Often throughout scripture, Jesus is referred to as our shepherd. One of the most famous passages of the Bible says,
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4 , NKJV)
However, in today’s culture, the term “shepherd” can be hard to grasp.
I thought this way until one day a certain image brought home the message Jesus was trying to get across when he referred to us as sheep and He the shepherd.
One day, my parents and I decided to go ATV riding near our home. It was a trail I hadn’t taken before, so I rode with my dad on the back of his ATV. It was a pleasant drive, and I was enjoying the beautiful day.
We’d been riding for at least an hour when we crested a hill and came into a small valley. My dad slowed, and I looked around him to find out why. I gasped and shrank back at what I saw.
Sheep were littered everywhere, in different stages of decay. The hollow eyes of a skull stared at me. Further up were scattered bones, whitewashed by the sun. Some were still partially covered in wool and muscle. I noticed movement ahead of me, and realized a sheep was lifting its head to look at me. Some were still alive!
My heart constricted for both the hope and despair the sheep had shown by lifting his head. He was barely alive. Crows pecked at him.
How I wanted to rescue him and take him out of this place! He didn’t belong in this valley with other dead sheep. But there was nothing I could do.
As if sensing this, the sheep laid his head again, resigned.
“Dad,” I said. “What’s wrong with them?”
“It’s a place for sick sheep,” he answered. “The shepherds bring them here to die.”
Once more, my heart tore. Why had their shepherd abandoned them? They were just left alone to die? It sounded so cruel.
As we headed out, I clung tighter to the cargo rack and prayed, God, now I know what you meant about “the shadow of the valley of death” you talked about in the Psalms. I just went through it.
Have you ever found yourself in a place just as hopeless? The Bible says we are like those sheep-lost, dying, and in need of rescue. In need of a Savior. The best thing about our Shepherd is that He does not abandon us in our darkest hour, our lowest low, or in the scariest moment of our life. No, instead He, “is with us” (Paraphrase, Psalm 23:4 NIV) and in one version, “close beside us.” (Paraphrase, Psalm 23:4 NLT.) He does not leave us to die in the valley of the shadow of death. Instead, He comes in with us.
So wherever you are today, however deep or dark or scary, you don’t have to be afraid. The Savior will come.
Isaiah 40:11 says:
“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.” (NLT.)
The Good Shepherd longs to deliver you from the valley.
Invite Him in, and I can promise you this: you may have entered the valley broken and scarred, but you will leave it nestled in His embrace.
Written by: Elizabeth Veldboom
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