Why the Shepherd

by
Godfrey Bowan


This book is the real meaning of the symbolism and spiritual application
of Psalm 23, written in the King James version, quoted as the finest
prose in the English language.

Psalm 23

The Lord is My Shepherd
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
For Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

List of Contents
About the Author / Foreword / Facts About Sheep and Wool / Introduction  / Chapter 1:
The Lost Sheep / Chapter 2: The Hungry and Thirsty Sheep / Chapter 3: The Unclean Sheep / Chapter 4: The Defenseless Sheep / Chapter 5: The Wounded Sheep / Chapter 6: The Giving Sheep / Chapter 7: The Hermit Sheep / Chapter 8: His Flock / Chapter 9: The Sheep-Fold / Chapter 10: The Final Gather

 

About the Author Walter Godfrey Bowen, M.B.E.

The author was born in Hastings, New Zealand, in 1922. He is a world renowned expert in the international sheep and wool industry. For over thirty years he has travelled the sheep countries of the world, consulting, conducting research and teaching his world famous shearing method, ‘the Bowen technique’, which he developed in the early ‘fifties. In 1953 he achieved the world sheep shearing record of 456 adult sheep shorn in nine hours - which he later broke in 1960 shearing 559 full wool Welsh mountain sheep in nine hours. He is a successful Christian businessman having studied accountancy and administration, and having served in a variety of important positions in the sheep and wool industry.

He created, and is chairman of, the internationally famous Agrodome Sheep Show in Rotorua, N.Z., where visitors from many nations have come to see this outstanding display of 19 different breeds of sheep and wool. Much of his life has been spent outdoors working with sheep and shepherds. He continues to maintain a select flock of his own and to consult with sheep owners the world over.

He has written several books on sheep and shearing. His book, Wool Away, is now published in five languages and his book, New Zealand and Its Sheep, is in its twelfth edition with over 100,000 copies sold. Godfrey Bowen has made many instructive films and has featured on several major television programmes.

His work has taken him to the far corners of the world: Australia, South Africa, Canada, North and South America, Britain, Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakh, Afghanistan, India and Japan - wherever sheep are raised and produced. He has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen of England, decorated in Buckingham Palace with the M.B.E., and by Khruschev in the Kremlin with the top Russian honour for his services to the sheep industry.

In addition to the creation of the famed Agrodome, Godfrey Bowen has presented his live stage show featuring sheep and wool in the major fairs of the world, including the World Fair 1970 in Japan, the World Sheep and Wool Conference in Canada, and in 1987 the international feature attraction at the English Royal Show and the LOS Angeles Pomona Fair, visited by about two million people.

Oft quoted as ‘Mr Wool’, ‘Mr Sheep of the World’, he has been honoured to serve as a sheep farmer, stud sheep breeder, sheep showman and international sheep and wool judge. In addition to the ‘Newmans Award’ for major contribution to New Zealand’s tourist industry, he is also an honorary member of Rotary.

He was for many years field director for the New Zealand Wool Board. A committed Christian, Godfrey Bowen has been a gifted speaker for over 30 years. His messages, largely founded on his insights into the shepherd and his sheep, and his practical Christian faith, have been a blessing to thousands. Many have come to the Lord through his challenging and direct ministry. His extensive experience, his deep insights and his Christian testimony make him uniquely qualified to write his inspirational book Why The Shepherd?

Godfrey and Mavis Bowen live at 35 Kotare Street, Waikanae, North Island, New Zealand. Their family comprises two daughters, two sons, and eight grandchildren.

Foreword

The world does not need more religion! There are already more than enough religions to go around. While the scholars speak of eleven major religions there are in fact hundreds of religions made up of man’s traditions, rituals and out-of-date doctrines. They have been tried and found wanting. They have failed to satisfy the deep spiritual needs of people in this fast-moving world.

What this world needs - and what hungry souls in this world need - is a genuine relationship with the Lord of Life. It is a universal need, the same the world over, no matter the people, the language, or the country. The gospel of Jesus offers the one message of truth, direction and life. It alone addresses the deepest needs of the human heart. It alone offers a living hope. It alone provides meaning and purpose to life. It alone gives a spiritual power from the indwelling presence of the Most High.

Dear reader, as you meditate on the words of this book, are refreshed by its spiritual meaning and are challenged to apply its truths to your heart and life, be also challenged to sing the songs and pray the prayers that accompany the text, so that your life may be blessed as never before. In the Creator’s sight, the very Author of Life, your life is precious and full of potential.

This potential can be realised only by a walk of faith, by travelling the right pathway, the Christian pathway of life, the pathway that leads to green pastures and to still waters - and to the rich experience of fellowship with the Shepherd Himself. It is a life that bears fruit in its season, brings a blessing to others, and joy, peace and victory to yourself.

We invite you to share with us the thrill and the adventure of the quest for the meaning of the Shepherd and the sheep - in the hope that your life will be blessed not only by the words, the image, the reflections and the meditations of your heart, but by a growing sense of the very presence of the Shepherd in your heart and life as well.

Facts About Sheep and Wool

There is probably no other animal in the world which is so completely useful. In addition to its wool for clothing, meat for food, hoof, horn and bone for fertiliser, and lanoline (grease from wool) for ointment and cosmetics, it gives fresh life to the soil, turns grass into protein by natural feeding quicker and better than any other animal, and, under good management, gives man a satisfying livelihood. With the first chill of autumn, the ewes come in season for the rams. The gestation period is five months, which means lambs are born mostly in the spring.

When born, the lambs have milk teeth, which are replaced by much larger adult permanent teeth from one year old, when two teeth are added each year until the sheep has a full mouth of eight teeth. For this reason it is easy to tell the age of a sheep. Two big white teeth in front - one year old; four teeth equal two years; six teeth three years; eight teeth four years - the peak of the sheep’s life. At five years the teeth become slightly worn; six years well worn down, some dropping out. At seven years old most of the teeth have worn away or dropped out and the sheep is called a ‘gummy’. In normal grazing conditions the sheep will die a natural death from seven to nine years old.

Flockmasters don’t allow this to happen as from six to seven years of age the sheep are culled from the flock and used in the commercial meat trade. Sheep have no teeth in the front of the top jaw. The strong bottom teeth meet a tough smooth pad which allows a sheep to graze close to the ground.

Only a select group of ewe lambs (the best for breeding, confirmation and wool) are kept to come into the flock to replace the old ewes being culled. The culled ewe lambs, together with the castrated ram lambs, supply the commercial prime meat lamb market. Sound breeding practices are required from stud sheep breeders, so that by careful selection the top quality sheep are used in these select flocks, to supply the thousands of rams required each year for the commercial flocks. Rams are very productive, and at mating time, only two rams are required to breed 100 ewes.

WOOL MANUFACTURING

The natural advantages of wool combine to give a life and quality to its products which no other fibre can offer. For centuries it has protected the sheep from every extreme of climate. No two woollen fibres can lie side by side owing to the natural crimp in the wool fibre, which traps air and makes wool such a great insulator. Wool will keep out extremes of heat and cold, absorb moisture without feeling clammy, breathe and move with the body on which it is worn and, because of its natural wave, it will always keep its shape.

Each woollen fibre has scales on its surface (like a fish). As soon as wool is exposed to moisture the scales create a friction and generate heat. Wool’s tensile strength and wearability is very high, and it is more fire-resistant than any other fibre. It is not produced from a test tube, but is a living, wonderful natural fibre which will do for man what it has done for sheep. The woollen garment has a drape, wear and status that places it in the quality bracket of the world’s fashions. Grown on a living sheep, wool’s natural qualities, that are so beneficial to the finished products, pose a real challenge to both the producer and manufacturer.

THE ART OF SHEARING

How important is quality shearing! Because the sheep’s body is round and the shearing comb flat, set on a handpiece running at 3000 revs on a swinging down-tube, it is easy for the shearer to err, to cut the staple of wool high above the body of the sheep, and then go back over his work and shear off the short double-cut piece of wool (termed second cuts). This second cut short wool is of little value and is damaging to the wool trade. Here lies the challenge of this universal harvest.

More than 1100 million sheep, the world’s flocks, are shorn each year. Through breeding, feeding and shepherding, the sheep, each 12 months, produce a quality fleece - and, in a few seconds on the shearing board, the rough, incompetent shearer can do irreparable damage. How important is shearing instruction, with top-quality, experienced instructors teaching learners the correct style and the sound basics that will lay a solid foundation on which to build a quality shearer! Until 40 years ago, shearing - the most difficult to learn (and the most skilled when mastered) of all agricultural tasks - was never taught. But as a result of the author’s initial effort it is now soundly taught in all sheep countries of the world.

THE WOOL CLASSER’S DOMAIN

The wool table is the domain of the wool classer - the expert who, with trained eye, a fast hand and mental alacrity, assesses the qualities of the shorn fleece in a matter of seconds. The fleece is ‘skirted’ by taking off all the stained, inferior wool from around the edges (removing as little as possible to leave a uniform fleece). The belly and crutch wool (growing underneath the sheep) have already been removed on the shearing board, and the small ‘fribby’ pieces have dropped from the fleece either on the board or through the slats on the wool table. The wool classer’s training, experience and practised eye mark him as a valuable expert in this fascinating wool chain, where he assesses the following:

1. Yield

The amount of dirt, vegetable matter and grease in the wool. The manufacturer is interested only in clean wool, and from the fleece (greasy state) there is anything from 50 to 80 per cent of clean wool. Yield plays a vital part in the price.

2. Soundness

If a sheep has been checked in its nutrition or by bad weather or sickness at any time of the year, wool growth is the first to suffer. Wool stops growing, and when it starts again a break in the fibre results. This is a bad fault in wool and must be detected by buyer and classer.

3. Count

This is the diameter of the fibre. A hank of wool is 560 yards long and count is the number of hanks that can be produced from one clean pound. The higher the count, the finer the fibre. Usually a higher count commands a higher price. 4. Style, Colour and Character The classer looks for even crimp (the natural waves in the fibre); lack of tippiness (so all the wool fibres are of the same length, even out to the tip); the colour as white as possible (not too yellow or discoloured); and for overall general appearance (bright and attractive).

BALING AND STORING

The wool clip is then pressed in bales before leaving the shearing shed for brokers’ stores and main selling centres. Here the bales are opened and the value of their contents is assessed by wool buyers, who work on the same lines as the classers. At this stage the wool grower’s participation ceases and the wool starts on its many manufacturing processes. If the grower has bred his sheep well, grown and harvested his wool well, he can expect to receive a premium price.

PROCESSING

Let’s look at the main steps in processing:

1. Wool is scoured by raking it slowly through large tanks of hot water and detergent. It then goes through a steam-heated dryer.

2. It is now tangled and lumpy and has to be teased out. The machine for this is a ‘card’. Rollers, covered with thousands of pins about in long, work against each other like two hair brushes, opening the wool out into a thin web-like veil.

3. If it is wanted for soft woollen yarns, this veil is divided into soft, untwisted cords called ‘slubbings’. They go straight to the spinning frame where they are drawn out, twisted and wound on to bobbins.

4. If a smoother, stronger yarn is required - a worsted yarn - the carding machine and the subsequent processes are all devoted to making the kinky wool fibres lie close and parallel. From the card

the wool is gathered in a single rope, called a sliver, and is put through gill boxes and combs. Vegetable matter and short fibres are removed. It is then a ‘top’ which goes through an extensive ‘drafting’ or drawing-out process until it is fine enough for spinning into a worsted yarn.

5. Once the yarn stage is reached, the wool is ready for cloth manufacture. It may be woven in a number of ways or made into carpets.

6. Most are familiar with the basic principles of weaving. The warp threads, which run from end to end of the cloth, are lifted alternately to allow the passage of the shuttles carrying the weft thread.

Thousands of combinations of yarns, colours and weaves allow infinite variety in the character of woven fabrics, from the heaviest blankets and coatings to the finest wool voiles. Modern looms, often with no shuttles, give greater flexibility and speed.

This is only a short description of an industry as vast and various as mankind itself. Wool is part of the daily scene - whether it is in Persian carpets or Parisian coats, children’s knitwear for Manchester, or mufflers for Muscovites. But it is on the farm that the whole process begins - with the careful breeding of sheep - with the birth of a lamb.

Introduction

The Bible has an insight unequalled by any other writing or literature in the history of the world. Centuries since written, it is still right up to date. It is the best message for mankind, ‘Strong in challenge, Soothing in comfort, Gentle in love, Real in faith, Living in hope.’

It can be read by anyone of any age, and no group is outside its boundaries. Parents can share its treasures with their children, and grandparents its inspiration with their grandchildren. It is ‘from everlasting to everlasting’, eternal and forever. Bible study never ends. The keenest students, the daily readers of the Word are continually discovering new truths and fresh inspiration for their lives. The fascination and literal beauty of this living Word centres on the use of natural things all around us, the objects most familiar to us, the activities and events of everyday life. The wonder of creation in all we see and experience, the little things of
life, are used to symbolise, describe and to explain living spiritual secrets and truths.

The Tree -

growth and development

The Light -

spiritual illumination

The Bread -

spiritual sustenance and nourishment

The Water -

spiritual thirst

Still waters

peace and serenity

The Wheat -

life’s values and worth

The Chaff

life’s dross

The Rock -

the sure foundation

The Mire -

being spiritually bogged down

The Lily -

spiritual purity

The Pearl -

spiritual value

The Salt -

spiritual savour and flavour

The Bride -

Christ’s beloved church

The Body -

the members of the church - and so many more, familiar to us.

There are many ways in which people have tried to describe their lives. Many metaphors have been used. Of all the images, the most telling, the most meaningful, the most precious is the symbol of the shepherd and the sheep. This way of thinking about the relationship between man and God has very special meaning to me, since I have spent over half a century of my life with sheep and with shepherds. I have been a shepherd.

I have been actively involved in raising sheep, in caring for sheep, in showing sheep, and in shearing sheep. I have had the honour of serving on boards and directorates of the sheep industry on the local, regional, national and international level. I have been given a great privilege, and the deep experience of living and working with peoples of the world, saying ‘Hello’ in many languages across the back of a sheep.

