Our Good Shepherd

SANDY HARTLEY|GUEST

The global pandemic of 2020 brought fear and uncertainty to our world. “Shelter in place” became our new normal. In the midst of this crisis, I saw someone post a picture of a black sheep in a nearby yard. As one of the Lord’s sheep, I’ve loved sheep for many years and have seen them on farms both here and in Great Britain. But I’ve but never seen any in my neighborhood.

So, I prayed that the black sheep would come through the woods and into our yard. Ten days later, I looked out the window and saw the black sheep along with a white one! They continued to come in our yard every day. They were calming and beautiful to watch, a great diversion from the news of the virus. As these sheep wandered into our yard each day, I couldn’t help but think of the comparisons in Scripture between us and sheep— between shepherds and our Great Shepherd.

Prone to Wander

The sheep wandered through the woods between our house and other houses in our neighborhood. They were lost and could not find their way home. They needed their shepherd to rescue them.

I memorized Isaiah 53:6 as a child. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” I was like the sheep in our yard who had gone astray until I trusted in Christ for my salvation at age eight. He became my shepherd who rescued me and gave me new life in Him.

Frightened Sheep

We later learned that the wandering sheep were new to their sheepfold. A storm arose a couple of days later and they were frightened. They escaped from their safe sheep pen and crossed through woods and streets to our neighborhood. If anyone tried to get near them, they would run back into the woods.

I’m still prone to fear myself, especially during storms and trials of life. Jesus’s words in Luke 12:32, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” gave me great comfort during this pandemic. My life verse is Psalm 50:15, which paraphrased is: “In times of trouble I will rescue you and you will give me glory.” The Lord rescued me by giving me eternal life, but He has also rescued me through many trials of life. I give Him glory as he calms my fears. I praised him as I considered the sheep in my yard, for they reminded me that he is always watching over me.

The Lord Our Shepherd

Sheep need a shepherd to protect, provide, and guide them. Another favorite verse is Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd.” He became my Covenant God, and I became one of His people—His sheep—that day I trusted Him. Since then, He has led me to green pastures and still waters on His path of righteousness. His rod and staff have comforted me through the valley of the shadow of death, specifically through a serious surgery as a single young woman and even now through this coronavirus pandemic. God told us “do not fear” over 365 times in Scripture. He also says, “I am with you.” Therefore, I will fear no evil. What a comfort to His sheep!

The Lord Knows and Loves His Sheep

The sheep came in our yard almost every day for three weeks. They grazed on our grass and the brush in the woods. They enjoyed sleeping under our deck. They did not know that their shepherd was looking for them to bring them food and give them safety in his field. They had not learned his voice at the time of their escape. In John 10, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd . . . I lay down My life for the sheep.” “I know My own and My own know me.” “The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name.” This passage teaches me that God knows my name and I know His voice. What a blessing!

The shepherd of our sheep looked for them for several weeks. In the parable of the lost sheep, the Lord leaves the 99 to go find the lost one. Then He rejoices, carrying it on His shoulders. There is rejoicing in heaven over one lost soul who comes to Christ.

Lamb of God

Since the sheep were in our yard during Holy Week, I celebrated the Lord as my good shepherd who laid down His life for me. But the sheep reminded me that He is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. My Good Friday had special meaning since Jesus is both the good shepherd and Lamb who was slain. His blood sacrifice as the perfect Lamb of the Covenant paid for our salvation and brought us to God. We no longer have to offer sacrifices for our sins. What a gift we do not deserve and cannot earn!

Even as we sheltered in place, Easter Sunday was a glorious celebration of our risen Shepherd and Lamb! The two sheep in our yard were precious reminders of the Lord’s sacrificial offering for us.

Safe with the Shepherd

The following week the shepherd of our sheep assembled a portable fence with a door near our woods. He left their pail of food outside for a few days and then moved it inside. They went in and out and then back to our yard again. Finally, a little over a week after Easter, they went in and the door closed.

Our good shepherd is also the door of the sheepfold. The sheep did not realize the safety and security they would find with their shepherd. They pushed against the fence to try to get out. We too may kick, wanting our independence, but our shepherd always leads us back to safety and security.

Those two sheep wandering into my yard this spring was a sweet reminder during a frightening and uncertain time. As I watched these sheep, I remembered that the Lord is my shepherd. And I am His sheep, safe in his good and loving arms.

About the Author:

Sandy Hartley

Sandy Hartley is a former educator who loves Jesus and the church.  She enjoyed her career teaching math at both of her alma maters Chattanooga High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  She has enjoyed women’s ministry, leading Bible studies with women in her church.  She has led the Titus 2 ministry at her church and mentored college students at UTC and Covenant College.  She has served as president of the Women’s Ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga and the Tennessee Valley Presbytery.  She served on the PCA national women’s leadership team as the Mid-America Regional Advisor.  She also served as a Women’s Advisor to the Board of Trustees at Covenant College.  Her husband Loren is a ruling elder at their church. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.  They enjoy traveling and sporting events, especially basketball.

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