“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Shepherds sacrifice for their sheep. Good shepherds sacrifice everything. Jesus is the greatest Good Shepherd of all. Every sheep in his pasture knows that firsthand, and he longs for the lost ones to know it, too.
Psalm 23 is the most famous account of God’s flawless shepherding skills, but it is hardly the only one. For instance, when we graze across Psalm 51, we gulp enormous portions of how God purifies us, washes our wounds, and combs pests out of our tangled wool. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-‐2). In mercy, he bends his knee and comes to our rescue, applying his healing ointments with gentle shepherd hands, removing the damages we have inflicted on ourselves.
When enemies approach, in forms not unlike ravenous wolves or prowling lions, we beg rescue. The psalmist gives words to our relief: “He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me” (Psalm 18:16).
At once both gentle in his care and fierce in protection of his flock, the shepherd only does us good, on every side of every field and every pasture we wander through. We respond, “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever” (Psalm 79:13).
Some things a lost sheep might need to recall to prompt him to scamper home.