My life-experience, living and working and caring for sheep, and association with shepherds has revealed to me an abundance of rich spiritual truths borne out by direct experience that bear on this wonderful subject: Why The Shepherd? Having shared it through public speaking in several settings and in many countries round the world, I feel the call of God to commit my insights on this blessed subject to print. I trust that the Holy Spirit, my teacher, my guide, and my counsellor, will use these words to bring this message clear and true, to challenge and to inspire every reader.

It is my hope and fervent prayer that Psalm 23 will come alive, will come home with new truth and will be seen in a new light, as readers of this book come to see the Good Shepherd for the first time through the eyes of His sheep. 

Chapter 1

THE LOST SHEEP      

It is frightening to be lost. It is more tragic to be lost if you are a helpless sheep. The sheep is the only animal in the world that can be lost within only a few miles of its home. Most animals have been given an uncanny skill to find their way. One of the best true stories ever told was Lassie Come Home, the adventure of a collie’s journey home over hundreds of miles of strange country, rivers, plains, hills, mountains and back roads. Persisting over many weeks and many miles, overcoming tremendous obstacles, Lassie made her way home with tired body and bleeding feet.

The adventure touched all our hearts, especially in the film version - one of Mr. Disney’s most moving stories. Similar stories have been recited of other dogs, cats, horses and other animals which have traversed distant miles of strange terrain to make it home again, coming at last to their farm gate, pasture or back door, to be greeted by their astonished masters. More commonly, wild animals in nature have ranged widely, only to return to their own home territory or lair.

But not a Sheep Within its closed range the sheep has adequate skills. It knows its pasture, its valley, and the very place where it was born and suckled by its mother ewe.A sheep grazes parts of the range in early morning and moves to another part of the range in the later day. It rests in the same shade, sleeps in the same sheep camp and enjoys its home range perhaps more than any other grazing animal. But take the humble sheep away from its familiar territory and it becomes completely lost. It has no sense of direction. It has no orientation. It has no way to find its path home. It will walk round and round in circles, often ‘baa-ing’ continually as it shows its confusion, panic and unrest. Even sheep purchased from a sale or auction experience a sense of confusion and disorientation for several days before they settle down and become acclimatised to their new surroundings.

It is customary for all the lambs weaned off the mountains, hirsels and keeps of the world to be specially marked to identify them with their home range. After they are wintered away, on the lower warmer ground, they are returned in the springtime to the place of their birth. Otherwise, they would likely undergo disorientation, be lost and unsettled - often pining their days away in the unfamiliar environment of foreign terrain. It is tragic to observe the impact of being lost in the poor lost sheep.

There are no fences in the sheep highlands and each farmer has his own grounded sheep that stay on their range. Big flocks of sheep - from 8000 to 10000 - are commonly mustered in Scotland and Wales, and there are only 20 to 30 strangers belonging to the neighbours. The Bible was never more true than in its description of the lost sheep - so beautiful, so humble and so intelligent (contrary to common belief) - and yet so prone to go astray and get lost so easily. And when lost, so helpless in finding food and water. The 1100 million sheep of the world would very soon starve to death or die of thirst if it were not for the thousands of caring shepherds who constantly oversee their feed through the seasons, provide water and control their needed grazing.

Nothing is more up to date than the vivid imagery in the parable of the lost sheep, Luke 15. Jesus was a master at telling the story and in depicting the psychology of the sheep. All other animals would be able to follow the spore, find clues and track the pack, even hours later - and soon find their way to the herd. But not the sheep! The poor sheep becomes lost, wanders aimlessly and gives up in panic. This famed parable graphically illustrates the condition of sheep - and the sad spiritual state of mankind - alone, without its shepherd.

Jesus well knew this truth, both from his own personal experience as Shepherd and from His familiarity with the prophetic verse from Isaiah 53 ‘all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. . .’

This significant insight is as true today as it was then and as it has ever been. Ponder this principle. As we approach the 21st century, some 2000 years after the life
and times of Jesus, we can note with pride the wonders of the achievements of mankind. Man has been brilliant in his achievements. Our world is filled with the evidences of scientific, technological and agricultural advances, wonders to believe, to touch and see.

Scott froze in the Antarctic cold and Lawrence sweltered in the desert heat. Now a thermostat can regulate the appropriate temperature, and all of us benefit from the products of heating, refrigeration and air conditioning. Where a few men of vision dreamed of flying like a bird, people now fly faster than sound, traverse the vastness of space, and customarily flit around the world in the time it takes to walk to the neighbouring village. Where illness and disease decimated his brothers and sisters, his family and friends, his sons and daughters, now with one small injection in the arm, people become immune from the great enemies of the body and enjoy health and longer life. Body joints are grafted, organs are replaced, and hearts repaired or transplanted - almost as readily as a mechanic changes the parts of a modern automobile.

Today, people wake by bells, sleep by pills, and every physical necessity is catered for. Where space - that last uncharted territory - has remained a mystery,
a source of awe and wonder, and an enigma to little man on planet earth, even here man has not feared to tread. The old moon that has illumined earth and guided ships through the vast oceans, that has affected the movements of seas, rivers and tides, and that has exerted a romantic influence on lovers and lunatics alike, has now come under his sway, and has felt the footfall of his heavy steps. Where he first saw his likeness only in pond and then in mirror, he now observes himself in photograph, motion picture and videotape.

Mass media brings to his vision the immediate activities of world leaders, news events, violence, earthquake, volcano and physical catastrophe - along with the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat of his favourite athletes and sports teams - across the world and as they happen!

Where he roamed widely in search of food and in hunt of game, where he gathered wood and where he wrested the secret of fire from the gods, he now enjoys the harvest of the wide world throughout the year, and pops a meal into a microwave oven, ready to enjoy in a matter of seconds. His achievements have been broad and impressive, in every area of human life and experience, in communication, transportation, agriculture, medicine and education. Man is indeed the greatest living being on earth, the lord of fish, land animals, birds and all forms of life, over which he has exerted his dominion. He is sovereign over the animal kingdom.

He has extracted the wealth of the minerals. He has harnessed the very elements, the neutrons, the protons, and has at his fingertips the vast power of nuclear energy. Everything in this world has felt the impact of his intelligence, his science and his technology - and the world has been changed, for better or for worse. And yet, paradoxically, man remains the same as he has always been. His soul and his inner spiritual nature have not changed since the day of creation, with the exception of those who have experienced that new birth from above as a result of faith in the living Lord.

Man is an enigma, a perplexity, a paradox. He appears to be so advanced, so clever, so brilliant. He has indeed distanced himself from the animals, at least in intellect, but beneath the outer veneer of civilisation lurks the pitiful, vulnerable creature of God. Indeed, as the Psalmist aptly puts it, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and just ‘a little lower than the angels’ - but human nonetheless, with all the finiteness, all the weakness, all the loneliness, all the limitations and all the vulnerability of that humanness. How can this brilliant intellect be so stupid?

How is it that it has come to this, the achievements of which man is so proud are the very devices which have become the greatest threat to his survival - and the survival of every living being on earth! God gave man vast constructive potential which he has turned to destructive ends. More than ever before in history, man has become spiritually like a sheep that is lost, and is being overcome by his growing sense of lostness and all that means.

Modern man, collectively and individually, spiritually needs so desperately the Good Shepherd to find him, to lift him into His caring arms, to place him on His strong shoulders, to love him, to feed him, to be a shepherd to him and to bear him home from his terrifying lostness. All that is spiritually good, pure and holy in the nature of mankind is being given away. In this century, more than ever before it seems, the erosion has started in the very foundation of this heritage - the home and family. To mum and dad, to grandma and grandad before them, the family, the old home, the spiritual altar it surrounded, have always been a steady anchor in times of war, sickness, catastrophe and death. ‘Be it ever so humble, There is no place like home.’

Amidst the rapid erosion of human institutions, the home too has come under attack. The statistics are most sobering-and so alarming! The enemy is not just outside the home, but comes from the inner decay of love, values and personal commitment. We will not dwell on the negatives - or burden your soul with the dreadful scenario, so well described by the prophets of doom and gloom. Our desire is not to dwell on the condition of lostness of the sheep, but to direct you to the closeness and accessibility of the Good Shepherd, who Himself is the solution to the problem of spiritual lostness. I have searched the world over and I am certain that there is no other answer!

There is no answer to spiritual lostness to be found in man’s contemporary theories, philosophies or psychology, although millions are being led astray by what different psychologies claim to offer. The clamour of voices amounts to little more than a modern tower of Babel, producing more confusion than clarity. Some people are putting their faith in human theory, for it does take faith, just as it takes faith to accept the loving call of the Good Shepherd. Faith is inevitable.

Yes, human beings are in a condition of spiritual lostness. It is so very easy for sheep to be led astray. It is a principle which has been taken advantage of by those who would lead sheep to the slaughter. In New Zealand, where 40 million sheep are sent to market, the sheep are led to the slaughter by the ‘Judas sheep’. The ‘Judas sheep’ is a big pet ‘wether’ (a castrated male) which leads the sheep from the bottom pen area, up the ramp to the top ‘killing floor’. The poor sheep are totally unaware of what awaits them as they blindly follow on. Once up the top, the trap door is opened for the ‘Judas sheep’, and he trots away, and back down to the bottom pen area to lead another group of sheep to their destiny.

Let us learn this spiritual lesson: be careful whom you follow. Follow the right lead, and be led by the Spirit in the right path, in the way that the Shepherd directs. The Good Shepherd will never lead us astray. He will never lead us into harm or hurt. Rather, through His Holy Spirit, He leads us in the paths of righteousness, into green pastures and beside still waters where He restores our soul.

Once in Yosemite, the great California national park, where the granite cliffs rise for 3000 feet from the valley floor - and where beautiful conifers reach for the sky - I stayed in a little log cabin amidst the fragrant trees. One evening, after leaving the main lodge to retire for the night, I walked out into the darkness. The stars shone
down brilliantly from the heavens lighting the narrow, winding path that led through the forest. A twinkling light shone down from the branches of the majestic redwoods, illuminating every turn of the way. In the stillness of the night, in the beauty of creation and the fragrance of the pines, God revealed to me in a wondrous way His plan and direction for my life, and promised that His Word and His Spirit would always be a light unto my path. Now, where He leads me, I will follow.

What does it mean to be sought after? What does it mean to be found? Ask the person who was once a lost sheep, who has been caringly sought by the Shepherd, and who has been lifted longingly on to the strong shoulders of the Shepherd. Ask the found soul who has been borne home to the rest of the flock in the fold and reunited with the other sheep. Ask the found person who is no longer terrified by the loneliness, the fear of predators, the sounds of roaring lions and figures lurking in the shadows. Ask the found sheep who no longer suffers the pangs of hunger and thirst, but has available the peace of green pastures and still waters.

What does it mean to be found, spiritually? It means being under the direct and loving care of the Shepherd. It means friendship, closeness, affiliation with those you love and with those who love you in return. It means being treated as worthy, as a person of worth, with dignity and respect, as a child of God and as a sheep of His
pasture. It means that every need is known, every need is appreciated and every need is satisfied by the Shepherd. It means spiritually nourishing food to eat and refreshing water to drink.

It means to be where you belong, as part of the flock. It means to have provision from the Shepherd. It means spiritual health, healing and well-being, cleansing of all wounds and hurts, nursing and health care and prevention of the disease of sin. It means protection, safety and security from all alarms, enemies and predators by the Good Shepherd. It means continued spiritual growth, development and maturation. It means productivity- resulting in the coming to fruition of the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, and the like. It means a sense of meaning and purpose in life, a sense of orientation and a sense of direction for life. It means guidance and direction, as one is led by the Shepherd into new paths, exciting paths and paths of righteousness.

It means a fountain ever-gushing, a spring that never runs dry and a cup running over. It means that you are no longer alone - never alone - no longer isolated, no longer neglected, no longer mistreated, no longer exploited, no longer fearful, no longer terrified and no longer the helpless prey of wily predators on the prowl, roaring and seeking whom they might devour!

Yes, sheep need a shepherd to guide and to provide. Psalm 23 describes what the shepherd does and what the sheep receives: read it again and reflect on its message. Sheep need a shepherd to fulfil their needs. Sheep need a shepherd to lead them out of the fold in the freshness of the new day and to lead them along the right path, careful to avoid the dangerous path, the perilous path and the treacherous path. Sheep need a shepherd to watch over them while they rest peacefully in the cool shade of whispering trees and bushes, during the heat of the day. Sheep need a shepherd to provide them a haven and a shelter from the storms of winter. Sheep need a shepherd to take away their confusion, their sense of disorientation, any sense of lostness and to provide them his direction.

Sheep need a shepherd to gather them together and to return them home to the safety and security of the home fold at eventime. Sheep need a shepherd who is himself the door of the sheep-fold - who is the door leading the sheep into the fold and the door keeping out predators and strangers. And lost sheep need such a shepherd who is so concerned for the one lost sheep that he will leave the ninety and nine in the safety of the fold and go out into the wilderness to seek and to save that one which is lost, until that one lost sheep is found and restored to the flock and to the fold.

Lost sheep need a shepherd. You and I need a shepherd, too. Our Shepherd is searching. Our Shepherd is seeking. Our Shepherd is calling, and He is calling you. Ponder this tremendous spiritual truth, and consider this song and the prayer to follow. Song of Praise Sankey Sacred Songs and Solos

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.   

Prayer

Dear Shepherd,
At times I am prone to wander, to go off in my own direction,
to go astray in my own way.
I need You, the Good Shepherd, to find me, to guide me, and
to lead me in the right path.
I long to be cared for, I long to be loved, I long to be restored,
I long to be protected, I long for guidance and direction. I want to
be led by You, the Good Shepherd.
Transform my ‘lostness’ to thy ‘foundness’.
Thank You, dear Shepherd. Amen.

Poem

‘Twas a sheep not a lamb that went astray
In the parable that Jesus told.
‘Twas a sheep that wandered away
From the ninety and nine in the fold.
And out on the hilltops, and out in the cold,
‘Twas a sheep that the Good Shepherd brought.
Now why should the sheep be so carefully fed
And cared for today?
Because there is a danger if they go wrong,
They will lead the lambs astray.
For the lambs will follow the sheep you know,
Wherever they wander, wherever they go,
If the sheep go wrong, it will not be long
‘Till the lambs are as wrong as they.
So still with the sheep we must earnestly plead,
For the sake of the lambs today,
If the lambs are lost what terrible cost,
Some sheep will have to pay.

