Foolish Sheep, Faithful Shepherd
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. —Isaiah 53:6
Sometimes we forget the implications of the first verse in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” If He’s our Shepherd, it means we are sheep. The prophet Isaiah certainly thought so. His description wasn’t selective. Not, some of us are like sheep, but all of us “like sheep have gone astray;we have turned—every one—to his own way.”
Isaiah’s description prompts the question, How are we like sheep? Frankly, the comparison is not a pretty picture. We can’t say a lot of flattering things about sheep. But the Lord calls Himself our Shepherd because we really are like sheep.
First, we’re prone to follow. Put a flock of sheep in the middle of a lush, green pasture, turn your back on them for five minutes, and they’re all poking their noses under the fence. Human beings have a herding instinct too. We wear what our friends are wearing, talk like everyone around us is talking, and go where everyone is going. And we are so trusting, particularly when it comes to bad advice. Sheep are like that—going astray while following others who are wandering.
Like sheep, we’re also vulnerable. It doesn’t take long in a barnyard to notice how most farm animals get along pretty well without human supervision. Chickens, horses, pigs, and cows can handle their surroundings on their own. Not sheep. They get a shepherd, because thousands of years of experience indicate they need one. Left alone, sheep get in trouble. Sound familiar? We, too, are unstable, weak, and require constant care and protection.
Unfortunately, we have yet another sheep-like trait: we are stubborn. We want to do things our way. We can be told the same truth over and over, but often need a harsh and painful reality check to realize how far we have wandered. We’re stubborn—just like sheep.
And without a shepherd, we’re lost; we truly have gone astray. That little phrase defines how many of us live much of our lives—not being where we should be or doing what we were designed to do. God wants us living in continual relationship with Him, but we stray from His guidance and miss out on His best.
Bottom line? We're a lot like sheep . . . but we have a faithful Shepherd. He came to find us. He gave His life for us, to save us from being eternally lost because of our sin. As Isaiah foretold centuries before that happened, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And having taken our sins, Jesus is willing to lead us every day as only the Good Shepherd can.
What specific sheep-like traits do you recognize in your own life? When did you last make those a matter of prayer and repentance? How do you see Jesus carrying out His shepherding duties in your life right now?
Lord, thank You that even though I am embarrassingly like a sheep in so many ways, one way I’m not is that I can talk to You. You gave me the priceless gift of communication with You. I can come to You with my difficulties and needs, knowing You will care for me. And I can come with worship and praise, knowing You delight in my expressions of gratitude. Today, I give You eternal thanks for being my faithful Shepherd. In Jesus’ name, amen.