“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15 NLT
My friends and I decided to study the book “Scouting the Divine: Searching for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey” by Margaret Feinberg. The title piqued my interest. Since I’m a city girl who has never been on a farm, I am unaware of the spiritual significance of sheep, wine, and wild honey. But I was excited because I knew there was a reason God selected this book for us to study. So the quest began.
While reading, I was struck by the importance of sheep in both the Old and New Testaments. So, I began to wonder what it means to know that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Although I knew Ms. Feinberg was going to help us discover this truth through her journey; I decided to begin by researching the importance of a sheep and the role of a shepherd.
After much study and reading of Ms. Feinberg’s account of her journey to understand what a good shepherd meant for herself, I learned that she tries to help us to understand God and His kingdom. She intentionally searched for ways to show us how God is our Good Shepherd. She understood the scriptures more fully as she learned about life from a shepherdess perspective.
According to the Scriptures, sheep were very important to Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and even Jesus. So, why are sheep so important, and why does Jesus refer to us as sheep? Ms. Feinberg’s journey allowed her to visit and stay for a while on a farm where a shepherdess tended her flock of sheep. During her visit, she discovered that a good shepherd knows her sheep, and the sheep recognize her voice. A relationship based on mutual trust is necessary in order to hear the Shepherd’s voice. After all, why would you trust someone you don’t know? In a soft voice, the shepherdess called each sheep by name. Her voice was the only one that elicited a response from them.
She then tells us about the day one of the sheep went missing. The shepherdess knew something was wrong. So, leaving the other sheep in the care of other caretakers, she went in search of the sheep. The shepherdess didn’t give up until she found it. The ewe was very ill and unable to care for her young. The shepherdess called her by name, put her on her shoulders, and carried her back to the barn to tend to her injuries.
The sheep did not allow anyone else to approach her except the shepherdess. Why? Because the shepherdess and her sheep had an incredible bond of love and trust. When the shepherdess brought the lost, wounded sheep back, everyone in the community rejoiced and welcomed her home. I’m sure you’re probably wondering just as I did as to how the shepherdess knew one of her sheep was missing. She knew because she knew each of them by name, and they knew her voice.
And this is exactly what Jesus told us in John 10:14-15, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me.”
This story also reminded me of the parable Jesus told in Luke 15 about the Shepherd who had a hundred sheep and lost one of them. He left the ninety-nine to find the missing sheep. Then, after bringing it home, he shared the great news with his friends, who also rejoiced about the sheep being found.
I’ve read Luke 15 countless times, but only after reading Ms. Feinberg’s story did I understand what Jesus meant when He said He was the good Shepherd. He knows our name; He cares for us, and not one of His sheep goes missing without Him knowing. There’s a strong bond of trust and love between Jesus and His sheep. To protect each sheep from harm and avoid losing any, the Shepherd must keep a close eye on every one of his sheep. Jesus does exactly that for each one of us.
The Lord’s eyes are said to be moving “to and fro throughout the earth” in 2 Chronicles 16:9, searching to strongly support those whose hearts are completely His. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God” and declared, “The very hairs of their head are numbered” (Luke 12:6-7, New Living Translation).
God loves us so much that He carefully watches everything. He is constantly scouting—noticing the tiniest details.
Friends, this is an amazing truth to know that our God, the God of the universe, loves us so much that He is always watching over us. He’s not as far as some people think. No, He resides inside every one of us. He is watching over us, correcting us when we need it, and nursing us when we are wounded. That is our God.
So, what are the qualifications of a good shepherd?
- He is willing to risk his life to protect his sheep.
- He calls his sheep by name, and they know his voice.
- He keeps his sheep safe.
- He guides the sheep.
- He corrects them when needed.
- He always keeps an eye on his sheep.
- He leads the sheep into green pastures where they can safely eat without worrying about our predators.
- He leads them to calm waters where they can safely drink,
- He goes before the sheep, and the sheep follow.
- He waits by the gate with his staff to protect them against their enemies.
Knowing God as my Good Shepherd forces me to admit how much I need Him and to acknowledge how helpless I am without Him. It simply means that I must know and trust my Shepherd completely. In Psalm 23, David knew that God was his good Shepherd:
God forcibly makes me lie down in green pastures because I have a tendency to skip the good things—including the rest He gently provides. He leads me beside quiet waters—special places where His Spirit hovers, refreshing my own; in the stillness, I become more sensitive to His voice, my own voice, and to those around me. In this place, He restores my soul from the strain of daily life.
My Good Shepherd will guide me along the paths of righteousness, not the ones I try to pave for myself but the ones that God has already prepared. Even though there will be times when I must walk through some terrifying valleys, I am not afraid because I know my Good Shepherd, and He knows me. He is always near. His eyes are constantly scanning, so neither the predator nor the pestilence will be able to get me.
Sometimes His rod corrects me, and other times His staff saves me. When I find myself in trouble, He never scolds me; instead, He gently guides me back onto the right path. Other times, like now, He carries my frail body and nurtures me as I battle an unidentified infection. My Good Shepherd is always with me. He never leaves my side. He knows me, and I am His.
Be encouraged, friends, because you are always safe in the arms of our Good Shepherd when wolves and other predators may come. Remember, the Shepherd will take care of us as long as we are in His care. He will tend to us when we are in need, and His love for us will never fail.
Friends, this is only the beginning of our journey to get to know Jesus as our good Shepherd. But here is a thought for us to consider until we meet again. We know Jesus is our Good Shepherd, but are all sheep the same? How does our Lord deal with us individually? Be blessed, and I’ll see you on the field.
Lord, thank You for this wonderful reminder and lesson. I always knew You were our Good Shepherd, but today I understand what it means to be a Good Shepherd. Thank You for the many times You had to leave the 99 to look for me. And when You found me, You put me on Your shoulders and nursed me back to life. You are my shield, my protector, my Savior, my Lord, and the lover of my soul. Keep me from wandering around. Keep me close to Your heart. In Jesus’ name, I praise You and thank You, amen.
Feinberg, Margaret, (2009). Scouting the Divine-My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan
The Holy Bible, New Living Translation. (1996). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Foundation.