Anonymous

Chapter 2

THE HUNGRY AND THIRSTY SHEEP

People may not be aware of it, but sheep spend most of their lives eating and drinking - grazing, munching and ruminating. They are often thirsty and hungry, especially when left on their own without a shepherd. Sheep must have water to quench their thirst and food to nourish their bodies. On its own, a sheep cannot find its own water or food.

Sheep have to have water, clean water, pure water and adequate water. It must be accessible at all times. It must be free of contamination and pollution. It must not be hot or cold in the extreme. It must not pose a danger to the sheep; it should not be rapid or fast moving, for sheep naturally prefer ‘still waters’. It must not be stagnant, alkaline or saturated with harmful chemicals. It must not be a marsh, a slough, or a standing body of water that breeds flies, mosquitoes, gnats or parasites that may threaten the health and safety of the flock.

For sheep, the water must be close by, so that the flock need not travel a great distance to try to find it to quench their thirst and obtain refreshment. Most animals are able to smell water on the wind at great distances. They will trek great distances to find food and drink. With uncanny senses they follow the seasons across vast tracts of grazing country without human aid or assistance. The wildebeest of Africa traverse thousands of miles in their migratory trek for food and water. The elk and reindeer of the great hinterland of the northern hemisphere cover similar great distances to seek sustenance. The buffalo travel hundreds of miles across the vast plains in their search for nourishment and drink. The instincts of most animals for survival allow them to prevail over distance, drought, flood, pestilence, freeze and great heat without any help from man. But, alas, the sheep is not so gifted. Once it has devoured its range, it is unable to seek new grounds, but simply wanders aimlessly, eating the stubble and roots until there is only dirt left. Abundant pasture may lie only a few miles away on a higher plain, but the sheep on
its own is incapable of sensing it or of finding it.

This is also true of water. Once the water supply is exhausted, the sheep are unable to search for or find water. The greatest distance that sheep will graze away from their water source is a day’s march of 10 to 15 miles, allowing them to return to drink at their known water-hole. If the spring or well should dry up, the sheep will die of thirst, standing and staring at the drying mud. In the Rio Negro in south Argentina, where sheep live off of a low salt bush growing in stony ground, the only way that they can be mustered is by the use of a water muster. Below the surface of the ground is wonderful water, fed by the Andes, and every ten miles a windmill pumps the sheep’s drinking trough full. When the flock has to be gathered, for dipping, for weaning and for shearing, the shepherd simply closes off the trough for a period of time. Within a few days, every sheep in the flock within a radius of ten miles has assembled around the trough, waiting with thirsty eyes, looking at the water. The shepherd opens the barrier and gives them all a drink, and then takes the mob home - a clean muster!

The sheep could never be gathered together in any other way. They are scattered everywhere. The bush is three to six feet high, obscuring the sheep from the shepherd and from the sheep dog within a mere twenty yards distance. A dog could never find the sheep or herd them to the shepherd. It is only by the use of the water muster that the sheep can be brought together. One of the great sheep men of the world is the Basque shepherd of Spain. For centuries, the Basque shepherd has taken great flocks of sheep high up into the mountains of northern Spain and southern France and in the western Rockies of America. The winter snows melt to water thousands of acres of luscious alpine meadows, exposing green mountain grasses, flowers and herbs in rich abundance. After four or five months of pasturing, the sheep and lambs return from the summer range as fat as butter.

Similar scenes are to be seen in pastures and meadows the world over, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Russia, Kazakh, Siberia and Iran, as shepherds lead their flocks day by day into green pastures and still waters. In the great grassland countries of the world, as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Britain, France, Spain, and the U.S.A., the shepherd plans and provides the grazing and the water for millions of sheep.
Sheep not only get hungry and need food, they can easily eat too much, they can suffer from overeating and they can become obese, just as some humans do. They must be controlIed as to when they eat, how often they eat and how much they are allowed to eat.
Sheep can eat the wrong things. Like human beings, they are not too selective in eating and do not eat only nutritious food. Left on their own, or neglected by careless owners, they may graze poor pasture or on a range that is very low in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. They must be managed in what they eat and often be given adequate food supplements, especially when carrying young and when providing milk for the lambs.

Sheep can eat poisonous plants, unless very carefully supervised. Many of the most potent poisons known to man are found in plants in the natural habitat. Sheep cannot tell the difference between nutritious plants and those that are hazardous to their health. They are unable to detect poisonous plants and to avoid them. They cannot distinguish between oats, hay, alfalfa and a host of lethal plants, such as arrow grass, bitter weed, chockecherry, copper weed, death camas, ferns, fitweed, goldenrod, greasewood, hemlock, horse brush, loco weed, lupine, milkweed, poison vetch, or sneeze weed and many others

.Because of these ever present dangers, the sheep need the shepherd. The shepherd must be knowledgeable about the presence of these deadly plants, be able to identify them and keep the flock away from them. He must periodically inspect the range before he introduces the sheep to the pasture. He must remove the poisonous plants, or use the pasture only when these plants are least toxic.

Without the shepherd planning, providing, and pasturing the sheep, and satisfying their recurring need for food and water, the sheep would surely die of thirst and hunger. Without the shepherd aware of and keeping the flock from the dangerous plants in the grazing area, the sheep would surely be adversely affected, experience discomfort and pain and in some cases die from the effect of toxins. Sheep do better when provided green pastures and still waters, when they are given nourishing food and pure water and when their food intake is supervised. Sheep are healthier, grow better, develop better and mature earlier when their shepherd meets their physical needs for food and water in an appropriate way. They have a healthy, vigorous look, are better adjusted and are much happier when their physical needs are met.

Sheep prefer to enjoy clean pastures and pure waters than to have to fend for themselves in the desert wilderness or on a bleak, hungry range. They prefer the right kinds of food, in the right amounts and rich in vitamins, minerals and necessary nourishing supplements, and rich, fresh spring water.

Let us learn the lesson well. Sheep left to their own resources have limited ability to range for their food and water. Sheep are often insensitive to the presence of poisons in their environment. Left alone for long, they would surely perish. The shepherd is the key, the answer, the provider for the life of the sheep, for their sustenance and for
their survival.

This is not only true in the realm of agriculture and animal husbandry, it is also so true in the spiritual realm. Man does not live by bread alone, nor by water alone. Each of us is in desperate need of spiritual sustenance, spiritual food and spiritual water. The Good Shepherd not only leads us to green pasture and clear water, He Himself is the Bread of Life and the Water of Life. Where He guides, He provides. There is much dross, many weeds and much poison around us to feed on, instead of on rich spiritual food and drink. It is so easy for a person to settle for dry grass, tasteless weeds and even the poison forage that this world has to offer - and that is all the world has to offer.

It is so easy for a person to wander away from the ever-springing fountain and to stand, staring at the drying mud of an abandoned watering-hole. It is so easy for a person to be misled away from the fresh springs in search of the mirage of an oasis in the distance, only to discover that it is brackish water, salt water, or alkali - unsuitable to drink and hazardous to life.

In the spiritual realm, especially today, there are many false shepherds and hirelings in the world. They offer so much, but are unable to deliver, unable to guide and unable to provide for the needs of the sheep. Their foolishness and deceit lead many sheep astray. It is only the Good Shepherd who has the interests of the sheep in mind and who has the needs of the sheep on His great heart. It is only the Good Shepherd who can quench the great thirst and the great hunger of the soul and who is capable of leading us to green pastures and to still waters - so that we can truly say, ‘I shall not want’.

Do we sense an inner spiritual hunger? Are we experiencing thirst of soul? Where are we obtaining our food and drink? Are we trying to sustain ourselves, wandering aimlessly from dry range to dry range, from weed field to weed field, from empty meadow to empty meadow? Are we trying to survive in a wasteland or desert, where there is no well, no spring, or no oasis, striking out towards one mirage after another? So many attempt to satisfy their hunger and thirst from an occasional few minutes’ ‘feeding’ from the pulpit, from a radio broadcast or from a television message, while others seek to satisfy their needs from the odd devotional book, or the occasional Christian programme.

This is not enough! An annual feeding at Christmas or at Easter is hardly enough to sustain the needy soul on a daily basis. Peter urges us to ‘desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby’, 1 Peter 2.2. Provision of food and water must be planned for and provided on a daily basis. Food and water cannot be stored up for prolonged periods of time. Provision must come day by day. Consider your needs, plan your schedule and allow the Good Shepherd to be your daily provider. This is the truth of the Psalm: He leads us to green pastures and to still waters that we may daily eat and drink and spiritually grow thereby.

Song of Praise Redemption Songs I have a Shepherd, one I love so well; How He has blessed me, tongue can never tell; On the cross He suffered, shed His blood and died, That I might ever in His love confide. Pastures abundant doth His hand provide, Still waters flowing ever at my side; Goodness and mercy follow on my track, With such a Shepherd nothing can I lack.

Chorus:
Following Jesus ever day by day,
Nothing can harm me when He leads the way;
Darkness or sunshine, whate’er befall,
Jesus, the Shepherd, is my all in all.

Prayer

Dear Shepherd,

I am aware of your promise to guide and to provide, to lead me to
green pastures and to still waters.
I acknowledge that I am thirsty and hungry in spirit. Satisfy my
hunger and quench my thirst. Refresh me.
Be to me the Bread of Life and the Water of Life.
Give me the willingness to lead the hungry and thirsty lambs and
sheep around me to You, the Good Shepherd, that they too might
have their needs met as You have met my needs.
Accept the gratitude of my heart, for all your blessings, for what
you provide and for who You are.

Amen.

Laid Aside

‘He makes me lie down’, Psalm 23.2"

He makes me lie down within the green pastures,
Though often I long to be active and free,
But He calls me aside, and with tender insistence,
Says, ‘Be patient, my child, and rest here with Me’.
He makes me lie down to be still in His presence,
To listen, and rest in the shade of His hand,
And He asks me to trust, in willing submission
As He works for my good in the way He has planned.
He knows I am weary, and lonely, and fearful,
He sees when my tears of despondency start,
But He whispers, ‘Fear not, I will never forsake you’,
He makes me lie down, and I rest on His heart.

Joan Suisted

Chapter 3

THE UNCLEAN SHEEP

Whenever we bring to our minds eye the vision of a sheep, we most often imagine a soft, pure white lamb. Or maybe the image that comes to mind is a blue-ribbon champion sheep that we have seen at a sheep show or country fair: a clean, white, trim, manicured, polished beauty of stately character. The pictures artists paint always seem to present this image of the sheep. But the sheep are seldom clean, pure and white. In the real world, they are more likely stained and coloured by their natural habitat. Their fleece contains grease, dirt, seeds and vegetation blown by the wind and picked up from contact with grass, soil, and brush.

A sheep cannot clean itself! Once it becomes soiled, it remains dirty until the shepherd cleanses it. Many other animals are able to clean themselves. Cats are known for their continual cleaning rituals, and dogs too spend a great deal of time washing themselves. Sheep were never meant to forage in new, soft, highly top-dressed pastures. The result is a ‘wet motion’, which soon sticks to the wool, and quickly covers the rear of the sheep with a mass of dags (sheep droppings). There is no way that the poor sheep can clean itself: the dags simply become worse and worse, bigger and bigger, and the stain works deeper and deeper into the fleece.

In all sheep countries, there are compulsory laws requiring dipping of sheep, at least once a year, and in many cases twice a year. These regulations are designed to keep sheep clean and free from a host of medical problems, skin complaints, scab, scrapy, infection, lice, ticks, mites, fly blow - all of which drive sheep to distraction, pain, and in some cases, eventual death.

To see sheep in such a condition, and in which they are so miserable and helpless, is most disturbing, A lousy sheep can never lie still. It continually rubs its body against whatever it can find: fences, logs, stumps, hedges, gates and trees. It will even try to eat at its own wool in order to gain some relief from its constant itching. It is so distracted that it is left little time to eat. I have seen sheep in this condition actually make great tunnels under overhanging banks, where their back wool becomes full of dirt, grit, sand, clay and pumice, and the more they rub, the more the dirt cakes into the wool to irritate their skin. A vicious cycle continues as rubbing causes irritation, irritation rubbing, etc.

To see a sheep with a scabby mouth is a pitiful sight! The lips, mouth and nostrils become so sore, swollen and bleeding that they become unable to eat, and will eventually die. To see a sheep, or especially a lamb, that is fly blown is a tragic sight. One area of the body under the wool becomes a crawling mass of fly eggs and maggots. Try as it may to rid itself of this curse, the biting and the rubbing only make matters worse. Under the protective fleece the fly eggs have a perfect hatchery to mature and to spread disease. As more flies scent the death smell and blow it more, the condition becomes hopeless.


The only hope is in early detection by the shepherd and in preventive intervention through removing the wool in the affected area and cleansing the area thoroughly with disinfectant. Sheep were never meant to be always walking on soft, wet ground. Wet soil creates a variety of problems. Sheep do much better on dry ground, on stony and rough paths that naturally wear down the excess growth and allow the pad and hoof to remain pared. Once the hoof grows and covers, a dirt cavity infection sets in. This is called ‘foot-rot’ which if not treated promptly can lead to a severe abscess, increased infection, and will progressively worsen until part of the hoof drops off. Continually walking in wet pasture may often produce scald, in which the area between the claws of the hoof and the base of the foot becomes raw flesh, causing great pain to a sheep.

What complicates the problem for the shepherd - and for the sheep -is the fact that all these problems in sheep are very, very contagious. Many illnesses and diseases are easily spread, and the natural resistance of sheep is quite low. They are especially vulnerable to a host of parasites, diseases and infections. Most physical problems begin with only one sheep, and are easily passed from one sheep to another. Sanitation and prevention are of vital importance.

