Every day I travel a road that passes by several fields. Because it’s in the middle of summer, and these fields are un-watered, the majority of the vegetation is brown and dry.
There is very little anything that looks green, so imagine my surprise when one day a great many sheep were suddenly grazing in the field.
There must be close to a thousand head of sheep in that field. Once my shock wore off at seeing them there, I began to wonder why the shepherd would put them there.
I thought perhaps the shepherd had been hired to take the flock to clear the field of unwanted weeds or something.
The first day or two, I would drive by and delight myself in seeing all the sheep in the field. I thought they were cute. Then, day by day, I began to feel frustrated and sad for the flock because there was nothing there for them to eat.
It wasn’t good grazing at all. There were no health benefits, no nutritional value from anything in that field. It was brown, dried stubble. I began to get upset with the shepherd.
It was as if God gave me a visual contrast between a good shepherd and a hireling. A hireling just does his job to collect a paycheck. He has no personal concern or commitment to the flock because his heart is not connected to them.
In John 10:12, the word hireling is used to compare and contrast a worker that is just there to collect his pay vs. the shepherd who had made a personal commitment to the flock in his charge.
The shepherd is the owner of the sheep, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to properly care for them, even risking his own life in order to protect the sheep from injury or death.
It is difficult for anyone to really grasp this concept, I think, unless perhaps the person comes from a shepherding family and is familiar with the amount of work that goes into caring for a flock.
It takes constant watchfulness to protect sheep from the many dangers that they can encounter. Predators are one risk, as well as the elements of weather, parasites, and even a sheep that has fallen and cannot get back up.
They can die if the stomach gasses bloat them too much. A cast sheep, or a sheep that has fallen, is in grave danger if they are not quickly rescued by their shepherd.
One of the responsibilities of a shepherd is to make sure that the flock is fed well. A good shepherd will get up early and scout various pastures to find the best grass for their flock.
They will take them out early while the dew is still on the grass, so that the sheep can benefit from the moisture on the vegetation. The shepherd is there among them, making sure they do not eat anything unhealthy that can make them sick, watching that they do not go over a cliff or step into holes that can break their legs.
A good shepherd also takes care to put ointment over a sheep’s nose and eyes, keeping the flies and other insects from driving them mad. A crazed sheep can take off blindly just trying to escape the torment from flies or other annoyances.
They aren’t looking where they are going and can run themselves into danger if they aren’t watched carefully by their shepherd. The shepherd checks their coat for ticks and burrs that might burrow into their coat and cause them pain, sores or infection.
A good shepherd also brings his flock into the safety of the sheepfold at night and sleeps in front of the door so that predators can’t get in, and sheep can’t wander out.
A good shepherd does all these things, and when a predator does show up, the shepherd either scares it off or fights that predator to the death, if necessary, to keep the flock safe.
This is why the sheep feel safe around their shepherd. They have a sense of trust that they are well taken care of, so when a hireling or someone pretending to be a shepherd calls to them, they don’t even respond.
It’s not their shepherd’s voice, and they won’t be led astray. This is the relationship we are also to have with our heavenly shepherd, Jesus.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. But a hireling, who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling, and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd and I know My sheep, and I am known by my own.” John 10:11-14.
Let me return to the analogy of the field. I started to feel angry and upset with the shepherd that wasn’t giving his flock anything good to eat, because he continued to put the sheep in a field knowing there was nothing healthy or satisfying for them to graze on.
They were out in the blazing hot sun day after day. Some of the sheep even wandered too close to the highway where they were in danger of being hit, and the police had to be called.
They weren’t being watched over or protected. Their needs were not being met. I t wasn’t just neglect; it seemed like a stubborn refusal to care for them so that they could be healthy, and that’s just wrong.
Sheep are grazers. They need to be in a place where what they are grazing on is healthy and nutritious. The thing that also seemed so upsetting is that just another mile down the road was a field that was unused, lush with rich green vegetation. The flock would have been so much happier and well fed in a new field, but the sheep didn’t even know it existed.
There are so many spiritual parallels that could be used as additional teaching material, but I won’t go into all that now. What I do hope to stir up in each of you is the alertness to discern what type of field you are currently in.
Are you being fed nutritious, healthy meals from the Word of God?
Is it balanced?
Does it bring you to a place of conviction and change? Or, are you being fed the equivalent of junk food and cotton candy?
Are you just being entertained with smooth sounding words that make you feel good about yourself, or are you feeling compelled to become more like Christ?
Are you connected to the heart of your pastor, and is he connected to you?
Is he committed to you?
Do you have under shepherds that care for the flock with genuine concern, or are they hirelings just doing a job?
The type of environment you subject you and your family to makes all the difference in whether or not you will grow and be spiritually and emotionally healthy. If you are simply filling a seat on Sunday and there is no relational connection, please pray and ask God if that is where you are supposed to be.
Ask God to direct you to the place where you genuinely feel connected, loved and cared for, or where His purpose for you can be fulfilled. The feeling should be mutual, and the people you choose to add into your life should give you a sense of love, family and a place where you can feel at home.
If you don’t experience that, keep looking. Or, at the very least, keep checking out the small groups for a place to connect with others. Ask God to direct you to the shepherd of His choosing for you and your family.
You will know when you discover the right place. I believe something inside of you will witness to the voice of the shepherd inside of the right leadership for your life. The witness of God’s peace will be upon the right place and the right people.
The LORD is Your shepherd. His promise is that you shall not be in want.
He causes you to lie down in green pastures – a place of peace where there is good spiritual food.
He leads you beside still waters – a place of peace and refreshing.
He restores your soul – a place where you can receive healing and deliverance that will make you whole again.
He leads you in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake – Where God leads you will be a place where you find righteousness and His name is glorified.
He leads you THROUGH the valleys in such as way so that you do not have to fear. His rod (the word of God through teaching) and His staff, (the authority present in His anointed) bring comfort and peace of mind.
It is a place where you encounter victory even in the midst of trials, the anointing flows both to you and through you – your cup of blessing is full.
Goodness and mercy are trademarks of your life as a result of the blessings of the Lord.
These are the promises of Psalm 23.
~ Laura Gagnon
Laura Gagnon is a woman who has been blessed with the gift of understanding God’s restorative work through her own personal experience. Through her insights and revelation, God has led her to influence many individuals into a restored relationship with Jesus Christ. She is a woman who stands on the promises of God, encouraging others in an elevated expectation of the miraculous and declares the gift of His life. Laura is the author of Healing the Heart of a Woman and writes for her blog, Beyond the Barriers.