Have you ever heard someone use the word “sheepish” in a conversation? Maybe you’ve even used it yourself, saying something like, “wipe that sheepish grin off of your face, child.” Lord knows I’ve heard phrase that plenty of times in my life…
Well, I just discovered that the definition of sheepish is: to show or feel embarrassment because of an act of foolishness; or to resemble a sheep in timidity, meekness, or stupidity.
So, check this out. Last week, I spent a few days in a quiet little garden town called Greyton. I went hiking (and totally got lost) in the mountains, I frolicked through the grassy meadows (after frantically running away from a swarm of bees), and I stumbled (literally) upon a peaceful river. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend some quality time alone with Jesus. It was perfectly serene, and I honestly didn’t want to leave. While I was there, the Lord reminded me of Psalm 23. You probably know it because it’s one of the most famous passages in the bible, but just incase you’re unfamiliar… here’s what it says:
The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely Your goodness and unfailing love with pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
Beautiful, right? I’ve read this passage numerous times since I was a little kid, but each time I finished reading it—I would walk away from my bible more confused than before. I mean, I’m from Miami—we don’t have shepherds. Or at least, I’ve never seen any walking along the shores of South Beach. So I had no idea what the Lord meant when He called Himself my Shepherd. If He called Himself my Coach, my Surgeon, my Lifeguard, or my Chiropractor, then I’d probably understand what He meant… but Shepherd? No idea.
So this time, during my little getaway with the Lord, I decided to dig deeper and do some extra research on the topic. This is almost embarrassing to tell you, but last week I genuinely spent hour after hour intensely researching sheep. Yes, sheep. Why did I research sheep? Because if the Lord is my shepherd, then that must make me a sheep. Let’s just say that my many google searches unveiled some pretty unfavorable and unflattering information. This information made me want to pull God aside for a private meeting to discuss some of my questions and concerns as to why He chose to name me after that small and fluffy animal.
Here’s what I mean: Sheep are defenseless creatures who either flee in fear or try to flock together when faced with danger—creating a bigger target for their predators to attack. Sheep have terrible depth perception, and they are reluctant to travel in the directions where they cannot see clearly. This means that they almost always prefer to stay where they feel most comfortable. Sheep don’t know how to think for themselves so they follow the crowd, literally. (They will even follow each other off of the side of a steep cliff to their deaths.) And lastly, if the sheep didn’t have a shepherd leading them to food or water—they’d starve or die of dehydration. Oh, oh! And my favorite quality of sheep—they are always hungry… like me. So, after all of my research, I’ve concluded that sheep are some of the dumbest animals alive. This really makes me wish that God would have called me a lion or a dolphin or something majestic like a unicorn, but no. I’m a sheep.
So as I was spending time with the Lord this past week, He began to reveal His character to me. Using King David’s words from Psalm 23, God broke down the significant meaning of the sheep/shepherd relationship. There was some serious teaching He had to give me on this subject, so here’s what I learned…
1. Lord has my best interests in mind—aways.
A shepherd’s main job is to take care of His sheep. He needs to make sure they are well-fed, well-hydrated, and well-rested. He needs to be very attentive to the well-being of His sheep to make sure that they are thriving in their environment. Sheep can’t provide for themselves, so they must be completely dependent on the shepherd to provide for all of their needs. The shepherd literally sustains them and keeps them alive on a day-to-day basis. So when I need rest, comfort, peace, or hope, God gives it to me—without hesitation and without a set of terms and conditions. When I need wisdom, clarity, guidance, or provision, He gives those things to me too. The Lord knows me better than I know myself, and He knows exactly what I need at exactly the right time. He is beyond faithful, He pays attention to the tiny details of my life, and He desperately cares about my well-being as “His sheep.”
2. The Lord protects me from danger and never leaves me to fend for myself.
Like I mentioned earlier, sheep are dumb. They like to wander off alone down dangerous paths, and if one sheep decides to walk off the side of a cliff then the rest of the flock is guaranteed to blindly follow. Sound familiar? Been there, done that. This is why the shepherd carries around a rod and a staff. When the sheep try to venture off into danger, the crook of the shepherd’s staff draws them back in. He uses it to keep the sheep close by his side (because the safest place to be is next to the shepherd). And if a wolf comes to try and attack the flock, the shepherd will use the rod keep the predator away. As my shepherd, Jesus protects me from danger. He corrects and redirects my steps with His staff, and He fights off the enemy with His rod. He has my back—always. A shepherd will never leave his sheep alone to fight for themselves. He sleeps with them and eats with them and they know his voice. Jesus never leaves me either. Day or night, He’s with me—never abandoning me and always protecting me. The second I call on His name, He comes to my rescue—no matter where I am or what stupid thing I might have done just moments before. Especially on the days when I am stubborn and try to walk mindlessly off the side of a cliff, the Lord picks me up, carries me on His back, and brings me back into the fold.
4. The Lord is my Shepherd and loves me with an everlasting love.
This may sound redundant, but I missed it the first hundred times I read though this passage, so bear with me. When King David speaks about the Lord being his shepherd, he doesn’t just call God a shepherd. David makes it personal. David calls God his shepherd—this means that there is a sense of belonging and ownership involved in these words. The Lord is my shepherd and the Lord is your shepherd—we belong to Him and He belongs to us. His relationship with us is an intimate one. He knows our names, He knows the desires of our hearts, and He is constantly watching over us. Sometimes, I overlook this fact and take it for granted. I mean, the God of the Universe wants to know me personally and intimately, He wants to have a relationship with me, and He cares about every single detail of my life. And because I get the privilege of spending time in His presence, when the Lord speaks to me, I will be able to recognize His voice loud and clear. This also means that when He guides me with His staff and when He lovingly corrects me with His rod, I will trust Him wholeheartedly and receive it joyfully. Lastly, it means that I will be able to live in a constant state of peace and comfort because the God of Angel Armies is my Good Shepherd, watching over me. And even though there will be moments when I will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, I will have nothing to fear because He will be right beside me. Forever and for always.
So after learning all of these new and super cool things about sheep and the roles of a shepherd, I’ve realized that I no longer wish to be a unicorn or a dolphin or a lion. I’m proud to be God’s sheep, and I am grateful that the Lord has counted me worthy to be a part of His beloved flock.
So, encouragement for this week: Embrace your sheepish side.