Without the constant vigilance, care and intervention of the shepherd, the sheep are exposed to a host of diseases, illnesses and problems, resulting in poor health, loss of condition, retarded development, discomfort, pain, infertility and possible death. I have seen sheep that have been left unattended on an island for only a few years. The mortality rate has been so severe that less than half of the original flock was still alive, and even those survivors were poor specimens - diseased, lousy, daggy, and with sandy, broken fleeces, a bunch of real culls. To see a sight like that, or to see any lousy flock, a scabby mouth flock, a daggy flock, a fly blown flock, or a lame flock, you don’t say ‘poor sheep’ - you say ‘poor shepherd’!

A good shepherd pays constant attention to each individual sheep and is alert to all these problems. He is diligent to provide a regular dipping of each sheep, paring the feet when necessary, bathing the feet in a bluestone formula and attending to specific symptoms of illness and disease. He provides sanitary conditions, takes pains to avoid pollution and contamination from developing, and works to keep the sheep clean, constantly dagging each mob on a regular basis.

While we would wish the contrary, sheep often become contaminated and dirty and are in need of periodic cleansing. They are unable to clean themselves. They are not like the old pig who wallows in the mud, which when it dries and cakes on, later falls off to leave a clean bristly coat. Someone must intervene on their behalf to cleanse them and to keep them clean. Sheep do better in clean conditions, in a clean pen, in a clean fold and with clean food and water.

Sheep are healthier in clean surroundings. They are much happier, better adjusted, have a better spirit and a better disposition. Sheep really prefer cleanliness. They prefer clean wool, clean feet and hooves, clean eyes and clean tails. They prefer to have keds, ticks and lice removed, along with the dags. They enjoy the individual attention
when their shepherd or handler prepares them for a show, with all the cleaning, the combing, the manicuring, and all the fuss and bother. It is amazing what a good cleaning up can do for the personality of a sheep! Sheep prefer a cleansing and a clean environment, and only the loving and thoughtful shepherd can provide that. How great the spiritual lesson to each of us. Men, as sheep, are not pure and clean. Their ‘righteousness is as filthy rags’.

Man stands in need of spiritual cleansing. Like the sheep, man cannot clean himself. He needs the intervention of the Good Shepherd to cleanse him, and to wash his sins white as snow. Spiritual cleansing must be viewed in two ways: 1) An initial washing away of our sins inherited from Adam as our original sinful nature.

 ‘Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Rom 3.23. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’, Rom 5.12. This initial spiritual cleansing comes when we accept the Saviour of Calvary as our own personal Saviour. It is a step of faith through which we claim the Saviour’s invitation to come and to rest and to believe.

This initial cleansing is involved in the spiritual rebirth, as we are born from above and born again. 2) Cleansing is not a one time only event - it is an ongoing process, day by day. It continues throughout the life of His sheep, as we daily confess our faults, our failures and our wrong-doings directly and personally to our Great Shepherd, Saviour and High Priest, the Lord Jesus. As John urges us, we are told that ‘if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’, 1 John 1.9.

Consider the unclean sheep and the ability of the shepherd to wash and to cleanse the sheep.

Let this great spiritual lesson be applied to our hearts and our lives.

Song of Praise Redemption Songs
Nearer, still nearer, close to Thy heart,
Draw me, my Saviour, so precious Thou art; Fold me,
0 fold me close to Thy breast; Shelter me safe in that haven of rest.
Shelter me safe in that haven of rest.
Nearer, still nearer, nothing I bring,
Naught as an off’ring to Jesus my King;
Only my sinful, now contrite heart,
Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart.
Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart.

Prayer

Good Shepherd,
I know from Adam I am born in sin,
and that all my righteousness is as filthy rags.
I realise that I am unable to cleanse myself.
I also recognise that You are able to cleanse me, and only You can cleanse me.
I want to be cleansed. I want to be made clean and pure.
Dear Shepherd, I put my trust in your cleansing power, and claim
your promise to wash away my sin.
Thank you, dear Shepherd.

Amen.

Chapter 4

THE DEFENSELESS SHEEP
 

 There is no animal in the world as defenceless as the sheep. It, of all animals, is the most vulnerable to attack by a variety of predators. The sheep has no defence against attack. Almost every other animal has a built in system of defence. The great cat family has tooth and claw, as well as speed. The deer and antelope have great scent, agility, speed and ability to jump. The giant beasts have tusk, horn and thick hide, as well as size and weight. The solid hoof horse, donkey, mule, zebra and their cousins are able to run, to kick and to bite. The porcupine and hedgehog possess a ball of spines. The skunk has a terrible scent. The turtle has a shell. The snake its fangs and poison bite. Many other animals have camouflage, as well as a diversity of defences by which to protect themselves. In comparison, a sheep has nothing, none of these mechanisms

of defence, not even defensive manoeuvres. It cannot run with speed, and is very easily caught. It has no bite or claw. It cannot jump high. It has no tusk, thick hide, or horn (except a few rams). It has no great sensory abilities, such as sight, sound, or smell, by which it can detect distant dangers or attacking predators and avoid them. It cannot, or it will not, even fight back when under attack – and before its shearer or slaughterer is ‘dumb’. The sheep has no protection: it is vulnerable to attack. The little coyote of America, the object of special protection by conservationists, has devoured the sheep flocks of the American range.

Once while judging sheep at the Oregon State Fair in Salem, I observed a provocative poster distributed in a lamb promotion drive. It said: ‘Eat American Lamb - 10 million coyotes can’t be wrong!’ Statistics suggested that the sheep population in America has dropped from over 55 million to 12 million in a short 50 year period largely because of predators. During a visit to South America, while instructing in sheep shearing in Chile, I went on a two day hunt for a puma with the shepherds and a pack of hunting dogs. The puma had been taking one sheep a night for several weeks. Sheep were totally defenceless against its cunning, speed, power and destructive tooth and claw. There was joy among the shepherds - and the sheep - when the puma was reed, shot and displayed in the local lodge.

Have you ever wondered why there are no wild life game parks for sheep or why sheep are never included in wild life parks? From my visits to the great Kruger Game Park in South Africa I have seen and noted some 32 different kinds of animals, but not one sheep!

Why? It is because it has no defences and because it would be unable to protect itself - the sheep wouldn’t last five minutes on its own without a shepherd to protect it. Consider the list: coyotes, foxes, bears, lynxes, pumas, lions, wolves, eagles, alligators, wild dogs and even town pet dogs - the list goes on and on of the great host of predators of the sheep.

The Scriptures refer quite often to the natural vulnerability of the lamb to the lion, which continually walks about seeking whom it may devour. The little new born lamb is the easiest prey.

There is nothing as pitiful as the vision of a helpless, defenceless sheep being hunted, cornered or attacked. It immediately becomes alarmed, anxious and confused. It frantically seeks to find a refuge to run to - the fold, the cave or some place of safety. It instinctively attempts to run toward other sheep, to huddle together with them and to seek safety in numbers. Often the ram will take a stand to protect his ewes and iambs, as they huddle together under his protection. But if one has been separated, isolated from the flock, and the way to the flock or fold is blocked, the sheep becomes terrified. It may bleat, run back and forth and panic, maybe to the point of paralysis - this while the rest of the flock retreat in panic.

What happens next is too terrible to describe, as the helpless sheep is devoured by its predator. The sheep’s fear is well founded. It is ‘a jungle out there’. There are predators hunting for the sheep. The sheep is indeed powerless, defenceless and vulnerable. It ought to be fearful: its fear is healthy and real. Without the shepherd, it cannot hope to survive!

Let us ponder another lesson. As a sheep without a shepherd is totally defenceless, so are we vulnerable without the Good Shepherd. We live in a jungle out there. We are helpless before a host of predators, not the least of whom is the greatest predator of all time, the Devil himself. We are warned to be on guard, vigilant and watchful, because the Devil is a roaring lion, walking about seeking whom he may devour. ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,’ 1 Peter 5.8.

How easily we are caught unawares and made victim, especially if we are over-confident, casual, or are living under a false sense of immunity that assumes ‘that kind of thing can’t happen to me’. How many great, powerful and clever people-great leaders, noble citizens, famous actors and writers, poets, painters, singers, speakers, statesmen and military heroes - have done well, only to become victims of the great predator, Satan. Despite their genius, creativity and great success, they lost it all in one brief moment of temptation.

The great evil force that is let loose in the present world is active in blinding good people, in playing with human desires and in exploiting human weakness. We cannot comprehend the ways of fallen people around us. It seems so stupid and so inconsistent with such brilliant and talented people - for those we perceive to be victors -to become victims so readily, and to fall so suddenly and so easily.

Why is it that so easily ‘the mighty are fallen’? It is not really so surprising when we consider that like the sheep we are weak, limited, powerless, defenceless and vulnerable after all. Without the Shepherd we are easy prey to the predator, and his diabolical deceit, delusion, decoys, deceptions and devices!  Our only hope, our only defence, our only alternative lies with the Good Shepherd, who is more than a match for the great predator. David acknowledged in Psalm 27 the source of his strength:

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation . ..
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid? . . .
Even my enemies came upon me they stumbled and fell.’

As a shepherd himself, David was well aware of the great truth that the Shepherd promises His rod and His staff will be able to protect us. He will prepare a table for us in the very presence of our enemies. He will anoint our head with oil . . .

Paul, the great apostle, was well aware of the vulnerability of the individual before the arch enemy of the soul, but encouraged his readers to equip themselves with the protective armour that the Lord promises to provide.

‘Be strong in the Lord, And in the power of His might.
Put on the whole armour of God, That ye may be able to stand against
the wiles of the devil . . .
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, And having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth,
And having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith,
Wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation,
And the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.’ Ephesians 6.10-17

What a challenge! What an inspiration! What a promise! What a spiritual victory is possible as we are strong in the power of the Lord, and in the power of His might. Contemplate the deeper meaning of this. Although the sheep is defenceless - on its own and in its own power and resources - nothing or no one can harm the sheep who are members of the flock of the Good Shepherd. Nothing can destroy the flock of the Good Shepherd. His sheep shall never want. His sheep shall never fear. 

Even if it is necessary to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the sheep that walk with Him will fear no evil, for the Shepherd walks beside them. You cannot have a shadow without a light, and the Good Shepherd is the light of the world. He Himself lights the way and He Himself dispels the darkness. There is no need to be defenceless; no need to work ourselves up into a panic, no need to feel hopeless and helpless, for our Shepherd is there with us.

Consider this truth. When we are weak in ourselves, it is then that we can become truly strong in the Good Shepherd. The wise sheep does not declare its independence from the Shepherd and seek to take on its predators in its own strength - rather it readily acknowledges its vulnerability and relies upon the strength of the Shepherd to combat the predator. In time of crisis, in time of trouble, in time of attack, the sheep wisely moves closer to the Shepherd and puts the Shepherd between himself and the predator. He is the door of the sheep-fold through which no danger, or peril, or enemy is able to pass.

Be assured of the ultimate victory. Nothing nor no one is stronger or more powerful than our Shepherd-King. He not only guarantees to protect us, but He promises to lead us to triumph. If God be for us, who can be against us? ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . .

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8.35:39

Our Shepherd is Christus Victor, and ‘greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world’, 1 John 4.4

Song of Praise Sankey Sacred Songs and Solos

Jesus is our Shepherd, wiping every tear,
Folded in His bosom, what have we to fear?
Only let us follow whither He doth lead
To the thirsty desert, or the dewy mead.
Jesus is our Shepherd; guarded by His arm,
Though the wolves may raven, none can do us harm;
When we tread deaths valley, dark with fearful gloom,
We will fear no evil, victors o’er the tomb.

Prayer

Good Shepherd,
You hold the flock in your mighty hand. You are more than able to protect your own. Cast out my fear and replace it with the courage that only You can give. I trust in You now. Transform my weakness into strength. Transform my failure into victory. Transform my tragedy into triumph.Make me in life more than a conqueror through your power, your protection, and your provision.

I praise you, dear Lord, for your keeping power.

Amen.

Chapter 5

THE WOUNDED SHEEP
In Psalm 23, the sheep is speaking: ‘He restoreth my soul.’
 

Have you ever stopped to contemplate the deeper meaning of this poignant passage? We readily grasp the meaning of the other phrases, ‘He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters’, and ‘He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness’. But what does it mean when the sheep says, ‘He restoreth my soul’? Let us consider this theme now. Of all the animals, a sheep is the most vulnerable to physical attack and to deep inner injury. It is not only a matter of the inability to defend itself from predators, perils and dangers, but it is a matter of weakness of spirit.

No other animal is so easily broken in spirit.
No other animal is so readily crushed in heart and soul.
NO other animal is so completely demoralised by hurt, by harm or by pain.
All other animals have a strong, pervasive self-preservation instinct - but not the sheep. All other animals have a strong spirit to fight, tolerate pain and to struggle for life.

We have all heard hunters tell tales of maimed and wounded animals which have fought back and which have fought for life against great odds. We have heard of animals caught in traps, which have remained alive for days and which have endured the pain of chewing off their own limb or foot to gain their freedom. All animals are hard to kill except one - the helpless sheep. Sheep are defenceless and helpless. Sheep are prone to succumb, give up easily, give in and die.

What a heart-rending sight it is to see a flock devastated by bears, wolves, wild dogs, or even town dogs hunting in packs. Nowhere is there such a picture of utter vulnerability, shock and panic!

It is not only the tragedy of the bodies of dead sheep that breaks the heart of the shepherd, but the sight of those that are maimed, broken and wounded. There is nothing so tragic as the sight of the bruised, bitten, mauled and ravaged, as they lie there helpless and broken in spirit. They have no fight left. They cannot fight back. They will not fight for life. The wound may not be very serious, the damage not very severe, or the bite not too angerous, but the poor sheep have become so upset and so frightened that their spirit is broken.

They have lost the will to live. They make no effort to rise or to stand or to struggle, but simply wait for death to come and to take its tragic toll. This loss of spirit, this sense of helplessness, this lack of will to  live is seen not only in sheep wounded by predators, but may be observed in any case of trauma or hurt. Each year, at lambing time, large numbers of mother ewes and their baby lambs are lost. The trauma of a difficult birth creates stress that often results in death for the mother and for the infant lamb. Many lambs end up as pets or ‘fosters’, because the mother ewe could not survive the stress of the birth process. Many ewes simply give up in spirit and sink lower and lower until they die.

