Friday, January 10, 2013
Sheep and shepherds and the journey – a story of a flock
1 Sam. 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”
AS 2013 gives way to 2014, it is as if we are on our hilltop looking back over where we have been, and looking out to where we think we are headed.
Behind us lies one valley and we can recognise the distant features because we have been past them close up. On the other side we are looking to see where the path leads, not able to make sense of the details yet, but each with our own idea of how it will unfold.
Praising God that “He has brought us thus far” is more than a nice thing to do. It is a way of expressing that covenant partnership and trust. God has brought us to this point – it has been His doing; it has also been our journey, and we have been the ones walking it out.
The year has seen the start of a new overall pastoral lead, with the experience of both aspects of shepherding – leading into good places, and building up the flock in feeding, protection and care. That’s the idea, anyway. Some of the flock have been nervous of letting the shepherd – or to be accurate, his appointed assistant – into ‘their’ field, and don’t want to follow into the adjoining one even if the grass and water there are better. Well, that’s sheep for you. The Bible doesn’t show us sheep dogs running around the outliers and bringing them in, and the Bible shepherd doesn’t drive from behind but calls and leads from ahead, so we have to find a better way.
The better way is wanting to be a flock. The nature of a flock is about belonging, and moving together. When the wolf comes near, the stragglers learn quickly and the flock faces the threat, horns forward, together. The sheep call as one flock, and the shepherd quickly comes.
Which, at the risk of overworking the metaphor, tells us about the power of praise and the power of togetherness in God.
This is a stunningly beautiful area, but there are wolves in the woods, and dark areas as well as open fields. When we ‘get’ what it means to be a flock, under The Shepherd and guided by those He sends, the wolves will get the message and look for easier pickings elsewhere.
And the Shepherd will grow His flock in every way. (Matt. 16:18)