Thursday, November 4, 2010
"All we like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6) is a familiar verse to most of us. Isaiah compares people to an animal that has hardly enough sense to care for itself. Not a flattering comparison.
The rest of that verse says that we have scattered in every direction away from God. Because of His mercy, He calls us to Himself and sends the Chief Shepherd - Jesus Christ - to care for His flocks. Sometimes the under-shepherds act more like hired hands so that wolves get among the flocks. In the face of such a crisis, we bring Psalm 23 to our minds: "The Lord is my shepherd…" The Good Shepherd protects us from our enemies and God loses none of His sheep.
That accounts for the sheep that come back to God, for those who accept salvation through Jesus. What happens to the rest of these two-legged sheep? Who is their shepherd? According to the book of Matthew (9:36), Jesus recognized a harassed and hopeless crowd to be like sheep without a shepherd.
Many people wander aimlessly through much of their lives. They follow wherever their eyes lead them to the juiciest grass, never seeing the edge of the cliff beneath their feet. They fail to heed the grasp of the thorns as they push to reach the next tender morsel. According to the English Standard Version (ESV) of Psalm 49, "This is the path of those who have foolish confidence…"
When the land falls away from their feet, no watchful shepherd will pull them back at the last minute. As the brambles hold them so tightly that they can find neither food nor water, no kind shepherd – heedless of his own scratches – will pull the sheep to safety. These sheep with foolish confidence will find a different kind of shepherd comes for them. They discover that death will be their shepherd.
Death cares nothing about the comfort of the sheep. He will leave them alone. They may wander as they wish. In their foolishness, they think they are free. Yet when they fall off the cliff, death comes for them, pulling them with his staff to destruction. The sheep starving in the brambles finds death gleefully gathering them to devastation.
Death will not gently gather them to his chest for comfort. Instead, he gives them what they claimed they always wanted – eternal separation from God. This shepherd gives them what they always feared the most – eternal punishment and pain. In the end, death will be thrown in the lake of fire, a just punishment for one who destroys the sheep.
By the mercy of God, we may choose our shepherd. Remember:
"All we like sheep have gone astray."
"Death shall be their shepherd."
"The Lord is my shepherd."
Who is your shepherd?