The death rate in a flock may reach five per cent in any one year, but most of these deaths occur during the month’s lambing season. I have seen the terrible sight of a great transporter loaded with sheep for market or for transfer from one region to another crashed on a highway. It is a gruesome sight indeed to see the sheep in heaps all over the road, bruised and wounded, but making no effort to struggle for life or to survive. They have become so stressed, so shocked, so demoralised that they simply lie there - dying!

How easily a sheep can become entangled in the brush, in bushes and in thorns, as it pushes its nose into the foliage for the sweet picking. Its head and fleece easily tangle on the branch or thorn. When the sheep tries to back out of the bush, the branch or the vine, it is well caught. After a token effort, it will fall over further into the bush and become totally entangled. One good, powerful effort as goats and llamas make and it would have been free, but the sheep gives only a token resistance and then gives up the struggle entirely.

Often the shepherd can whistle his dog in, and a sheep entangled for hours will exert new effort, squirm and struggle, and free itself in a single bound. But without the shepherd, a tangled sheep may never become able to free itself from its terrible - and unnecessary - plight!

The cast sheep, too, is an object lesson in the inner weakness of the sheep. It is common for the odd sheep to lie in a slight hollow and end upon its back. If it has a full fleece, many times it is unable to roll back up and on to its feet again. It could readily do so in most cases, if it made any effort at all, but it does not. It simply gives up, gives in and remains there helplessly - until it dies. Clever sheep dogs have been trained to seek out cast sheep and to get them to roll over and stand, by barking, nudging, pulling and encouraging.

Often with the sight of the dog and one rolling movement, the sheep gives one jump, is on its feet and up and off. It is not uncommon for a cast sheep to stay down for prolonged periods of time. But it doesn’t take long for the gases to build up in the stomach and rumen. The exposed side blows up like a football, while underneath it is flat, wet and cold on the ground. The sheep soon loses circulation in the legs, and after a few hours is unable to struggle or to stand. In cold weather the ewe might last two or three days, but in hot, humid weather she will die within 10 or 12 hours.

How the shepherd surveys the range for a cast sheep. How easily an experienced eye will pick out the tell-tale form of white that is lying unnaturally in the pasture. How quickly he approaches, hoping against hope that it is not too late! In my many years in field service throughout New Zealand, while driving along the highways, I have often spotted a cast sheep in the field. I have always stopped the car, climbed the road fence, and lifted the sheep back on to its feet. It is always a great feeling to save a sheep’s life.

If the sheep has not been cast for too long a period, all it takes is a gentle roll over on to its feet and it is walking away with a drunken gait, and is quickly back, grazing with the flock or on its way to the fold. But if it has been down for some time, it is a more serious matter. The shepherd must have patience, time and care. The sheep must be rolled over, circulation restored and the legs strengthened. Its sore and tired head must be propped up and held for a time. It must be lifted gently to its feet, supported - with the shepherd carrying much of its weight for a few wobbly steps - for since the whole stomach has dropped to one side, it is so weighted that if the sheep is left alone, it will immediately flop over and fall down again. It may take an hour to get the sheep walking with unsteady steps, leaning against the strong legs of the shepherd and finally wobbling away on its own legs in a slow uncertain circle. The shepherd remains near by until the sheep is strong enough to make it on its own and return to the rest of the flock.

The shepherd knows the signs well, and leaving all quiet, he creeps away and looks back over the knoll to see the sheep take its first bites of grass and knows that all is well. This is the first sheep he looks for the next day as he returns to the flock, and how pleased he is when he sees the cast one walking, grazing and bleating, lively and well. We could go on and on about the spirit of helplessness that is found in the sheep, but the point is well made.

Let us learn the lesson well that we humans too can be very easily disconcerted, cast down and dispirited. Little hurts, small pains and tiny inconveniences can become magnified, so that many folk are tempted to become discouraged, to throw in the towel and to lose the will to fight. So many souls today are burdened with difficulties and sorrows they are unable to bear. Many have great problems they are unable to solve and many questions that they are unable to answer.

Many have temptations to confront, trials to endure, troubles to cope with, threats to meet and traumas to bear. Life is hard, life is tough, and life is difficult. Nowhere is the Christian promised immunity from hardship. Nowhere is the Christian offered  exemption from the difficulties of life. Nowhere is the Christian provided an easy path free of trial, temptation and trouble. We must oft pass through the valley of the shadow - even the Shepherd Himself was a Man of like passions. Problems are not the problem, but the problem is in trying to cope with problems on our own, with our own resources and in our own strength, or weakness, without the help of our Shepherd.

Some of our problems are fiction, fantasy, and illusion. Many sensitive souls have a tendency to magnify their problems out of all proportion. They are overly fearful, anxious and worried. There is often little or no basis for their sense of panic. They run from shadows, easily dispelled by the light. They dash helter-skelter from imagined dangers, which are so readily driven away by the Shepherd. They see mountains where there are only mole-hills. They see giants in the land where there are only pygmies. They see nothing but stumbling-blocks where there are stepping-stones. They see formidable tragedy where there is potential triumph.

Most of our problems are our problems - problems of our own creation, our own imagination, our own lack of faith. They are the products of our own neglect, our own omissions, our own ignorance, our own stupidity, our own willfulness, or our own striving for independence - and independence from our Shepherd! These problems are confounded and compounded by our own doubts, fears, worries and anti-faith. But God’s sheep have no need to worry, to be anxious, to work themselves up into a lather of fear, to remain on their backs kicking their feet into the air, to remain entangled in the bushes and thorns, to whimper, to sob, and to whine - as if there were no Shepherd to care for them and to save them. His sheep have no need to allow them to get worked up into a state of panic, especially when their Shepherd is so near.

So often in human experience, we have failed to fight the good fight, to exert our will to win or to take a stand. Too often we offer little more than token resistance and then fold on the spot, at the mere sight or sound of difficulty. Little injuries become major tragedies. Minor hurts become great traumas. Small crises become great catastrophes. How easily we are prone to ‘cry wolf’.

Like some little children who are so afraid of the doctor, who are scared by doctoring and are terrified by the mere sight of a needle, many beautiful human souls have lost their spirit, have become cast down and have raised the flag of surrender. They have become victims of learned helplessness. At the first sign of difficulty, they whimper, whine and complain - give up and give in -browbeaten and cowed down, bullied and nagged, until they have lost the will to fight, to survive and to win. We, like sheep, are so vulnerable, so weak and so ready to surrender.

How we need the Shepherd and His constant care. How often we are cast down, and need to ‘cast our cares upon Him’. How often we are entangled in the thorns, in the brush and in the bushes of life; we need Him to free us. How often we are tempted to roll over and play dead - when life gets tough - and need Him to restore our souls. How often we are overcome with a sense of our own insufficiency, and need His sufficiency, remembering that ‘My God = enough for any task’.

Each time you find yourself getting boxed in, under possible attack by predators, flat on your back in the ditch, or caught up in the thorns and thistles - before you yield to the temptation to give up and give in - pause for a moment, take a deep breath and take time to look around for your Shepherd. Rather than giving in to doubt, ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not onto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct thy paths’. By keeping the Shepherd in mind, leaning on Him you will be led into the paths of righteousness, green pastures and still waters - and He shall restore your soul.

Song of Praise New Church Hymnal -

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, help me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light,
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me on.
When my way grows drear
Precious Lord, linger near,
When my life is almost gone,
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand lest I fall,
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

Prayer

Dear Shepherd,

I’m so much like a wounded and frightened sheep.
I’m so often overcome
with the sense of my limitations and my weakness.
I often let fears, worries and doubts overcome me. I do not resist as I should.
Be my Shepherd, right now, and meet my failing courage by the
great courage You are able to inspire.
Help me to keep on keeping on by your great keeping power -
and I give You the thanks and gratitude of my heart.

Amen

Chapter 6

THE GIVING SHEEP

 

The sheep is one of the very few animals that feed and clothe mankind. Right back to earliest man, the sheep has been his greatest friend in the animal kingdom, for the fleece belongs, not to the sheep but to the shepherd. The fleece provides the shepherd and his family with dress and clothing for warmth and protection. It is an annual offering, a wonderful gift from the sheep to the shepherd. Each year, mostly in the high summer, it is ready to shed its wool and to straight away start growing the next fleece. Down the centuries, sheep farmers have learned to breed sheep to produce wool for both quantity and quality.

There are some sheep, as the Shetland in the islands off Scotland, which shed their wool, or it is plucked off by hand easily, when the time of the year comes round. But most of the time, in most places, and with most breeds of sheep, the wool must be shorn off. Shearing is a skill as old as time and as modern as tomorrow. Shearing is often referred to in the Bible, as in Isaiah 53, where the prophet describes the humility and sacrifice of the Good Shepherd in the words, ‘as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth’.

Shearing has been much a part of my own life for over half a century. I have had the privilege of visiting all the sheep countries of the world, to work with their shepherds, and to teach them to shear in a modern, effective way. It always fascinated me, to see their love of shearing and their eagerness to learn better ways of taking in the wool harvest, no matter how primitive, backward, or laborious. How impressive the sight of the giving sheep. The soft, valuable wool, contributed so willingly by the humble sheep, who, when shorn, stripped bare and a little cold, has given all that it has to give. What a wonderful sacrifice! - and once made, the sheep is off again, away on the range,
to grow it all over again.

In these modern times, wool has reached great heights of quality and usage. Never before in the history of mankind, and in the history of sheep, has wool production become so effective. This living fibre is unsurpassed and rates as the world’s best fibre for mankind and his uses. Indeed, it is a wonder of creation. Each fibre has a root and is growing like a tree. Every fibre has a centre core and protective scales on the outside that create warmth when wet. Wool will absorb one third of its weight in moisture and still remain warm. Wool will not burn, and it is quite difficult to get it even to smoulder.

Diameter to diameter, its tensile strength is greater than most fibres. Its natural waves and crimps mean that no two fibres will lie side by side and every wool garment traps 50 per cent air to make wool the greatest natural insulator we have. This naturally trapped air keeps the warmth in and the cold out in winter, and keeps the cold in and the warmth out in the heat of summer. In the hottest climates of the world, wool is used both as protective clothing and as a shelter. Arab nations use a felt-type woollen tent to protect them from inclement weather.

Many times in Afghanistan and other countries, I have slept the night in a woollen tent, while it was near freezing outside. Simply by opening the bottom flaps and the small round top by day, I have kept remarkably cool while the temperature has climbed to over degrees in the blazing noonday sun. How many millions of people are employed, clothed and sheltered by the wool of the sheep. How many babies are peacefully resting on wool. How many people are so proud and pleased with their woollen garments, that last for years and years, that they would never part with them. Yes, wool is the wonder of creation, and only sheep know how to grow it and offer it so freely as their loving gift to mankind.

Man has bred sheep to produce wool from as fine as silk from the Merinos, down through medium fine from Corriedales and similar breeds, to the much coarser wools of the British breeds and their crosses - all the way down to the tough, resilient carpet wools from the Karaculs, Blackface, and Drysdales - that give a wearability, an elasticity and bounce back quality for the world’s finest carpets. Yes, wool, protected by the Wool Mark, one of the worlds top quality symbols, is worn in all forms of clothing, made into the warmest of blankets, shawls and mattresses for our slumber, and into the beautiful carpets and rugs for our rest and comfort.

How much, dear sheep, have you given for man’s well-being and welfare. Yet, he has attempted through test tube synthetics to discount your wool. He has tried through artificial heat to outdo you. But your wool still has something very special and can never be duplicated or outdone. It is unique. It is acknowledged the world over as man’s best garment, a living fibre that everyone loves to touch, to spin, to work with, to use and to enjoy.

At shearing time, the perfect fleece, all 10-15 pounds, goes on the wool table, white and with a hint of gold colour. There is a crimp on each fibre, a perfection of curls and waves, a length that is uniform, a strength that is durable, a softness that is a joy to feel. The shearer smiled in appreciation as he shore it, the fleece smiled as she spread it out on the table with a perfect throw and the wool classer joyed in such perfect quality of wool - and the farmer, the boss, beamed with pride, assured he was going to win the wool class at the show with this one.

Imagine the humble sheep, outside the door, stripped bare, a little cold, but making no fuss, waiting for no compliments for its wondrous fleece, because it has given as a sheep has always given, because this is what it was born for, this is what it lives for: to give willingly all that it has! What a challenge, to us all, even though we seldom stop to consider it. Each of us was born to serve our God and in this service our fellow-man.

As we survey our lives, what a challenge we face. By nature from Adam, we are born in sin, and the resultant problems of this spiritual leprosy that indwells us show forth as greed, jealousy, pride, conceit and so much that is so undesirable in man’s basic human nature. But what a blessing it is to be reborn in Christ and to have this basic nature changed, to be given a new motivation to serve others and the desire to give of ourselves for them. What a discovery and a genuine spiritual blessing - to feel within the desire to serve others and to give cheerfully from the heart - knowing that ‘the Lord loveth a cheerful giver’. What a revelation to discover that we reap what we sow, and the Lord is no one’s debtor.

The more we give, the more we receive. The more we give away, the more that comes back to us. The more we serve, the more we grow in happiness, contentment and peace of soul. Few of us know how to give. The sheep teaches us so much in its giving - and its willingness to give freely, to give abundantly and to give totally. So few of us give - and those who do, often give in the wrong way, with the wrong motivation and for all the wrong reasons. We often get so mixed up in just what genuine giving is. How often our giving is questioned. The world, the scoffer, the critics all insist that the churches are filled with people who are insincere hypocrites and that the ministers are only in it for the money. Many have been turned off by the excessive appeals in the mass media, and the abuse of the contributions of Christian people. Every great truth and cause can be abused - and often is.

The truth is that money is really the least of giving that our great God wants from us. We do indeed have a financial obligation for the needs of the church, the poor and hungry and the masses of the world. It is easy to be irresponsible and unresponsive to these needs. But we must do better. We much accept the challenge to give our full share towards the upkeep and the growth of the church, the very seats we sit in, the lovely buildings, the facilities and the services we take advantage of. We should willingly give to support the day to day running of the programme, the salaries of ministers, pastors and church personnel, the materials and teaching aids of our Sunday Schools and programme of Christian education- and to those sacrificial missionaries who carry the glad tidings to lost sheep all over the world. But our giving goes well beyond mere money - for we have so much else to give and in so many other ways. Remember the sheep and its willingness to give.

