On the train coming home from work, I noticed a sheep in a field on its own. Now, I’m not a farmer, but generally, if a sheep is by itself, it has probably wandered off from the main flock and is in potential danger.
My first thought was, ‘the farmer will come and rescue it’, but because the train was moving at a pace, I didn’t see what happened next – but I hope that sheep was reunited with the rest of the flock.
If you watch ‘Countryfile’ on a Sunday evening you will have seen occasions of a sheep-dog at work. Listening and obeying the instructions of the shepherd. Amid the whistles and shouts of the shepherd, one instruction to the sheep-dog is to ‘Stay Close’ – not to frighten the flock but to keep them in check.
Like the sheep I saw from the train window, I thought that in our busyness, it’s easy to get distracted and go wandering off after other metaphorical ‘interesting smells’ on the hillside, rather than watch the Master closely. I was also reminded that a good sheepdog doesn’t bark at or bite the sheep to get them to do what she wants. She’s gentle and quiet in her movements (although the occasional nip may be necessary!). And at the end of the day, she lies contentedly beside the farmer, feeling His hand on her head, knowing that it’s been a job well done!
A good shepherd will always have the interests of his flock as his priority, and the sheep respond accordingly.
And later in this wonderful chapter, Jesus reminds us that, ‘we know His voice’.
The image of the Shepherd and the sheep is common in the pages of Scripture. David, who knew a thing or two about shepherding reminds us that ‘The Lord is MY Shepherd’. He is there for us in all the ups and downs of life. I love the words of the ‘Stuart Townend version’ of the old hymn, when we are reminded of the importance of ‘staying close’ to the Good Shepherd:
‘And I will trust in You alone, for your endless mercies follows me, your goodness will lead me home’…..
Trusting in Jesus seeking His approval alone and not that of other people, keeping short accounts with Him, asking for forgiveness for things we know we’ve done wrong, and for things we don’t know we’ve done; listening for His voice for instructions and seeking His face, are all part of staying close to God. God knows the work He prepared in advance for us to do. When we stay close, we won’t wander off after irrelevant distractions and we can be confident that we are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. Then we’ll hear, understand and obey the next instruction when it comes.
Be encouraged and listen to HIS voice!