Short Take: Shepherds and Lambs

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter, focusing on the New Testament in 2015. Here’s my “short take” for the month.

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: “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing”

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter, focusing on the Old Testament and related scripture in 2014. Here’s this month’s “short take.”

God commanded Ezekiel to “prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.” His people’s leaders were neglecting their duties – and worse. “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves!” he said. “Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? . . .

The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick . . . bound up that which was broken . . . brought again that which was driven away, [or] sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.

And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field.

God will hold the shepherds accountable, he says, but then he makes us a happier promise: Even if others fail us, one Shepherd is devoted and tireless. When no mortal notices or cares, he will find us and save us himself.

I will seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered. . . .

I will feed them in good pasture. . . .

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick. . . .

I will save my flock. . . .

I will make with them a covenant of peace . . . and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness. . . .

There shall be showers of blessing. (Ezekiel 34:1-31)