Life’s been a little crazy lately. Can you relate? The only thing that’s kept me going? Time with my Good Shepherd.
No amount of Netflix numbing, likes, scrolling, perfectionism or approval compares–a lesson I seem to learn on repeat.
The Bible study I participated in this spring was just what I needed, and John 10 surprised me with its depth and breadth in The Message translation.
There are beautiful treasures to be mined; don’t skip ahead.
“If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate.
“The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.
“…I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep rustlers, every one of them… I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy.
“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him… He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.” John 10:1-11
The metaphor of being led into the pen by my Good Shepherd has comforted me for years.
Studying shepherding in the ancient world, I discovered shepherds would often lay down at the sheep pen opening, guarding the sheep through the night. No one could enter without first going through him.
A heartening discovery, my eyes were opened more fully to His meaning when Jesus said, “I am the Gate.”
But this reading of John 10 rendered even deeper understanding. I realized much of the “more and better life than they ever dreamed of” regarded leading us out of the pen, not keeping us in.
It’s out there, in the vast hills and mountains, He leads us to the best pastures, cool waters and spectacular views.
It’s also where dangers lurk:
- Crags and cliffs
- Treacherous terrain
But that’s when the Good Shepherd welds His most masterful skills!
- His rod to protect from deadly foes
- His staff to rescue from danger
- His anointing oil to keep nasal flies from driving sheep mad—literally
- His wisdom and knowledge to stay on the right path
- His love to comfort in distress
- His strength to restore when belly-up, an unrecoverable position
Sheep are senseless, helpless, anxious creatures. But one thing they learn: their shepherd’s voice.
From this understanding, I gleaned the paramount importance of a good shepherd.
I’m learning to trust Jesus even when my eyes and body see and sense danger, whether it comes from life circumstances or my own anxious thoughts:
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isa.40:11
This verse comforted me countless times, especially as a young Mom. When I felt like a failure in every respect, I knew Jesus was leading me, supplying the strength to keep going through the long days—and nights.
And the story just keeps getting better:
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth. Micah 5:4
Ultimately, Jesus leads us all the way home, to His bright and beautiful Kingdom with no end.
But some prefer the known comfort and safety of the familiar sheep pen to the vast openness and adventure of the highlands. We choose safe, comfortable lives, yet it’s here we often stagnate, losing purpose, opportunity and vision.
How about you? Do you feel you’re stuck in a hamster wheel, or maybe one wrong decision away from a debacle, or one wrong step from a setback?
What if you reworked the soundtracks playing in your mind? Can you envision a Good Shepherd laying at the door of your home or staying close by your side amidst the dangers as you journey to the highlands?
This week, take some time to meditate on the goodness of your Shepherd. He will lead you, carry you even, to those rich, lush pastures and sweet waters of soul restoration and hydration.
He restores my soul. Pslam 23:3