Saturday, December 04, 2010

Sheep are nice, but shepherds are necessary

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray." Isaiah 53

The following is an actual paid ad in today's Salt Lake Tribune. Check it out!

"Sheepherder. Experienced Sheepherders wanted to fill 22 temporary positions, from 1/1/11 to 12/31/11. Requires workers to tend/move sheep flocks graving on range; prevent animals from straying; protect flock from predators/bad weather; assist with lambing. Worker/s will be on-call 24-hours a day/7 days a week including Holidays. 3/4 of contract period guaranteed, starting w/arrival at worksite. Employer provides tools, supplies and equipment at no cost to worker; and transportation and subsistence expenses to/from worksite."

Now tell me, does this sound enticing? Well, then, listen to the pay: "$750 Month + Room and Board."

Before you ask me for the phone number, let me remind you: This is 24 hours per day, on call, 7 days a week, no holidays, and it's pretty cold out in Utah during the winter. (Ask this SOCAL boy!) All for $750 a month! This is no joke.

After I read this and stopped laughing, I realized how Jesus clearly called Himself a shepherd. He said in John 10:11 that the good shepherd lays down his life; he added in verse 14 that He knows His sheep. First Peter 5:4 says that He is the "Chief Shepherd," while the writer of Hebrews says in 13:20 called Him great. Listen to how Revelation 7:17 puts it: "For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

The Bible has a lot to say about sheep, using words like clueless, idiotic, and lamb stew (OK, I made those all up). The point is, we're smelly, dirty, and needing lots of attention. Who would want to watch over you for 24 hours a day, with no triple time on holidays?

I find it interesting that, at this Christmas time of year, the story recorded in the Gospels is that angels were sent to mere shepherds and were told, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." I have never thought about why God would have angels go to folks (who today make all of $750 a month) when they could have just as easily appeared to people of higher stature. But wow! These really are special people. And just as Jesus portrayed Himself as the groom and the church as the bride, He used shepherds and lambs to make a point. He had a high regard for shepherds, more than I probably ever would. The point, though, is that I'm the sheep, needing lots of attention, and I needed someone willing to do the dirty work because I couldn't do it on my own.

Left up to me, I reject the offer to be a sheepherder. But Jesus volunteered to watch over His people, taking on such a no-frills responsibility despite the high cost. Could anything be more valuable?

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