I'm a little bit of a country girl at heart. We always had some type of livestock that we were raising when I was a kid living at home. I can remember having cows, hogs, chickens, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, and more. I grew up in the country where raising and caring for animals just kind of came with the territory.
We never owned sheep, that I can remember, but I imagine it is much like owning other livestock. When you are responsible for the care and well being of livestock, they are completely dependent on you for all of their needs.
I can remember my Dad and my brother getting up early and going out to feed and water in the mornings before school. Before dinner, they would make another round to tend and care for whatever animals my dad was interested in raising at the time. (Side note on my dad: He liked to hop around from one animal to the next depending on the year. One year he might raise hogs. One year he wanted cows. We almost always had horses, mules, and chickens. We even had a little pot bellied pig that lived in the house until it ran away! But I digress.)
The animals required continual attention for their provision and their protection. They depended on my dad and my brother for every aspect of their care and well being.
This morning I was reading in Ezekiel. Most of chapter 34 is written to Ezekiel telling him to speak to Isreal and remind them that they are God's sheep and He is their shepherd. Much like my dad and brother (and even more so since my dad was a little wishy-washy as a farmer) a shepherd's priority is provision and protection for his sheep. God was judging those people who had led His sheep astray and was telling them that He would be their good shepherd and was giving them a promise for their future.
I just selected a few verses from This chapter to give you an idea of what God is saying here:
Ezekiel 34:4, 11-12, 16, 31 "You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally." "For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice." "You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”
Wow! I was a little overcome as I remembered my dad and my brother chipping away ice from the horse trough on a frigid winter day, or cleaning the barn in the brutal heat on a humid summer day. No matter the conditions, with no regard for their own comfort, they cared and tended their animals. Because that's what a farmer and a shepherd do. They provide care for the livestock in their possession. How much more so will our good shepherd care for us?!?
Thank you for being the good shepherd. Thank you for understanding that I'm a little sheep easily led astray and prone to wander. Thank you for your loving guidance, your tender care, and your divine provision and protection. Help me to trust you more and to fully rely on you as my shepherd. Help me not to stray, but to stay safely by your side. Father, I look to you for my needs. I know that your love for me is true. You truly are the good shepherd and I'm so thankful to be a sheep in your pasture!"
Blessings and Love,