In case you haven’t noticed, the theme for the week (Thursday through today, plus tomorrow) is sheep. Almost all the Scriptures reference sheep in some form or another. Without question, the sheep are the People of God. Even in Luke, Jesus is still using the sheep as a term for the Jews. As Christians, we understand that we have been adopted into the family of the all-loving God (though some of us are more dysfunctional than others).
We might question being thought of as livestock, especially if you’ve had any experience with Soylent Green, Twilight Zone’s To Serve Man, Silence of the Lambs, Cloud Atlas, Make Room! Make Room! or Tender is the Flesh, or any of the real-life stories such as the Donner Party or Jeffrey Dahmer. While we have dystopian stories and real-life stories of people eating people, there is another type of eating of man that occurs, and that is the spiritual and emotional destruction that we often visit upon one another.
Despite the philosophy and dreamings of the Ayn Rands of the world, no human being can become fully human without being loved and cared for. This is the heart of the why the imagery of livestock. Not that God looks at us as livestock, but in the same way that humans look at their sheep and goats…unable to see the bigger picture. We cannot see the God-sized picture. The sheep and the goats could barely think beyond the grass in front of them. The sheep and goats had to rely on the shepherd.
The shepherd kept them safe. The shepherd cared for them individually. The shepherd knew them by name.
Take that concept into the elders of Israel coming to David and saying that he was their shepherd. Now, to be fair, most of them were probably not all that thrilled with David, at that point. Most of them had chosen to follow Saul, who was now dead at the hands of the Philistines. They initially rejected David’s kingship, but then came to him.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve been twisted into a cynical person. Perhaps, like me, you wonder if these leaders were conveying a slightly different message than, “you’re our shepherd.” Perhaps they were really saying, “we’re Israelites, too. Don’t take it out on us.”These verses in Samuel seemed more of the perspective to justify or solidify David’s kingship. For it was not until Hiram of Tyre acknowledged David that we see that David perceived that the kingship was his.
What is also interesting is that despite the leaders’ cynical statement (at least from my perspective), there was still truth. David was their shepherd. Verse 12 then ends with, “…Then David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that his kingship was held in great honor for the sake of his people Israel.” And therein lies the underlying truth. It is for the people. It is for the herd. It is for the sheep.
As we come to the New Testament, with Jesus as a descendent of the Davidic line, this shepherd and sheep motif takes on a completely different role. Jesus knows each of us by name, even those who hate or avoid him. He knows everyone by name. Jesus is the True Shepherd.
- From our (particularly) modern perspective, how is it bad to be a sheep? From a Christological perspective, how is it good to be a sheep?
- How and/or why do you think being a sheep went from positive to negative?
- What lesson can we learn from the motives of David and the elders (regarding being sheep and shepherd) in comparison to the Truth of Jesus being the shepherd?
Lord, we like sheep have gone astray time and time again. Guide us into the Truth and Love of your embrace. Amen.