Let us be giving sheep. Let us take on the spirit of a will to give. Let us learn to give with a generous heart and purse. Don’t worry yourself with others who have not learned to give, who remain too immature to give, and who seldom give more to the church than what the world pays for normal club fees! That is between them and their Shepherd, and it is not our concern; it should never keep us from our Lord and our Shepherd, or from doing His will. As we have been blessed, as we have been led to green pastures, as we have been fed so abundantly, as we have been led to still waters, as our every need has been met by our loving Shepherd, so let us give freely, joyously and abundantly as his giving sheep.

There is not one among us who can rightfully say that he has nothing to give or that he has no gift. Our giving Shepherd, out of His abundance, has given gifts to each and every one of us. We each have at least one talent, we each have at least one gift and most of us have much more than we ever use. We are all enabled to give something - and like the sheep to give of ourselves. We all have talents and we all have something to give. We can each give Christian concern, kindness and love to those around us. We can each give a needed lift to someone else. We can each share the bounty of our harvest in fruit and vegetables that often go to waste in the ground.

In giving, we open up and discover vast, untapped treasures within us, and the very heavens are opened up to us from which to draw, in meeting the needs of others. Our Father in heaven is anxious to give in and through and by us. All the trades, all the music, all the singing, all the learning, all the arts and the medical and technical sciences - all the teaching, all the preaching, all the growing – all of this given to the Shepherd by members of His flock. A sheep has little to give if its fleece is poor and dirty. Full of lice and dirt and dags, it is almost valueless. A sheep may have a very poor fleece, if it has not been well fed and thoroughly nourished. A fleece with weak and broken fibre is of little use. Nobody wants it. No one will pay for it. No one can use it. And a sheep has no fleece to give if it is a loner or a hermit sheep that misses the shearing, ‘the giving‘.

Dear reader, pause for a moment of contemplation. Are you a ‘giving’ sheep? Evaluate your last year’s living as to giving. Are we satisfied with our giving? Could we have given more or given better? Could we have done better with ourselves and our possessions - first to our Shepherd, who has given so much for us and so much to us - His church, His flock? Have we been as giving as we could be to our partner in life, to our family and its members who have grown up so quickly around us? Have we been giving to our neighbours and fellow sheep?

As recipients of the abundant giving of our Shepherd, it behoves us to give of our best and to keep on, ever giving. It is so easy to give in to the temptation not to give - to go on taking and to avoid the giving. If we are only able to receive, and unable to give, we reap the eventual harvest of unhappiness, loneliness and insignificance - and we are a burden to our Good Shepherd. If we learn the lesson of the giving sheep, and are able to give as well as receive, we will reap the joy of a blessed, full and rich life-whose real worth can never be measured.

Let us remember:

‘It was never the giving, That emptied the purse,
Or the loving That emptied the heart.’
‘Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver’, 2 Cor. 9.7.

Song of Praise Redemption Songs

Saviour! Thy dying love Thou gavest me,
Nor should I aught withhold,
My Lord, from Thee:
In love my soul would bow,
My heart fulfil its vow,
Some offering bring Thee now,
Something for Thee.
Give me a faithful heart -
Likeness to Thee -
That each departing day
Henceforth may see
Some work of love begun,
Some deed of kindness done,
Some wanderer sought and won,
Something for thee.

Prayer

Dear loving Shepherd,

As a humble sheep gives its wool so I want to give myself and my talents to You.
Show me the need. Teach me how to give, as You so freely gave.
Give me a giving spirit, that I may better serve You and my fellow-man.
My salvation cost You so much, and my offering of service seems
so small - but help me give it from my very heart and soul to You,
dear Lord.

Amen.
 

Chapter 7

THE HERMIT SHEEP

 A sheep is one of the only animals that is uneasy, unhappy and unsettled when left alone by itself. One cat, one dog, one horse, one cow, one deer - one any animal - is quite contented to be alone. But leave one sheep behind in a gather or muster, as it is browsing in a hidden comer at gathering time, and you’ve never heard such a commotion. How distressed it becomes. How agitated. How unsettled, as it runs up and down the fence, trying in vain to push through, baa-ing all the time, and if left alone, will keep this up for hours and hours.

The good shepherd is careful to look back for a sheep that may have been left behind. If he discovers a left sheep in distress, he will drive a few sheep back to the area or fold, open the gate, and retrieve the lone sheep. The distressed loner literally bolts to join the few, and is immediately relaxed, happy and overjoyed.

You cannot drive one sheep alone on its own. It becomes so cranky and upset that it will not co-operate. It is essential that the shepherd takes some sheep with him in order to form a tiny flock, include the loner, and move on to join the main mob. In the Scriptures, you will recall that the lost sheep was neither driven back nor led back to the fold - as this would have been impossible - but had to be carried back on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd.

In this instance disregard the ‘pet sheep’ as an example, as the pet is not natural to the flock. In fact, the pet sheep is unhappy in a flock and seems to prefer to be alone with humans, where it can obtain full attention, care and spoiling. They have not known other sheep, and have failed to develop their flocking instinct as they should. They have come to rely completely upon humans for their food, water and provision, and enjoy the company of humans - especially children - to that of sheep. Very rarely, one might come across an odd sheep, which by some quirk of nature, seems to be always on its own. Such a loner usually has a private patch of territory that is his alone. It seems to shun interaction with other sheep, preferring the life of a loner. A large rock, a deep gulch, a fallen or hollow tree, a cave, or a tunnel in the bracken or bushes are often its lonely abode - to which it runs upon the appearance of the shepherd, or the dog - anything
that enters the range. The loner can hardly ever be mustered, and in the sheep world it is called a ‘hermit’. It is described by a variety of terms, such as crazy, silly, cranky, stupid, and related adjectives.

Typically, the hermit sheep has been out on the range for long periods of time. It may have missed three or four musters, and the shearings on each occasion. I have shorn one old hermit which was a five-year-old wether, mustered at the back of a large sheep station in New Zealand, at Castle Cliff, Wairarapa. Its wool was 234 inches long! And one could see the natural breaks in the wool, marking each of its five years. One of the greatest exhibitions I have seen of the collie dog’s skill in working with sheep was on the back hirsel of McNaughton’s Scottish Highland Run at Inverlochlarig, Balquhidder. Many thousands of acres formed a series of high heather mountains, falling down into deep burns into the valley of Lochearnhead. Five shepherds gathered some 1000 Blackface ewes and their beautiful lambs off the back hirsel for docking. Nearly 2000 sheep moved in one great avalanche of colour, bodies, spirit and noise - the proud mother ewes and the bouncing, active lambs ready in a flash to bound back into the range of their birth.

When the mob was safely gathered, we looked back up the side of the beautiful heather, and there way up near the top was a hermit, standing on its rock, and looking down at us. The new shepherd had a great reputation as a top dog man. The boss gave a ‘Scottish grunt’, saying, ‘You wouldn’t have a dog that could gather than one! He’s beaten them all for years!’

The shepherd took up the challenge. He walked out and cast his faithful Collie, up, up, and out, a good mile in a swinging curve up the mountain, and finally to the big rock and the hermit wether. Both were lost to our view. We began the docking process. Some two hours later, this clever collie, using all its skills, its patience and its great eye, without any command, arrived at the yards with the hermit! And what a fleece it had! Four years of growth, streaming to the very ground. What a lesson we learn from the hermit. Sheep in a flock are happy, secure, and contented; a sheep alone on its own is sad, irritable, and
cranky.

And so with individuals. People need people. We need and we thrive on companionship, friendship and fellowship. The Bible makes much of this social need, urging us to dwell together in harmony and to avoid forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. We are described as a building fitly joined together, branches of a common vine, fellow-sons of God and joint heirs. We are urged, we are commended, we are commanded to fellowship. Nowhere are we told to go it alone, to dwell alone, to worship alone or to become a hermit. Loneliness is unnatural to the sheep of His flock.

We are to be one flock, led by the one true Shepherd, and enjoying fellowship with one another. No one sheep is more important than any other. There are no V.I.P. sheep. As equal before the Shepherd, all gracious, all humble, all bowing in humble worship to the Good Shepherd. All led, guided, provided for and counselled by the Holy Spirit, who comforts and indwells us, and makes it possible for the Shepherd to lead us together as His flock. This is the full meaning of the phrase, ‘He anointeth me with oil’, with the Holy Spirit, together in the flock. What a tragedy it is to come across a person who has allowed himself or herself to become a lonely old hermit sheep - often so richly blessed, often with so much to offer, often with so much to give - but all by himself trying to go it alone! How miserable that life must be.

What a bitter, biased outlook such persons have on life, on themselves and on their fellow man. How the chip on their shoulder looms larger and larger. How depressed they are - and how depressing they are to be around! Everybody else is out of step; everyone else is wrong. They never give. They never help.

They never serve. Their sole mission in life is to look after Number One. If they tread this lonely path alone, long enough, each becomes a hoarder, a recluse, a hermit in fact. How tragic! What a loss. What a waste. Imagine how much they might have contributed to the flock, to the family, to the church, to the community and to the world. You see it is not right for man to live alone, it is certainly not Christian, and it is not God’s plan. It can only help Satan, whose dominant strategy is to split, to spoil, and to scatter. Let us pause and hear the voice of the Shepherd, who calls us to come unto Him, into His flock, and to follow Him into green pastures and beside the still waters.

My weeks in Afghanistan, where I worked among the great Koochi tribes, taught me much about the lesson of being together and following in order. Daylight, on the move, everything packed neatly in order, tents, utensils, food, personal belongings, supplies for 2000 people. Thousands of sheep and goats, the oldest to the youngest, all in a line - people and animals - two miles long, moving according to plan to new pastures and to fresh water, following the leader. A cord strung from each camel to the next in one continuous, uniform line, bound together with cords that cannot be broken - bound together in unity. By noon, the great living caravan reached the destination, laid out the prayer mat, faced the sun, thanked the Creator for His blessing, providence and protection, and for the long afternoon and evening enjoyed fresh water, green pastures, peace, fellowship and rest.

Song of Praise Redemption Songs
Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so!
0 this full and perfect peace!
0 this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease
I am His, and He is mine.
Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.
Things that once were wild alarms
Cannot now disturb my rest;
Closed in everlasting arms,
Pillowed on the loving breast.
0 to lie forever here,
Doubt and care and self resign,
While He whispers in my ear -
I am His, and He is mine!
Prayer

Dear Shepherd,
Draw me unto Thyself, and into the fellowship of your flock.

Keep me always walking close to You, to be contented, and one with the Christian flock.
Teach me to be humble, to be open, to be willing to share and to have the willingness to belong.
Give me a feeling for others, the ability to listen creatively, to forgive, to understand, to make any sacrifice and allowance, that I might serve willingly and graciously.
Dear Shepherd, may I never become a loner, rather keep me in togetherness with You and my brothers and sisters.
And Thine be the glory.

Amen.

Chapter 8

HIS FLOCK

‘There shall be one flock, and one Shepherd.’ A flock of sheep owned and controlled by one shepherd are very alike and very content to be together. They are all bred the same,
from similar bloodlines. They all carry the same genes, much the same traits, and the same distinguishing earmark or brand. They have established natural leaders. Together they graze, roam the range, rest and sleep in sheep camps, and together they live out their lives with the same shepherd and owner.

Put a stranger amongst them, and it immediately stands out. It doesn’t look quite the same, even if it is white in colour. Its white is a different white, because it comes from a different terrain, maybe dustier, or less golden, and if exposed to a great deal of rain, its fleece takes on a distinctive yellow hue. It has a different brand or earmark from the others, and is easily picked out from the mob. It is shorn at a different time, so its wool is either longer or shorter than that of the flock. It is unsettled in the flock, because it doesn’t know its place in the order. It is most often seen on the outer fringe, wondering why it is not accepted in the flock.

The description, ‘stranger’, is very apt, for that is exactly what it is! and it will often take many months to become one of the flock. At every big Sheep Gather the shepherds are on the look-out for strangers, which are soon caught and separated from the mob, and returned to their rightful owner. This is especially true in many mountain sheep countries, where there are no boundary fences between sheep holdings or sheep ranches, for even though the sheep are grounded to their respective range, there are always a few who wander off into neighbouring flocks. At mustering for the docking of lambs, shearing, or the annual dipping ritual the strangers and stragglers are soon picked out. In many of the Middle Eastern flocks, sheep continue to roam the hillsides, as they did in Bible times.

The flock is very contented with their shepherd. They know his call. They know his sounds, his whistle. They know that a stone thrown means to turn back into the way. They and the shepherd become one, as he leads them forth to spend the day on the range. A new shepherd, a stranger, has a real problem with the flock. It may take several weeks before he is able to control the flock. He doesn’t know the sheep, and the sheep do not know him. The shepherd of the sheep knows all too well the sheep, and each one of the sheep. He knows the stubborn, the disobedient, the runaways, the strays, the laggers, the leaders - he knows them one by one. He loves them all and makes allowances for the differences and their weaknesses.

What a revealing spiritual truth there is here in this example, spelt out for each one of us. Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me. A stranger will they not follow.’ With all the churches, and their special names, with all the orders, with all the different rolls, special pews, various forms of worship, and the like, there is in reality only one flock and one Shepherd.

There is only one authentic sheep, born a member of the flock and set off by its unique brand, ‘born again’, a lost sheep now found, a blind sheep now seeing, a hungry sheep now fed, a thirsty sheep now satisfied by the water of life. What a beautiful, simple truth - that the one true church on earth is a flock, made up of the sheep of His pasture, following the one true Shepherd, listening to His voice - through the Comforter, the Blessed Holy Spirit He left to indwell each follower, and going wherever He leads. The names of the churches, the orders we follow, the doctrines we believe, are all good in their own right.

They make for order, in our assembly, in marriage, in funeral services, in witness and in outreach, in leadership and in balanced control. It is good and I uphold all sound, committed, ongoing Christian churches. Of course, we all love our own church, where we were raised, where we were married, where our closest friends are, and where we understand the order of service, this is our spiritual home. But let us each be challenged, realizing that it is only one small part of the larger great flock of the One Shepherd. That is what really matters, not the name, or reputation, or tradition, or magnificence of the structure, etc.

