“I am the good shepherd:” Christ said in John 10:11, “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Shepherding is a calling that requires great patience, tenderness, and wisdom.
Beyond the basic needs of providing food and protection, the shepherd is responsible to navigate where the sheep are spending time, that the sheep don’t stray, interactions of the sheep (with one another, with sheepdogs, and even with themselves), and helping the sheep to overcome stress.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” David wrote in Psalm 23, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters.” Just as the shepherd leads the sheep, our Lord leads us and directs us where to spend time. Without His direction, we would stray (1 Peter 2:25). Note how David writes, “He maketh me to lie down…” (Ps. 23:1). God knows when we need rest, and sometimes He allows for us to be in a position where we have no other choice but to “lie down”. Our Lord provides for what we have need of, and we understand from Isaiah 40:11 that He “will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom”. Historically, if a young lamb were wandering or going astray, the shepherd would use the rod to break one of the lamb’s legs, and then carry the lamb on his shoulders until the leg healed. “He hath smitten, and He will bind us up,” (Hosea 6:1). To be gathered and carried by the arms of our Saviour is just one of the ways that Christ protects us and leads us in the right direction.
Sheep move in flocks, and part of the shepherd’s job is to watch how the sheep interact with one another, with the sheep dog, and with their surroundings. As our shepherd, Christ does the same for us, and He also instructs us to look out for our own behavior and for one another. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,” Paul wrote in Acts 20:28. As part of God’s flock, we are not completely independent, we are not called solely to self-involvement, but rather to take a genuine interest in others – a genuine interest, not one that is insincere, nosy, or filled with ulterior motives.
Moving in a flock can often cause stress to the sheep, especially if they’re not handled correctly. With Christ as our shepherd, though we’ll go through trials and experience trouble, we can know we’re headed in the right direction when we purposefully follow Christ and His direction. “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” (John 10:4). Christ calls us by name, and He leads us. Sheep experience less stress when they stay close to the shepherd.