Recently, my husband told me about a photo op he thought I'd like. There is a cherry orchard not far from here where sheep are grazing. Instead of taking a mower out in between the trees, sheep are acting as organic lawn mowers. I drove past there to check it out, and yes, it's something I thought looked picture-worthy. The branches of the trees aren't that far from the ground, so the sheep have a nice canopy. The whitness of the sheep contrasts with the green grass, and the leaves on the trees.
I had to drive past there on Monday evening. I had my camera with me and as I drove, the most gorgeous twilight sun was spilling across the road, lighting up the sheep, who were minding their own business, grazing fairly close to the fence that's been erected around the orchard.
I pulled my car over and got my camera out. Not wanting to scare the sheep, I decided to open the window and zoom in. As soon as I got my camera in focus, two very large, very alarmed Great Pyrenees came barreling toward the fence at top speed, barking angrily. Their message to me was clear:
Get away from these sheep!
Yes, I was obviously an interloper. I know Great Pyrenees well. My aunt and uncle have them at their farm to keep coyotes away from the cattle. They are wonderful dogs.
I obeyed their obvious command to buzz off. As I drove away, I noticed that one of them chased after me, likely to say, "good riddance." I didn't get my picture. The dogs were doing their job, protecting the sheep.
As I drove, I thought about sheep and shepherds and my mind was drawn to John 10:11: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
Those dogs are not really shepherds, but they do the work of a shepherd. As soon as those dogs charged toward me, the sheep ran in the other direction. They knew from the dogs' barking and running that they needed to scatter away from my car. These dogs are very protective. Last summer, when I was at my uncle's farm, I wanted to wander in the early morning light to take pictures, and their Great Pyrenees, Mike, walked about three feet behind me wherever I went. He was making sure I was protected. It's his job.
As Christians, we have a good shepherd. Jesus is our shepherd, and he has laid his life down for us. Just like those sheep knew to follow those dogs, we know to follow Christ. We recognize the voice of Christ. When threats from outside us, false teaching and temptation to sin, come along, the presence of the Holy Spirit sends out the warning sounds toward us: run away!
Through the word of God, our shepherd speaks to us. The warnings are there to protect our hearts and minds. They fill our hearts and minds with truth. Those dogs were protecting the physical lives of those sheep. God's word protects us.
Lately, I have had occasion to converse with Christians who seldom read the bible. They say they are Christians, but they fill their minds with anything but God's word. They don't "have time" for the bible. I cannot understand it. There is very little biblical reflection in their conversation. What is God's word to them when there is politics, news, their careers, or entertainment? It makes me sad.
How can I know when to take flight from a threat unless I know the words of my shepherd? The Holy Spirit does speak to my conscience, but it always speaks loud and clear in the word of God. Left to my own devices, I don't always recognize a threat to my mind and heart. I need God's sure word to teach me when it's time to take flight and run. Like those dogs charging toward me, I need God's word to see the threat and speak, "be gone!"
Until the day Jesus comes to take us home with him, we need this word so much.