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.
Human beings are stubbornly independent creatures craving self-determination: we want to decide everything for ourselves. As much as we might like the comfort of being part of the flock, there are times when we make a break for it and go our own way, even if it means risking getting lost, hungry or harmed.
It is chaos when we choose to ignore the call of the shepherd, when we refuse to be found when being sought, if we struggle to be free if picked up and carried back.
Lost and scattered, mere coyote-bait if left to our own devices, we are undeserving of a shepherd who willingly gives his life to lead us safely home.
Yet we have just such a shepherd. He calls our name and we know His voice.
And so we shall follow Him.
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.
And gently lead those that are with young.
Our Heavenly Father knows us and we know Him. He feeds us when we feel hungry, or alone, or scared. Our Heavenly Father gives us hope and security in His Word as He safely keeps us near His heart.
The Lord knows His own. He is gentle with us even when we feel that we are undeserving of His great love. To carry within our womb His little ones can’t compare to anything else that I have experienced. God is so good.
This verse speaks very personally to me as we were not supposed to be capable of bearing children, however we have birthed five children and are the humble grandparents of twenty one grandchildren birthed from our children. What glee! Our Lord is full of love even for the weak of heart.
What joy I experience on Easter morning celebrating our risen Lord. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
He tends his flock like a shepherd
“What a simple verse,” most people would say. But though this verse is small, it has a big meaning.
When I read “shepherd” in the Bible, I think of comfort, especially when it is picturing Jesus. The “he” in this verse is talking about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Right now this verse comforts me because on the news I heard about all the strife and shootings in the world. The Good Shepherd is with me.
A shepherd herds his sheep and leads them in the right path. There is a song we are singing in our school’s spring program that goes like this:
In this world of fear and doubt
With temptations all about
Hold to my hand
Dear Lord I pray
Let me put my faith in Thee
Till the homeland I shall see.
Lord, lead me on from day to day.
Lord, do lead us on. Lead us in the right path and let us know that everything is for good. Tend us like a shepherd.
–Noa Lovegren, age 11
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night.
I remember watching a herdsman driving his little flock of goats along the side of a grassy slope on the coast of South Africa, watching how with precision he would gather the strays, all while keep the herd together. I marveled at how he could direct this group of flighty animals all in the direction he willed while not letting a single one fall behind. Growing up on a farm and later having goats of our own, I remember nights where we would be watching over a sick goat or cow through the night, trying to make sure it would see the light of the next day.
I do not find it very complimentary when God compares us to sheep — needy and helpless. But when you think about the way that those shepherds watched over their flock on the hills of Israel, giving special attention to the sick and also looking ahead and planning the next place to go to sustain the flock. Every action the shepherd makes is with the good of the flock in mind. He knows the state of the flock.
Our heavenly Father has done the same for us through the history of the world and when often all we can think about is our own needs. As Christ’s people, we are his concern, just like the flock is the shepherd’s concern. God sent his Son to earth for his glory, for the redemption of his flock.
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.
If you’ve moved in Christian circles for any length of time, you are probably familiar with the many parallels between the Christian and the sheep: stubborn aversion to anything risky, desire to move with the group, easily lost, etc.
In reading this passage, I take the first two lines to heart, so much so that I demonstrate my own sheep-likeness yet again.
I read: “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”
I think: Oh yes, I can understand that. I know I’ve sinned—oh, I am so sheeplike, so stupid! Self-beration feels natural, almost holy, so I continue to dwell on my shortcomings and wallow in guilt.
But we must urge each other to remember the most important part of this passage: “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Yes, we were once hopelessly lost, walking in darkness far worse than a sheep’s nearsightedness. Christ entered our darkness, promising the fullest life (John 10:10), assuring us that he would pay the cost of giving us that life (John 8:34-36, 3:15).
Our first iniquity was rebellion against our creator. But in Paul’s words, thanks be to God! We have been delivered; we have been found. We have been justified once—for all time—because the Lamb bore the sins of his flock.
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart
I was blessed with three cuddly babies. Each settled right into the crook of my arm, snuggling to be fed, sleeping soundly with my heartbeat echoing in their ear. In fact, they were so comfortable it rarely worked to easily separate from them, trying to slowly, carefully, imperceptibly lower them into their crib without their awakening. Many quiet hours were spent rocking with them gathered close, comforting me as I comforted them.
Not every baby cuddles so contentedly. When picked up, they become all arms and legs and arching back, grimacing and howling as they try to wiggle away, with no goal other than seeking perceived freedom. Struggling their way out of snuggling. Instead of comfort, it is perceived as confinement, restraint instead of respite.
There was a time, years ago, when I too was restless and uneasy about being gathered up and held close. I wanted to go my own way, pursue a different path, staying independent and rebellious. I’m astonished to this day that I was missed, sought out, picked up and gently carried back home.
Now I know there is no greater freedom than what is found within those arms, next to that heart.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd
Lonely business, shepherding. Unless you happen to like the company of dozens of sheep and their doggy guards. Then it becomes just the right kind of fellowship–though a bit vocal, maybe somewhat wayward, with a tendency to decide their own path unless constantly supervised and guided. It really is a labor of love.
There is one truth about sheep: if there is meadow to graze and they sense safety in numbers with their protectors near, they are pretty content.
I’m definitely more sheep than shepherd, hungry to be fed and happy to keep my nose down in the pasture, very glad to be part of a larger body, though at times still skittish enough to make a run for it on my own if I lose my bearings. Then the shepherd has to haul me back into the flock again, reminding me where I belong, and from where my sustenance comes. Alone, on my own, I’m coyote fodder.
Might I gradually become more shepherd than sheep someday? Becoming more caretaker than cared over, to feed others rather than be fed?
If I ever do, I won’t think of it as labor, but rather see it as a privilege, a gift of love.