The Shepherd’s Job

If you’ve ever seen pictures of Israel, perhaps it seems inconsistent with the greeting cards. You’ve seen the ones. Fluffy white sheep in fluffy green fields. There are no fluffy green pastures in Israel. When David said, “You lead me in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2), he’d never been to Kansas, so he had no way of knowing his fields are not green.

The pastures David walked were full of thistles, rocks, sand. Water was scarce, grass was scarcer, and the sheep had to constantly keep moving or they would eat up all the grass, which was hardly any at all, and starve to death. The shepherd’s job was to find grass. The shepherd’s job was to find water. The shepherd’s job was to lead the sheep. To keep them moving.

Once upon a time there was nothing, no grass, no water, no cliff, no wolves, no sheep, no nothing. But there was Jesus. And He, with a specific, good, wonderful plan in mind for me, said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. He then spoke mountains and valleys, rivers and oceans into existence, designed a path, populated it with grass, and brought the rivers right up alongside it. With me in mind, God designed a path, and He knows it because He created it.

Oh, but Jesus is a better Shepherd than that. He doesn’t have just a God’s-eye view of my struggles. He has a me-sized view of them, too. Because long about two thousand years ago, Jesus, Creator, Sustainer, infinite and wise, became a little sheep. He, the sheep, got heavy when He got wet, got itchy when it got hot, got tired when the day got long, walked every dry, dusty stretch between waystations, climbed through every bramble I would ever encounter, and just for good measure, got eaten by the wolves who will never touch me, just so He’d know my fears and could comfort me when I hear howling. With me in mind, Jesus became a sheep, and He knows the path because He walked it.

Oh, but better yet. Jesus returns, all these years later to walk these same roads again, but this time as my Shepherd. With both God’s view and mine, knowing my limitations and God’s limitlessness, my fears and God’s power, my needs and God’s provision, my hopes and God’s plans, Jesus takes each step just before me, promising me He has His eye on the next hill, sees where we’ll be making camp, and promising we’re almost there. Having put the grass beside the water in the shade, having once camped there Himself, He now guides me to all the best places. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Excerpt from “Peace and How to Keep It.” Coming fall 2020.