“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times
Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth . And he will be our peace.” Micah 5;2-5a
Certain words, including names of creatures and people’s occupations have carried a lot of baggage with them over the centuries. Two of these are sheep and shepherd.
No one I know likes to be called, “a sheep”, because the common perspective is that sheep are weak, stupid, fearful, needy, have a herd mentality and are inlined to scatter if frightened or attacked. “Shepherd” as a description of, “He who will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord his God,” was hardly a compliment in the days in which Micah was a prophet.
Perhaps it will help to know that,“the one who will come,” will be glad to do the ancient, humble work of a shepherd; caring for the sheep, providing feed and shelter, cool, clear water, protecting the safety of the whole flock, ensuring the health of each individual sheep. He’ll be tender with the sick and young ones and watch for those who stray or are orphaned so that they won’t be abandoned.
Sheep, too, are a lot smarter than they have been recognized as being. They have survived being domesticated for thousands of years by sometimes good and sometimes uncaring owners. The “flocking” instinct, so often denigrated, is a community survival-based way they have learned to live, ensuring enhanced comfort as they are in a group, because there is much greater strength in numbers than in going it alone. It only takes a newborn lamb minutes to be up seeking its own food source and it knows to stay near it’s mother in order to be self-sustaining.
Shepherds in biblical times walked in front of their sheep, rather than driving them, when moving them from pasture to pasture, always keeping an eye out for danger in front and checking behind to make sure none get lost or left behind. They had individual ways of calling their sheep so the sheep knew which shepherd to follow.
Read Psalm 23. David was the last of the shepherd kings and he knew what he was talking about when he wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd!” Pray and ask the Lord to show you ways he is caring for you during this Advent season. Thank him for each one he shows you.
by Carolyn Schmitt