds
after my own heart, who will lead you
with knowledge and understanding.
They will follow my laws
and be careful to keep my decrees.
And David shepherded them
with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them.
For you were like sheep
going astray, but now
you have returned to the Shepherd
and Overseer of your souls.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the crown of glory
that will never fade away.
For the Lamb at the center
of the throne will be their shepherd;
He will lead them to springs
of living water. And God
will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
So the LORD’s people will not
be like sheep without a shepherd.
But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.
“I have other sheep that are
not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
He will stand and shepherd
his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD
his God. And they will live securely,
for then his greatness will reach
to the ends of the earth.
“I am the good shepherd
who lays down his life for the sheep.”
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
I have been nominated to be on the Board of Elders for my church, which is both a great honor and a big responsibility. Even though the official vote isn’t until tomorrow night, I was invited to attend a joint meeting of our Executive Leadership Team and Board of Elders last week. At the end of the meeting our out-going president shared a wonderful message of his vision and hope for our church. He started by reading the passage from Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats. This is Jesus’ prophecy of the end times when He will separate the people like a farmer separates sheep and goats, putting the sheep on the right and the goats on the left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:34-40 (NLT).
He pointed out that as a church we had done a great job of putting structures into place for people to come and worship, to come to Sunday school, and to come and fellowship. All of these things are good, for us to come together and grow in our faith. But he challenged us to not just be a “come” church, but to be a “go” church. He challenged us to go and feed the hungry, clothe those in need of clothes, heal and minister to those who are sick, and to visit those in prison.
He also made the observation that those who are on the Lord’s right are referred to as righteous, but their focus had not been on becoming righteous or earning their righteousness. They simply were righteous. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that they their focus was on loving others, on feeding, clothing, healing, and visiting “the least of these.” In fact, they were so focused on doing this that they didn’t even realize they were doing anything special. It was just second nature for them to love and care for others.
Listening to my dear brother in Christ, a man who definitely has the heart of Christ, the song “Hands and Feet” by Audio Adrenaline started running through my head. I even told him afterwards that he had inspired a Music Monday blog post based on that song. (Note: If you’re looking for that video, you won’t find it here because God had another, better idea.)
Then I got out to the car to go home, and the song that was on the CD when I started the car was “Won’t You Be My Love” by MercyMe. I love this song. The chorus is a plea from Jesus to be His hands and feet for a lost world:
Won’t you be my voice calling
Won’t you be hands healing
Won’t you be my feet walking
Into a broken world
Won’t you be my chain breaker
Won’t you be my peace maker
Won’t you be my hope and joy
Won’t you be my LOVE
You can’t be Jesus’ love for a broken world by just sitting in a pew each week. You have to go out into the world in need of love. You have to go where there are hungry people and feed them. You have to go where there are homeless people and provide them with clothes and housing. You have to go where there are sick people and help them to heal. You have to go where there are non-believers and share with them the grace of Christ. It’s great to come to church each week, but it’s not enough to be on the Lord’s right in the judgment. The love of Christ must dwell in your heart and caring for others must be second nature.
I love the Psalms and turn to them often as a source of prayer. In the Psalms you can find prayers of praise and prayers of complaint and lament, and often both ideas are in the same Psalm.
In spite of my love for the Psalms, I tend to avoid one particular Psalm — 119. It is the longest of all the Psalms, taking up at least 6 full pages! But last night when I got home I had the overwhelming urge to read Psalm 119. So after I had changed my clothes, I sat in my chair in my bedroom, before even talking to my family, and began reading. Before I was done, both my husband and my son came looking for me, wondering what had happened to me.
It had been a stressful day at work and I was struggling with my attitude towards someone who was not responding to my voicemail or email, and I needed an answer. I struggled because this is a typical response (or rather, lack of response) from this particular person. So I was feeling frustrated and upset.
As I read Psalm 119, I came to this section:
49Remember the word to Your servant,
In which You have made me hope.
50This is my comfort in my affliction,
That Your word has revived me.
51The arrogant utterly deride me,
Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
52I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O LORD,
And comfort myself.
53Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked,
Who forsake Your law.
54Your statutes are my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.
55O LORD, I remember Your name in the night,
And keep Your law.
56This has become mine,
That I observe Your precepts.
A couple of lines jumped out of this passage and caught my attention: “The arrogant utterly deride me” and “Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked.” This is how I felt. And I was not alone in that feeling — even David felt as though he had been utterly derided and felt a burning indignation toward those who had derided him.
But I knew I had to move past those lines of complaint into the lines of praise and worship. This is the beauty of the Psalms. When reading them, one is never left with just the human emotions that we struggle with every day. This Psalm in particular is a great reminder of the wonder of God’s Word and His precepts. By His Word I am revived; I find hope and comfort; I am able to sing a song of praise to my Lord and King.
I didn’t finish Psalm 119 after work because my son interrupted me wanting to know how I was doing. And so I set my Bible aside and visited with him, and then made dinner. I picked it up again this morning before I came to work, and still did not finish the whole Psalm, but I did skip to the end (a bad habit I have with books in general). As I skipped to the end, I noticed that there was some complaint or lament about the wicked in every section of the Psalm, except this final section:
169Let my cry come before You, O LORD;
Give me understanding according to Your word.
170Let my supplication come before You;
Deliver me according to Your word.
171Let my lips utter praise,
For You teach me Your statutes.
172Let my tongue sing of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness.
173Let Your hand be ready to help me,
For I have chosen Your precepts.
174I long for Your salvation, O LORD,
And Your law is my delight.
175Let my soul live that it may praise You,
And let Your ordinances help me.
176I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant,
For I do not forget Your commandments.
In this last section, the Psalmist does not complain about the wickedness of others but finally admits that he has gone astray and asks God to seek him. He recognizes that it is our Lord who will find us. Even though the Psalmist sings God’s praises and delights in His law, he has stumbled himself and needs God to redeem him.
This is the place we need to get to. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that it is at the end of a very long Psalm. It is a lesson that can take a long time to truly understand and internalize. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6. His Word and His precepts are the key to understanding our own wickedness and need for our Savior. It seems easier to focus on the character and actions of others, but it is more fruitful to focus on Christ and on allowing Him to change our own character and actions.