The sheep in the flock share the same bloodline, their sins are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. All have the same mark, the Shepherd’s cross of Calvary, applied to their heart and soul. All have the same testimony, ‘I am not ashamed to own my Lord, or to defend His cause.’ Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine:

This is my story,
This is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long.

All hear the Shepherd’s voice in worship - ‘This do in remembrance of me’ - and His voice in commission, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel’ - and His voice of compassion, ‘Love one another, as I have loved you. ’They hear no stranger. They listen to no strange voice. How foreign it would be! All look for His coming again, for He opens the door of the sheep-fold, and every true priest, bishop, teacher, preacher, pastor and minister, all who speak, lead and counsel in the church have entered in through that door and claim Him as Shepherd - and Master.

And what a flock! Each Sunday morning, starting in the Pacific Island countries and New Zealand, on around the world and for 24 hours, this one flock, numbering millions on millions, which cannot be numbered or measured, worship Him, gather around Him, come to be fed and nourished, come for the water of life, come to be mended and comforted, and come to own Him as their own Shepherd, who . is worthy to receive power and glory for ever and ever. There is no institution of man, no club, no society, no political party, no cause, no organization in this world that can compare with this one flock. As we travel the world over, as I have done for many years in my work with sheep and with shepherds, we have met Christian brothers and sisters who are members of the one flock.

Immediately, we sense a deep spiritual tie, an intangible unity of spirit, of interest and of experience. No matter the race, the colour, the language, the social standing, we experience an openness and a oneness there. The strangeness does not exist, or it immediately melts away as we become aware of a shared inner experience. We
sense that we have known each other always - why? Because we are united together as sheep of His flock. The world is blind to this truth. I believe that every problem we humans have today would disappear if we were all true Christians and genuine sheep of His pasture. When He comes again, we who are part of this flock will know fully what being one of his flock really means, as ‘eye hath not seen, ear has not heard’ . . . what the Lord has prepared for those who are the sheep of his flock, cf. 1 Cor. 2.9.

If anyone feels strange, out of place, or uneasy when Christianity is discussed, come fully into the flock and trust the Shepherd. By a simple step of faith, by the acceptance of the Shepherd as your own, by a personal possession of the Shepherd as ‘my Shepherd’, you will no more be a stranger, but become one of His flock, treasured and loved in the flock, and fellow-citizens with all the saints in the Kingdom of God. Instead of shying away from a Christian discussion, it will immediately become your favourite topic. Instead of feeling embarrassed among Christians, they will become your most beloved friends.

Let US, each one, be broad in our horizon, reaching out in our faith, never biased, never narrow, never closed in with our faith, our hope, and our belief. Who is my brother? Who is my sister? Some reply, ‘only those in my church, and in my close circle of friends’. Come on! You haven’t started to discover the full dimension of the Shepherd’s flock, the family of God. The beautiful people, the wonderful people, the Christians the world over. Look for them. Discover them. Enjoy them. Love them all, as I have learned to do. There is no need ever to feel alone. What a contrast to this world! The world preaches wild parties, fun, money, material possessions, power, fame, drugs and alcohol and in abundance. Yet how shallow, how superficial, how empty. All of these amount to no more than a golden calf!

False gods that play to the greedy eyes and lusts of people, and leading to a frustrated, empty and unhappy life. So many have worshipped at this altar, only to find family gone, divorce, empty houses, empty relationships, and empty lives. What a waste! What a thrill, what a joy and what a privilege to be part of the flock of God! I wish I could tell you all that it means: no hang-ups, no disillusionment, no emptiness. Oh, there are problems, but He is there to guide and to provide. Oh, the path does lead through the valley of the shadow, but He is with me. It may be a plain path in the eyes of some, but it leads besides still waters and into green pastures. At the Shepherd’s right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

‘Simply trusting every day! One day at a time, dear Lord.’ If you are already one of His sheep, do seek Christian fellowship wherever and whenever you can. Reach out to others. Extend your right hand of fellowship in warmth, in sincerity and in love to those following the same path and the same Shepherd. Enjoy fellowship with your brother and sister in the body of Christ, the one true church, and the one true flock. ‘But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,’ Eph. 2.13, 19. ‘Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light,’ 1 Peter 2.9.

Song of Praise Redemption Songs

‘The Bride of Christ’
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word:
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation -
One Lord, one faith, one birth:
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food;
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

Prayer

Dear Lord,
Give me the desire to seek Christian fellowship with the members of your flock.
Take away my shyness, my fear, my distrust and whatever may keep me from full fellowship. Create in me a spirit of warmth and love that reaches out to people.
Dear Lord, show me how to use my talents, my gifts, my home, and my possessions, that as one of your flock I might better share all the many blessings that You have given me as one of your sheep.

Amen.

The Shepherd
by Joan Suisted, Cambridge, N.Z.

Tell me, who is this Shepherd you follow so gladly,
And why is He thus by His people adored?
For His measureless love and grace without limit,
‘Immortal’, ‘Almighty’, ‘Christ Jesus my Lord!’
But who shall provide all you want for the journey,
And what of the pathway wherein He doth lead?
He leads through green pastures by waters of quietness,
And He, from His bounty, supplies all your need.
But if you grow weary and tumble and falter,
And stray from the path He hath chosen - what then?
He will seek till He finds you, give strength and refreshing,
And in wondrous compassion restore you again.
But supposing the path leads through valley and darkness,
Through heartache and pain, will He still be your guide?
Through the shadow of death, will He still bid you follow?
No better than that, He will walk by your side.
But are there no joys you can taste as you travel?
Yes, He makes you a feast, though your foes haunt the way,
Your cup runneth over with blessings abundant,
And His goodness and mercy surround you each day.
And what will you find at the end of the pathway?
A light through the dark from a wide open door,
A father’s warm welcome to home and His presence,
To enjoy the delights of His house evermore.

The All Encompassing Shepherd (Shepherd Study)

1. The Good Shepherd in Sacrifice, John 10.11.

‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.’

2. The Great Shepherd in Resurrection, Heb. 13.20-21.
‘Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will.’

3. The Chief Shepherd in Triumphant Return, 1 Peter 5.4. ‘And when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.’

4. My Shepherd Personal Testimony, Psalm 23.1. ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.’ 

Chapter 9

THE SHEEP-FOLD

 This day of the shepherd and his flock is based on my experiences with shepherds in the sheep areas of the world as in Afghanistan, Kazakh, India, Pakistan, many parts of Russia, and many Middle East countries, where the shepherd still leads his sheep out each day as did David in Biblical times. The day of the shepherd and his sheep starts at sunrise and ends at sunset. The shepherd never needs to carry a watch, as man‘s time means very little in the wonderful day of the Creator, with its inspiring dawn, sunrise, midday shadows, sunset, twilight and evening – with all the glories of the heavens in moon and stars. It is no wonder that the Lord selected the shepherds above all other peoples and occupations to receive the great message of ‘Joy to the world, the Lord has come’ - and the thrill of hearing the very voices of angelic hosts. Read again:

 ‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,’ Luke 2&14.

It is no surprise that the shepherds were there, abiding in the fields, and watching over their flock by night. They were always there. They are still there, as they have been for centuries. They are there across the world, tending their sheep with loving care. In their calling, their sheep come first above all else. How wonderful they are. What a privilege it has been to me throughout my working life to promote the status and welfare of the shepherds of the world, and to make my contribution to the care and shearing of their sheep. Few are mindful of the great effort and sacrifice they make for the benefit of mankind, as they care for over one billion of God’s special creatures, the sheep of the world!

At the first streak of dawn, the shepherd rises from his slumber, and after a quick breakfast, the provisions for the day are prepared, often assembled the night before and stored in his haversack. Plans are made for the day. The haversack is thrown over the back, and the staff taken into hand. With a spring in his step and an eye to the sky, at sunrise, he makes straight for the sheep-fold. As soon as he rattles the gate, gives his morning call, greets the sheep, often by name, every sheep is on its feet. They spring toward the gate, with expectancy written on their faces and in their eyes, another great day on the range with their loving shepherd leading the way to fresh grass and cool water.

How they eagerly bound through the gate, one after another, the younger lambs and yearlings with a skip and a bound of sheer joy, pleasure and playfulness, the older sheep in a more sedate and dignified manner, as if reserving their energy for the demands of the long day ahead.

The sun peeps over the hilltop horizon to make jewels of the dew on the bushes, the ground grass and tussocks. The air is clear, brisk, and bright. The wind has not yet arrived and there is a sense of peace all around. As the flock strings out, all is joy, abounding life and togetherness.

The sheep follow after as the shepherd leads them along a different course in a new direction to feed on a fresh range that has not been grazed for months. The leaders are at first unsettled and seem to want to return to the old paths and the well-trodden ways, but they reluctantly follow the lead of their shepherd as he directs them to fresh, clean pastures and sweet grazing.

As they enter this new range, all is action. The flock comes alive. Each of the sheep tries to outstep the others in search of the first morsel - a sweet wild flower, a ripe seed head, a rich bottom clover, or a ground hugging plant. Each tender morsel is nipped off on the move, a bite at every stride. What a joy to observe a flock of hungry sheep graze the fresh, sweet pastures. It doesn’t last long. The first pangs of hunger are soon satisfied, and the mob aligns itself behind the active leaders. The lambs are ready for their morning treat: mother’s milk. This wonderful mother gives all to her twin lambs, as they grow bigger and fatter, while she becomes thinner, and until they almost lift her off the ground as they bunt and bump to bring down the sweet milk. No wonder she often lags a bit and appears exhausted, having to meet the insatiable demands of these ravenous ‘young uns’ that never seem to get enough.

The leaders are either alone or have only one lamb to tend to. Often they are barren ewes, wethers, or rams, with nothing to hold them back. They are often more selfish than the other sheep, who are making many sacrifices. They hurry on, run ahead, push and jockey for position, demanding the first and best morsel for themselves. The shepherd is well aware of their behaviour and knows all about it. Many times he will deliberately let them charge ahead and up to a barren rock plateau, while he turns the tail of the mob and the stragglers into the path leading to the sweet side valley and into the rich pasture.

Gradually he goes back to the greedy sheep and the leaders who are stringing out the flock and taking them in the wrong direction. The shepherd takes his time to turn them and to bring them back to join the others, being sure that they have had ample time to nourish themselves on the first fruits. As the day grows hotter, and the sun climbs to its zenith in the clear, bright sky, the mob starts to search for shade - the shade of any tree or bush or overhanging rock - and each sheep shows signs of thirst with the drooping ear and the licking of lips. The shepherd knows the range. He has walked the sheep paths long before any of this flock were born. He knows where the green pastures are and he knows where the fresh springs of water are. The way is not always easy.

Sometimes the sheep must be forced and persuaded to move down a steep, rocky path. It is often difficult going. They would much rather climb than descend. It is their natural inclination. The rocky path is narrow. The rocky path is perilous. The rocky path hurts their tenderfeet. There is unnecessary crowding-and there is dust and heat. Finally, they come to the low plateau and the lower ground. At last, around the big bottom bluff, the spring gently gurgles, making a still pond of crystal clear water. The leaders call to the others, signalling the discovery of the water and within a few minutes, all is contentment. Thirst is replaced with refreshment. And what a sight! Each sheep takes its turn. Each sheep sips, rather than gulps. There is no charging in, no shoving aside, no forcing itself ahead of the other. They politely wait for one another. They often take time to wet their silky muzzles, swish and toss their heads, drinking slowly with no haste and with great contentment.

Then it is siesta time, the sheep in the cool shade of boulders, bushes and trees, and the shepherd in the shade on a high point, where he can survey all the flock as they settle down for a 2 or 3 hour nap. At last the rams, the wethers and the older sheep have found rest and relaxation. At last the lambs have quietened down and are willing to leave their mother-ewes alone and undisturbed. A time for quiet. A time for rest. A time for meditation. A time for chewing the cud. No noise; no predators; no perils; no dangers. At last, near the soil, the grass, the water, the best part of the day. What a sanctuary for sheep and shepherd, under his watchful eye.

It is mid-afternoon, and the first to move is the shepherd. The shadows are beginning to grow longer. The heat of the day is past, and it is time to retrace steps back to home and to the sheep-fold. The flock is slow to stir from its siesta. The sheep would remain where they are all day and into the twilight, if the shepherd would let them, but it is time to depart and to begin the journey homeward. The leaders of the flock start back first, along the path that leads homeward, and up the steep path. The rest slowly follow. On regaining the tops, the afternoon wind begins to stir. The stir becomes a strong wind and a gale, directly in the face of the flock, the dust flying and the hot air whistling straight into their faces. How the flock dislike wind in their face! Always on the range, they immediately turn their backs to the wind. But now they must take the wind head on. Why? Why doesn’t the shepherd let us go before it, turn our back to it, or lead us some other way?

The answer is, although it be difficult, although it be hard, it is the way home to the sheep-fold. If they linger, if they dawdle, if they are not there by sunset, the flock will become scattered, sheep will lose their way and they will become prey for predators, for thieves, for robbers - who prefer the darkness to the light, because their deeds are evil. It is not an easy end to the day. Many problems have been faced, many dangers anticipated, many needs met, and the shepherd has had to be vigilant all the day long. When the way is hard, the flock may often become quite unsettled, even when it is on the way home.

The shepherd observes a poor old ewe, limping along at the tail of the mob. He goes to her and finds a small hard stick between her hooves. He takes the ewe in his arms, holds her gently and reassuredly, and carefully removes the offending hurt. He rubs in some soothing salve, lifts her to her feet, and moves her into the homeward path. A count of the flock reveals that one sheep is missing. He looks far and wide, and then retraces the path of the sheep, looking for the one that is lost. He searches high and low, and there, in the thicket of a thorn bush is the hogget, caught and unable to escape. Gently he works the yearling loose and carries it over his shoulders the half mile to rejoin the procession home. When he catches up with the flock and returns the lost sheep, the shepherd spots two big rams fighting it out for leadership and dominance within the flock.

