We have looked at the difficulties of being a good shepherd – how about those of being a good sheep?
What are the qualities that make a good sheep? Here we are referring to God-followers, or disciples, not the farm animal variety.
God has made pretty clear His two basic commands for us: 1) to love and obey Him and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and 2) to love and serve others. If shepherd or sheep will seek to do this with their life, they will be well on their way to pleasing and honoring God.
But what if we neglect to pursue either of these commands, focusing only on ourselves and on what we can grab today? Ezekiel had a message from the Lord to share with the exiles in Babylon on this topic.
20 “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. 21 For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands. 22 So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. 23 And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people. I, the Lord, have spoken! Ezekiel 34:20-24 (NLT)
King David was the first and one of the few truly faithful kings of Israel. His is the royal birth line in which the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would come. After Israel’s false start with King Saul, David sought to lead the people along the path of righteousness. He was not perfect by any means, and his failures are well documented in the scriptures. But David’s faithfulness pleased God. Though he died at a relatively young age, Ezekiel’s prophesy suggests that his service for the Lord is by no means done.
Prophecy interpretation may be literal, or it may symbolic. We do not know for sure if this reference to the future prince David reigning once again over God’s people specifically refers to him or to someone in his line, such as Christ. It may be both.
Just before Jesus went to the cross, He, too, had a message for the people regarding sheep that paralleled Ezekiel’s. Jesus spoke about a coming judgment that will occur far into the future – long after the cross and His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven. It will come at the time of Christ’s return- at the end of the Times of the Gentiles and after the suffering of the Great Tribulation described in Matthew 24.
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:31-40 (NLT)
God is serious about us investing our time, energy, and resources for the sake of those living in need around us.
As we look at the day ahead or consider the one behind, we can ask the Lord, “Help me to be more loving, as You are.”
With all of the deadlines, challenges, and responsibilities we may face, it is so easy to let the needs of others pass us by. With God’s help, we can do a better job of noticing suffering around us, and in compassion, to do something, small or great, to help make the burden a little lighter.
Father, forgive me for all of the times I have failed to reach out to others in need with love. Help me to do a better job going forward to be there, to assist them, and to honor and please You. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.