This post comes from the middle of a great series on Psalm 23 over at Singing in Babylon. If it’s been a while since you contemplated what it means to be a sheep of the great Shepherd, read on . . .
Given the option I’d rather be a lion than a lamb.
I spent quite some time trying to imagine how David came to think of himself as a sheep. That he could is surely evidence of the grace of God at work in his life. With blood on his hands from an early age and a reputation for ferocious heroism reinforced by the songs of his people, pride must have been a constant temptation for the King of Judah.
Jacob described his son Judah as a lion, saying that the scepter would not pass from him ‘until he comes to whom it belongs’ (Genesis 49:9-10) but that particular title would skip David and the fulfillment would fall upon Jesus. ‘See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered,’ (Revelation 5:5)
Of course, Jesus is Lamb as well as Lion, going obediently to the cross trusting in his Father, ‘like a lamb that is led to the slaughter’ (Isaiah 53:7) so as his disciples we do well to avoid any woolly thinking about what it means for us, his sheep who hear his voice, to follow him.
When Jesus first sent men to minister in his name he told them, ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.’ (Matthew 10:16). Later, Paul, who was content to lose everything for the ‘surpassing greatness of knowing Christ’ willingly followed him to Jerusalem saying,
‘I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die…for the name of the Lord Jesus’.
In this way the Good Shepherd leads his sheep into ‘paths of righteousness for his name’s sake’ and Paul, for one, was not deterred by ‘the valley of the shadow of death’.
‘The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want,’ sang David. Paul, inspired by the same Spirit, wrote to Christians facing martyrdom for ‘the Name’ of Jesus, encouraging them with a vision of the faithfulness of their Shepherd, assuring them that in following him they would not want for anything they needed:
‘ If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.’ Romans 8:31-37
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