Hurriedly, the shepherd parts them and teaches them who really is the boss - the shepherd himself. While the shepherd was gone, a ewe has become cast in a hole and her lamb separated off on the other side of the mob. Both are in great distress. The shepherd goes into action, lifting the ewe back onto her feet, reassuring her, and walking her through the mob, while she calls for her little lamb. Finally, they are soon reunited – with joy abounding. The sun is setting amidst the colourful clouds in the western sky - ‘red sky at night, shepherd’s delight’ - there is promise of a wonderful day tomorrow. The last mile, the easy mile, is a well-worn path back to the sheepfold. It has been travelled many times and on many days. The sheep sense familiar territory, their home field and their fold. The shepherd precedes them, and stands at the sheep-fold with the gate wide open. He calls them in, ‘come unto me . . , and ye shall find rest’. The mob with little prompting streams through the portal to rest, to protection, and to contentment.

Here, in the sheep-fold, there are no more dangers or perils. There are no rocky paths. There are no predators. There is no blazing sun, no dry grass, no dust, no wind, no thorns, no crying, no pain. Rather, there is sweet straw, pure water, high walls around the sanctuary, protection against all dangers, sweet peace, sweet rest and sweet fellowship -until the shepherd comes to awaken them again to a bright, new morning. The shepherd knows his flock. The shepherd knows the correct number, and all are present and accounted for. All are in, and he shuts the door. No one can enter and no one can leave.

He alone has the power to open it again. So many lessons can be drawn from the sheep and the sheep-fold. Let us focus on a few truths for consideration. The sheep-fold is the kingdom of God and Jesus is the door that leads into the kingdom. At the beginning of our journey with Him, after conversion, we are led in new ways and towards new directions. Some are tempted to return to their old ways and to their old paths, to old habits, to old friends, and to old watering holes and familiar pastures – most of which have already dried up. Some find the new pathway narrow and difficult, and doubts arise. Some wonder why the path leads from mountain top to valley floor, and others wonder why so many of the flock are straying, why so many are caught in the thorns of sin, why some are cast, why the mother has to give so often and so much, and why the young make so many demands and are so selfish. Still others are upset by the selfishness and greed of the leaders and their domination and struggle for the first and best morsels. Why is the wind always in our faces? Why is the way so difficult? Why is the siesta so short? Why? Why? Why?

Be careful in raising questions of the Shepherd. He knows the way. He has walked these paths before us. He has a plan in mind. He knows where He is going and where He is leading us. ‘Ours is not to reason why . . .‘ Sometimes people question why the pathway could not be more like the siesta time - that beautiful sanctuary that is such a joy to experience, such a rich experience on the way where we are ‘still, and know that He is God’. When we pause and consider it all, we know why, because we are just sheep in His flock, made from Adam with all the spiritual weakness and helplessness of man.

The Shepherd never promised that this earthly pathway would be easy. He never promised ‘a rose-covered pathway all our lives through’ as we trip along to bliss and paradise for ever after. He has shown us and has told us that there is a cross to take up and to be carried. He has given us a pattern of the life to be lived, in His own example, not only as the Good Shepherd but as the very Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world for the redemption of mankind. He has led us on the way of care, concern and compassion for others, the way of daily living sacrifice, giving and serving and loving.

We are never homeless! We have a home, a sheep-fold, eternal in the heavens. Our citizenship is in heaven. Our Shepherd is preparing a place for us. We are promised ‘an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven, for you’, 1 Peter 1.4, the city that lieth foursquare, whose builder and maker is God. In that sheep-fold there is no more pain, no more crying, no more dying. There is no more trouble, no sin, no night, no curse, no danger, no peril, no predator. It is filled with the very glory of God, the Lamb of God, and the Lamb triumphant, cf. Revelation 21.

Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves the questions: Do I have a home toward which I am going? Or is my destiny vague, unclear and empty? Do I have a feeling of lostness as I move along toward a distant void? This is so unnecessary, for the Good Shepherd, the Lord, can become my Shepherd too, He has a home to offer me.

There is no need to wander or to wonder. He can give me the assurance of life, of life abundant and of life eternal. As we each one, look back over our lives, we who are already in the flock can say from the very depth of our being, from the very day we were born again in His flock, that His rod and His staff comfort me. He has been along this road before, He has walked this pathway and He has trod the path through the valley of the shadow of death. He can lead us home. The rest of the pathway, as we near the sheepfold in the sunset, is easy.

Without the Shepherd the way is difficult, confusing and impossible. Take away the Shepherd, the promise of eternal life, the power of His resurrection, and the presence of His Holy Comforter, and the path is not only difficult, but sad, hopeless and tragic. Only each one of us knows where we are in the train of the flock, and whether we are among His sheep or not, only we and the Shepherd, for He knows His sheep. We may be one of those bounding lambs, we may be a yearling, or we may be a limping, ageing ewe or ram, we may be at the sunrise, the midday, the afternoon, or the evening in our pathway of life. Wherever we are, whoever we are, as I close this sincere book, my heart goes out to every reader in love, in compassion and in Christian fellowship. It is my earnest prayer that you might pause, reflect and claim the Good Shepherd, the Lord  Jesus, the Saviour of Calvary, to become your own personal Shepherd, to lead you along the pathway of life, to care for you, to provide for you and to lead you to the safety and security of His eternal sheepfold. It is really so simple - simply trust Him.

I hope you will join me, one of His trusting followers, in the train of His sheep in that flock that is moving homeward. May our God richly bless you as you reach out and rely upon Him. ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths’, Proverbs 3.5-6.

Song of Praise Redemption Songs

In tenderness He sought me,
Weary and sick with sin,
And on His shoulders brought me
Back to His fold again;
While angels in His presence sang,
Until the courts of heaven rang.
0 the love that sought me!
0 the blood that bought me!
0 the grace that brought me to the fold!
Wondrous grace that brought me to the fold!

Prayer

Dear Lord my own precious Shepherd,
I stand with David, and with all the others who have trusted in You and followed You, and testify now that the Lord is my Shepherd.
 

Psalm 23
Anonymous

‘A Shepherd’s version from Scotland’

Wha is my Sheperd, wee1 I ken,
The Lord Himsel’ is He;
He leads me whaur the girse is green,
An’ burnies quaet that be.
Aft times I fain astray wad gang,
An‘ wann‘r far awa’;
He fin’s me oot, He pits me richt,
An‘ brings me hame an’ a’.
Tho’ I pass through the gruesome cleagh,
Fin’ I ken He is near;
His muckle crook will me defen’;
Sae I hae nocht to fear.
Ilk comfort whilk a sheep could need,
His thoctfu’ care provides
Tho’ wolves an’ dogs may prowl aboot,
In safety me He hides.
His guidness an’ His mercy baith,
Nae doot will bide wi’ me;
While faulded on the fields o’ time,
Or 0’ eternity.
 

Chapter 10

THE FINAL GATHER

‘Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom,’ Luke 12.32. The Good Shepherd gives us, His sheep, a final message – and a beautiful promise - in these wonderful words. In the great judgement hall, ‘alone’, surrounded by all the critics, all the sceptics, all the accusers, all the judges, Pilate with the power to pronounce life or death, this blessed Good Shepherd looked straight into their eyes and pronounced, ‘My kingdom is not of this world, Before He laid down His life on Calvary; before He was crowned with thorns and mocked; before the multitude aroused to cry ‘Crucify him’‘Crucify him.I’; before He bore the heavy load of the great wooden cross up Calvary’s hill; before He was nailed to that cross, crucified, and pierced with a spear; before the three hours of darkness when He laid down His life for His sheep; before He looked down on His crucifiers and prayed, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what
they do’; before He rose from the grave triumphant over death to walk in the garden and call ‘Mary’; He appeared to His closest sheep cowering in fear behind closed doors and pronounced, ‘Peace be unto you. Behold, my hands and my side; It is I’, John 20, He proclaimed, ‘MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD.’

Yes, Blessed Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, who arose again from the dead to give all His sheep a living hope. You told them all, and you still tell them all,

‘MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD.

Where are the mockers? Where are the critics? Where are the sceptics? Where are the false witnesses? Where are the judges of this world? Where are the cruel soldiers? Where are the crucifiers? Where is Pilate? They are all lost and gone! But You, Great Shepherd, abide, ever live, ever love, ever conquer! You are alive today, living and interceding for your sheep before the throne of the Sovereign Lord of the universe! You reign over your heavenly kingdom, waiting until that great day comes for the final gather. How real NOW His promise in John 14.1-6: Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and I receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. . . . I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. His going was a far greater mystery than His coming again

How the inspired words of Paul leap from the page to inspire the hearts and minds of His trusting sheep, 1 Thess 4.13-18: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. No wonder this great evangelist, this great man of God, this dedicated follower in the flock of the Shepherd could pronounce in the last hours of his physical life on earth those immortal words, 2 Timothy 4.6-8:

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Dear Reader, if you have taken the step of faith and made the commitment He is your own personal Saviour, your Good Shepherd, you can be sure that you will be part of that final gather. You are already a member of His kingdom that is being built all over the world, growing and growing by each precious living stone that is being added to that everlasting temple, whose foundation is the very Lord Jesus Christ; that beautiful kingdom made up of His trusting sheep, as wheat gathered into the garner, as houses built on the solid Rock of Ages, as pearls bought with great price, as sheep gathered to the one, last eternal fold, His kingdom that ever lives, His kingdom for ever and for ever. It thrills my own soul, as I write these words, to know with certainty that I am one of His flock, a sheep of His pasture, and that He is my Shepherd, and that I will be with Him in that kingdom forever! There is no more need to symbolize in this book, for symbols give way to reality.

His beautiful flock will be the centre of a new heaven and a new earth. Many have passed through this earthly pathway, but their spirit and soul still live to be gloriously reunited with us still living this earthly life. Yet more sheep will be added before that great day when He makes the final gather and comes all conquering with all of us, His sheep. What a glorious day it will be when the shepherd carries out the ‘final muster’, the ‘final gather’. There will be no more lost sheep. All who were to be found will be found, safe forever.

There will be no more thirsty or hungry sheep. All His sheep have drunk of the Water of Life and will never thirst again. All His sheep have partaken of the Bread of Life and will never hunger again. There will be no more unclean sheep. All His sheep will be cleansed and made incorruptible, made like unto His glorious self, and in the kingdom bear His image, the image of the lily of the valley, and the fairest of ten thousand.

There will be no more defenceless sheep for there will be no more predators, no more thieves and robbers, no more enemies, and that arch-enemy, Satan, the Devil, will be chained for a 1000 years, destroyed, and cast into the lake of fire. At last, the meaning of ‘peace, perfect peace, ’ ‘eternal green pastures’ and ‘still waters’ will no more be symbolic, they will be realised as eternal realities!

There will be no more wounded, maimed, or hurt sheep, for in His kingdom, the sheep of His flock will never suffer injury or hurt, will never suffer illness or disease, will never become blind, or lame, or deaf. They will never grow old. All that hurts, all that defiles, all that decays will be gone for ever. The wheelchairs, the sick beds, the crutches, the medicines, all the props, are left behind, and are never needed again. His sheep will be eternally young, they ‘shall mount up with wings as eagles’. His sheep will remain a beautiful bride, responsive to the Bridegroom’s call, ‘Rise up, my beloved, my fair one, and come away with me.’ They will respond, ‘My beloved is mine and I am his; He feedeth among the lilies’, cf. Song of Solomon 2.10-16.

All the sheep are one, one big gift for the Shepherd to own, as they own Him, to enjoy as they enjoy Him, praising for ever. There will be no more hermit sheep. All the sheep will be gathered, even those that have wandered and are alone, for ‘we shall know Him as we are known’.

The pretenders, the false followers, the ones who have just put on an act, a bluff, the ones who claimed to know Him, who claimed to follow Him, who claimed to do many things in His name, but didn’t really, will not be in the kingdom! The goats will be separated from the true sheep. All the kingdom will be one, one voice, one body, one flock, one family - oneness in love and oneness in unity. The sheep-folds of all time will at last be one eternal fold, at the final gather. The final great sheep-fold will have no barriers; it will be pure gold, like unto clear glass. No more will the night be there. No more will the darkness be there. The sun will never go down.

This beautiful kingdom, this final sheep-fold will be lit with the very glory of God, the Lord and the Lamb. There will be no more pain in the sheep-fold. There will be no more death in the sheep-fold. There will be no more sin in the sheep-fold. There will be no more ageing in the sheep-fold, only eternal youth and abounding life. There will be no more hunting for food, as either sides of the river of life will be the trees of life, which bear twelve manner of fruits every month. His sheep will never more roam, wander, or be scattered. There will be no more musters, for they will have been gathered home for the last time - and for all time - home for ever with their Shepherd, His people, and their God. His promises echo on from valley floor to mountain top and across the valleys, blessed ringing bells that will never be silenced, cf. Revelation chapters 21-22.

At this final gather, faith will give way to sight, hope will give way to reality and love will ever live and be strong and more blessed than ever. The Bible, the living Word of God, ends on a note of expectancy, and this we claim, in closing this book WHY THE SHEPHERD?

Dear Lord, we know now why! Because each one of us needs You as our Shepherd. Because you are our eternal guide. Because You have triumphed. Because we stand with 10,000 times 10,000 and millions of millions to proclaim you as soverign Lord and to glorify you as the Lamb of God, ‘Worthy is the Lamb!‘, cf. Rev. 5.11-12. The Spirit says,

‘Come!’ The Bride says, ‘Come!’ We who are His sheep say, ‘Come!’ - for at His right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Song of Praise Sankey Sacred Songs and Solos

On that bright and golden morning

When the Son of Man shall come,
And the radiance of His glory we shall see;
When from every clime and nation He shall call His people home -
What a gath’ring of the ransomed that will be!
When our eyes behold the city,
With its, ‘many mansions’ bright,
And its river, calm and restful, flowing free -
When the friends that death has parted
Shall in bliss again unite -
What a gath’ring and a greeting there will be!
What a gath’ring! What a gath’ring!
What a gath’ring of the ransomed
In the summer land of love!
What a gath’ring! What a gath’ring!
Of the ransomed in that happy home above! 

 


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