Short Take: Shepherds and Lambs

Author’s Note

God invited shepherds to visit the manger that night, then bear witness – not religious, civic, or business leaders (Luke 2:8-18). The God and Friend of ancient shepherds – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Abel, Moses – was not just being social. He was continuing a frequent and powerful symbol, declaring both who Jesus is to us – Shepherd and Lamb – and who we are to him. (See Isaiah 53:6-7; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Nephi 13:41; Helaman 15:13.)

Observers of shepherds’ ancient ways report details which help us understand the symbolism.

Shepherds lead from the front, instead of driving from behind. (“Follow me” – see Matthew 9:9John 1:43.)

A shepherd knows the face, personality, and name of each sheep.

Each shepherd has a unique call, which his sheep recognize. (“My sheep hear my voice . . . and follow me” – John 10:27.)

Sheep generally follow their shepherd, but sometimes bolt. The shepherd knows which sheep is missing and goes to find it. Bringing a sheep back on one’s shoulders is heavy, smelly work.

A proper shepherd doesn’t recoil from an ailing sheep. He ministers.

A shepherd is compassionate. Jewish tradition tells of Moses tending a flock before his prophetic call. One sheep bolts. He pursues it all the way to a familiar watering hole. He is kind and understanding, not angry, and says, “It was because of thirst that you strayed.” He lets it drink, then carries it back to the flock.

Finally – as a prelude to our year’s study of the New Testament – when sheep hear their shepherd’s voice, they raise their heads, turn to him, listen, and gather to him.

Short Take: Here Am I

Author’s Note

When Samuel heard his name one night, he thought Eli was calling him. He answered, “Here am I.” Eli had not called; he sent Samuel back to bed. It happened again and again. Finally, Eli said it must be the Lord, and Samuel should say next time, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.” Samuel obeyed, and marvels followed. (See 1 Samuel 3:1-10.)

Long before Samuel, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses answered in turn, when the Lord called: “Here am I” (Exodus 3:1-4; Genesis 22:11; 31:11; 46:2).

In the Hebrew Bible, what Samuel, Moses, Abraham, and Jacob said, when the Lord called, was “hineni” (pronounced “hee-NAY-ee” or “hee-nen-EE,” depending on which rabbi is reading which verse).

Besides mere presence or location, hineni suggests devotion, service, and determination. Hineni implies what Samuel said the fourth time: “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” Samuel was listening, and he was the Lord’s willing servant. I’m told that hineni also suggests, “This is where I take a stand. This is what I stand for.”

So I ask myself, and you could ask yourself, Is the Church just a nice place to spend time on Sunday? Or do I present myself there, as God’s willing servant? What of my prayers, my neighborhood, my home? Am I just there, or am I the Lord’s willing and obedient servant there?

Short Take: “We Search the Prophets”

Author’s Note

Nephi’s brother Jacob looks back on his life and writes, “We … had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophesy; wherefore we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come. … Wherefore, we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God. … We would to God … that all … would believe in Christ” (Jacob 1:6-8).

Later Jacob hopes that readers will receive his words “with thankful hearts.” He writes so “they may know that we knew of Christ … and had a hope of his glory” (Jacob 4:3-4).

Then he explains a key to their “many revelations and the spirit of prophecy”: “We search the prophets” (v. 6, my emphasis). He lists other happy results of doing this: hope, unshaken faith and the power which attends it, and, perhaps surprisingly, humility (vv. 6-7).

Touchscreens have replaced inscribed metal plates, and the prophets’ words are more available to us than they ever were to the Nephites. But some things are unchanged. Searching the prophets still leads to revelations and the spirit of prophecy, so that we know of Christ and can fix our faith, hope, and humility in him. Thus blessed, our work is as Jacob’s: to persuade others, by our labors and even by our writing, to come in faith, hope, and humility to Christ.