Shepherd the Whole Flock

From Animals Australia

Scripture:

Proverbs 27:23-27

Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds;
for riches do not last forever,
nor a crown for all generations.
When the grass is gone, and new growth appears,
and the herbage of the mountains is gathered,
the lambs will provide your clothing,
and the goats the price of a field;
there will be enough goats’ milk for your food,
for the food of your household
and nourishment for your servant-girls.

Observation:

We continue to glean from the words of wisdom written so long ago. The language surrounding shepherding was common and understandable to all. In a very practical way, the person who cared for sheep needed to take the time to know the condition of his flock on an intimate level. This meant every single member of the flock, for it was extremely important to keep the sheep from getting lost. Therefore, attention had to be paid to the whole flock. 

This emphasis on the entire flock was vitally important because the riches from one generation of sheep did not necessarily mean there would be riches in the next. It’s only for a few years that sheep can be fattened, or their wool sheared. Sheep at every level of maturity need to be a part of the flock. The grass would come and go, representing new years and seasons. This was a reminder that the little ones, today’s lambs would be the ones who would provide clothing in the future. 

The shepherd not only cared for sheep, but also for goats. These goats had their own role to play within the community. If they were well cared for, they would produce milk which would sustain the entire household. 

The shepherd was to be wise and take the advice of those who had gone before. 

Application:

It’s pretty natural for us to take this story and instead of seeing a shepherd from thousands of years ago, we begin to envision Christ and the Church, and the pastor/shepherd of a local church community. Christ is the ultimate shepherd who lovingly cares for the entire flock, which is all of humanity. We take comfort in the fact that he knows our deepest needs and lovingly cares for us. He doesn’t value one generation over another, but sees all as vital in the lifeline of God’s plan for humanity. In love he goes and searches for the ones who are wandering away, and this is always a feature of the Good Shepherd. Christ wants to shepherd us so that we can be the very best that we can imagine. He will care for us so that we can give our wool and our milk for the sake of his kingdom work. If all sheep were to participate, human needs would be satisfied, with necessary shelter and food provided. 

Of course, the lessons from Wisdom can be powerful for those who are engaged in local church ministry. Much has been written about shepherding the flock but what seems to be valuable to grasp is the importance of inter-generational congregations. A focus simply on the older will soon run out of “riches.” There must be balance, and an intentional investment in future generations. They must be nurtured so that they grow healthy and can provide wool and milk for their season of life. If there is a plan to be dependent on the older sheep, suddenly the milk supply will dwindle and the wool will become thin and coarse. The important emphasis for the shepherd is on shepherding and finding the right pastures. The pastor needs to give time and attention to the members of the flock — from the oldest to the youngest. And while it’s complicated, there must be intentionality in providing for the developmental needs across the life-span. If we don’t, there is a likelihood that we will die. 

Every day there are churches that are being closed. Before I place everything upon the shoulders of the shepherd, there the responsibility of the sheep. A good shepherd would not allow certain sheep to occupy all of his/her time to the neglect of others. The care for each would not be the same either. A young lamb needs to be discipled and fed before it can grow up healthy. An older, fat ewe or ram doesn’t need the same time, and demanding it just may leave the flock with sickly babies. It’s a wholistic approach that will result in healthy sheep. 

Most all of us have those for whom we are responsible and getting to know those people well should be our first priority. Only when we know our flock are we able to shepherd well. 

Prayer:


Lord, please help me to listen to, and get to know the voices of the sheep. Amen. 

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