John Graves wrote books and taught writing for a living. For a pastime, he raised a few cows and goats on some land southwest of Fort Worth. He never grew any sheep, citing the adage, “A goat is always looking for a place to get out, but a sheep is always looking for a place to die.” I wish I had read at an earlier age this adage that Graves related.
When I was in junior high school, my brother and I tried raising sheep for the Louisiana State Fair. We had visions of becoming rich in this enterprise because our cousin had raised some sheep, showed them, and sold them at the state fair for big money. But it did not work out that way for us. Our sheep were picky about eating and would not gain weight. They were sickly and required constant grooming to keep their wool looking decent. While they did not eat much, they ate more feed than we could pay for after making a poor showing at the state fair. If our mom and dad had not bailed us out, we would have had to declare bankruptcy at an early age.
Sheep by nature require a lot of attention. If you do not put them into an enclosed area, they tend to wander off and get lost. An attentive shepherd is needed.
One of history’s most famous shepherds was Little Bo Peep. Unfortunately, she was not a very good shepherd, because she lost her sheep. Whoever it was that gave her advice about what to do did not know much about sheep either, because that person advised, “Leave them alone and they will come home, bringing their tails behind them.” Sheep seldom come home on their own.
Jesus once likened Himself to a good shepherd who had one hundred sheep. The shepherd discovered in the evening that one of the sheep was missing. Upon finding that one of them was missing, he went looking for it and spared no effort until he found the lost sheep, put it on his shoulders, and came home rejoicing. Jesus cared for people that way.
Psalm 23 says that the Lord is our shepherd. Like a loving shepherd, He guides us to places of nourishment and rest — still waters and green pastures. When we come to the dark valleys of life, He does not abandon us. He walks through every valley with us, and with His presence beside us we find comfort and strength. While there are difficulties in life, His blessings fill our cups to overflowing. This relationship with the Lord is not just for time, but for eternity. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!” We can thank God for being such a wonderful shepherd!