As I was researching last week’s blog post, I came across two facts that particularly stood out to me.
First, according to the USDA, domestic dogs are more of a threat to sheep than many large predators. Hang in there, I know it doesn’t sound that interesting. But it is.
Here’s why. Domestic dogs are more of a threat than large, wild predators because they (dogs) don’t just attack, kill, and be done with it—they chase sheep to the point of exhaustion.
Running toward Empty
I don’t know why the picture of being chased to exhaustion resonated with me. Maybe because it’s so easy to arrive at that reality. Maybe because we aren’t running on empty, as the saying goes, we are running toward empty—chased by the domestic troubles of life.
Imagine it. Problems chasing behind, no longer sure which path leads back to safety, the stray lamb bleats helplessly. Every running step she takes drains her remaining energy.
There was safety in the herd, close to the shepherd. But now, in the heat of the moment, she’s not quite sure where to go. So she runs toward empty.
It’s harder for a predator to pick a sheep out of the group than it is to go after a few strays. Psalm 119:176 says, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.” The psalmist knew we all go astray.
Maybe going astray doesn’t always look like blatant sin. Sometimes it looks like the momentary glance away from our shepherd. The anxious look at our circumstances. Sometimes it’s missing his direction because we’re too focused on what we are doing. Sometimes it can be stepping away from his side, foolishly seeking false freedom only to find ourselves disoriented, lost, and confused.
Then, in a blink of an eye, we can’t find the safe circle where his voice was easily heard. Suddenly, we’re surrounded by dogs who are all too willing and eager to chase us to exhaustion.
Cry for Help
The psalmist cried out to the Lord for help, saying, “Seek your servant!” We all know who claims to seek the lost sheep. In Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:1-7, Jesus assures us that he seeks out the lost.
In John 10:1-21, Jesus stood face-to-face with the Pharisees of Israel and declared himself to be the Good Shepherd. Do you wonder why the Pharisees immediately accused him of having a demon? It’s because they heard and understood the echoes of Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34 in his voice. He was not only declaring himself to be our Good Shepherd, he was also declaring himself to be the Messiah—and to be God.
Psalm 34:15 says, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry.” A few verses later the text says, “The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
How can we know that his promise is true? It is his character.
The Character of our Savior
The second fact that impacted me this past week came from a simple employment description. According to the USDA’s website, a shepherd’s primary responsibility is the safety and welfare of the flock. The job summary continued on to say that shepherds often live in trailers or other mobile quarters to better care for their flock.
Isn’t that what Christ did when, though he existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. But he emptied himself, living in the cosmic equivalent of a trailer, being made in the likeness of men—and not just any man either.
He voluntarily inhabited a body that had no stately form or majesty, no appearance that humankind should be attracted to him. He became despised and forsaken, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was like one from whom other men hide their faces.
And then—as if it were not humiliation enough—he humbled himself further so to buy the right to rescue us. He did it by obediently submitting to death on a cross. Because, in his own words, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
That’s a savior we can trust to rescue us from ourselves when we are running toward empty.