Wednesday, April 19, 2006


All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him (the shepherd) the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 ESV)

We have turned every one to his own way…
I have a friend who prides herself on being fiercely independent, a non-conformist, a few steps ahead of cutting-edge. It is her life’s goal, it seems, to defy definition or categorization. It also seems she exerts a great deal of energy searching out new ways to keep it that way…to keep the rest of the populace from catching up to her. The natural consequence of this mind-set is to dislike all those who are just going with the flow, taking the trends as they come, and “blindly” following the natural course of culture, entertainment, and even social mores. She calls these people sheep.

Sheep do tend to get a pretty bad rap, historically. They are not known for their smarts. They need a person to lead them to food and water and a more intelligent and aggressive animal to protect them from predators. They also tend to fall into pits or tip over which wouldn’t be so bad were they capable of righting themselves. If they didn’t have a Shepherd who led them to food and water and rescued them and provided another animal to protect them…I would think sheep would have gone extinct a long time ago.

From our perspective, I am sure there is much to dislike or ridicule or pity in a sheep or in a person who resembles a sheep. And truly, it would be a lamentable state…were it not for the Shepherd.

If there were no Shepherd to protect and provide and guide and the sheep were left to fend for themselves or somehow got into their heads to go it alone, it would be a very sad and disgraceful thing. Sheep would starve, die in shallow ravines, and be snatched left and right by wolves. The same is true for human sheep.

Those people my friend calls sheep are without a are all who find themselves without Christ. They are wandering aimlessly, carried along by whatever catches their attention, receiving no real sustenance and without any form of protection from predators or their own limitations. I believe there is something in each of us that tends toward this stupid insistence that we be independent and convinced of our own abilities…despite evidence to the contrary. We want to chart our own course…master our own destiny…set our own standards. However, we never stop to ask if we are qualified to do so…if we even know where we are going or why we want to go there.

Bishop Leslie Newbigin says: The demand to know where we are going is one which no Christian has a right to make. In a very real sense we do not know where we are going, but we are trying to meet day by day the plain requirements of God's will. This means a constant effort to bring every part of church life and practice to the test of conformity with the Gospel."

In one of her daily devotionals, Elisabeth Elliot adds the following: It is not for the flock of sheep to know the pasture the Shepherd has in mind. It is for them simply to follow Him. If they knew that his plans included a valley of deep shadow, they would panic. Keeping close to the one they have learned to trust is all that is necessary. He will faithfully provide rest, refreshment, correction, and protection as the needs arise. His accompanying presence is guaranteed, all the way--even through the darkest shadows--to the house of the Lord.

It is not for this sheep to know…simply to follow Him…the one they have learned to trust is all that is necessary.

Often, I want to know for certain where I am headed…specifically. Like some sort of fortune-teller, I strain my mind to try to see the unforeseeable future from where I am right now. Scenarios play out in my mind and either cause intense delight or intense dread. I’ve either had my happily ever after or ended a miserable failure before I’ve even ventured one step from my current position. Consequently, I either step out with often unrealistic expectations OR I take no step at all, paralyzed by my idea of the worst-case scenario.

It is not for this sheep to know…simply to follow Him…the one they have learned to trust is all that is necessary.

I am no fortune-teller and God is no Magic 8 ball. He is, however, a lamp unto my feet and has promised to be my Shepherd and lead me to green pastures and beside still waters. He had done it before:

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25 ESV)

He will do it again…and again…and again…and teach me to simply follow the one I am learning to trust for all that is necessary.

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