Of Shepherds and Sheep


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John 10:14-15 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

At the time of Jesus, Jewish shepherds kept their flocks in communal sheepfolds—normally stone-walled enclosures. These sheepfolds would house many flocks overnight. In the morning, the shepherd was allowed to enter the sheepfold. As he walked and called among the mixed flocks, only his own sheep would respond to him. Hearing and recognizing the shepherd’s voice, his sheep would follow him out of the sheepfold to the pasture. (Our Daily Bread)

This obviously speaks of the sheep’s response, developed by months or years of operant conditioning, as the shepherd consistently leads them to food and water when he calls them by name. It prompts them to run from thieves and predators because they are not that one shepherd the sheep trust. It functions the same way in the church; those who know Jesus, and through him the Father, will be far less likely to fall for false teachers, or the lies they propagate.

The old platitude, “to know him is to love him,” applies to Christians’ relationship with God. His Holy Spirit guides the process, beginning with conviction of our sin—it only takes one—and that “mustard seed” of faith that can grow to move our mountains of self-will toward his purposes. Knowing the Good Shepherd intimately, and enjoying his love and protection, is really a beautiful thing.

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