SHEPHERDING YOUR FLOCK
Why is Psalm 23 the most well loved psalm? Because each one of us needs someone to guide and care for us. How much more do children need a shepherd to watch over them.
We see a beautiful picture of God as a Shepherd, especially of the little ones, in Isaiah 40:11. "He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."
What a beautiful picture of our God. In the same way that God shepherds His flock, He wants mothers to shepherd their little flocks.
As we search God's Word to find out how God shepherds His sheep, we can learn how He wants us to shepherd our little lambs. Let's look at the example of the Great Shepherd and learn together.
1. The Good Shepherd "gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in His bosom" (Isaiah 40:11).
He doesn't leave the responsibility of His lambs to someone else. He carries them close to His heart. He doesn't shoo His lambs away from Him. He wants them close by and at every opportunity He gathers them in His arms. This brings great joy to the shepherd's heart.
When the disciples wanted to shoo the children away, "Jesus was irate and let them know it. "Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and Me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom" (Mark 10:13-15 TMB). As we reveal this same attitude to our little ones, we show them what their heavenly Father is like.
Read also Deuteronomy 1:31; 33:27a; Isaiah 46:3,4; 63:9.10; Jeremiah 31:3 and Matthew 23:27.
2. The Good shepherd "gently leads" His sheep and lambs (Isaiah 40:11).
He doesn't drive His sheep before Him. Instead He goes before and leads the way. In the same way, we are to lead the way for our children, giving them a godly example to follow. We are to take them by the hand and show them the way, rather than forcing and cajoling. Mothers need a mantle of gentleness upon them as they mother their little lambs. This is why it's a good idea to call your little children your "lambs" rather than your "kids." Words have power and when you call them "lambs" it causes you to be more gentle and loving.
Did you know that a sheep cannot find its way on its own? It has no sense of direction. Leave a cat or a dog miles from home and they will find their way back, but a sheep is lost! Our children don't know the right way to go. Mothers, don't rely on the judgment of your children. God has given you the responsibility to lead them.
As I watch some mothers, I am inclined to believe that the children are the leaders! No, mother, remember you are the leader. Your child must follow you and be obedient to your guidance. Read also John 10:3,4; Psalm 23:3; 80:1 and Isaiah 49:10).
3. The Good Shepherd "gives His life for His sheep" (John 10:10).
The Good Shepherd sacrifices His life for the well being of His sheep. As we lay down our lives to our own fleshly desires, without grumbling or complaining, our children understand the character of God who gives in self-sacrificing love. Do you feel as though you are forgotten and you no longer have time to fulfill any of your own dreams? Do you feel that motherhood takes every moment of your time and every ounce of your energy? Don't despair, dear mother, a good shepherd mother lays down her own life for her lambs. It is the hireling who tries to mother without sacrifice. But you won't miss out. God says that when you "lose your own life, you will save it" (Mark 8:35).
4. The Good Shepherd "calls His own sheep by name" (John 10:3,14).
The Good Shepherd has a personal relationship with each one of His sheep. Did you know that each lamb that is born has its own distinctive smell? This is how the mother ewe knows her lamb amongst all the hundreds of lambs frolicking on the hillsides. In fact, if a little lamb dies, and a mother ewe dies leaving an orphan lamb, they will take the skin of the dead lamb, tie it onto the orphan lamb and give it to the lambless mother. The ewe will then accept it as her own if she smells the smell of her own lamb.
Only a mother instinctively knows the needs of her own child. That's why it is important for a mother to be with her children. A day-care worker or baby-sitter may watch over your children, but they can never meet the inner needs of your little lambs.
5. The Good Shepherd is always available (Psalm 23:4).
The Psalmist confessed that He never needed to fear because His Shepherd was always with him. This should be the testimony of our children. "I have no fears because mother is always near me." If we are not at home with our children and available, we will often overlook the fears and anxieties that can hide in their hearts. Jesus said in Matthew 26:31 that if the Shepherd is struck down, the sheep will scatter. Satan knows this truth. He knows that if he can keep the mother away from the home, or weaken the mother's influence in the home, the children can then be scattered and led down a wrong path.
6. The Good Shepherd provides every need (Psalm 23:1, 5).
Not only did David say, "I shall not want." He was also able to exclaim, "My cup overflows." Shepherding provides for the needs of our children. These needs are not necessarily material needs. Children don't need lots of "things." They need the security of their parents. Rather than going into the work force to provide more "material" things for our children, we can minister to their greater needs by being at home. It is sad to realize that in the vast majority of homes in America, there are more TV's than there are children! Ask a child, they'd rather have another brother and sister as a gift than one more toy!
7. The Good Shepherd establishes peace (Psalm 23:2).
Mother shepherdesses, what an important ministry we have to provide a peaceful home for our children. This means harmony between husband and wife. This is our No. 1 priority. If there is strife between husband and wife, it is the children who suffer. Children can always sense when there is friction. This is not what God intends for our little lambs. He wants them to be nurtured and nourished in an atmosphere of peace.
8. The Good Shepherd "feeds His flock" (Ezekiel 34:15).
God doesn't leave His sheep and lambs hungry but makes sure they are well fed and satisfied. We demonstrate to our children what God, their Shepherd, is like when we make sure they are well fed, spiritually and physically. Many mothers have shared with me that they hate cooking and think it is an unimportant task. However, feeding is a very important part of shepherding.
It is interesting that the sheep is the only animal that cannot find food and water by itself. Camels can smell water from 100 miles away, but a sheep relies in its shepherd. A sheep will even eat poisonous weed if the shepherd does not protect it. Mothers, our children will eat the poisonous weeds of humanism and anti-God philosophies that infiltrate this world if we are not diligent shepherdesses to watch over their souls. We must guard what their souls feed on. We are the spiritual protectors of their souls.
On the physical side, children will live on junk food if we let them. They don't care about their health, only what tastes sweet and nice. It is our responsibility to provide wholesome food for them to eat. Don't have poisonous junk food in your home. Provide a healthy pasture.
I believe that mothers should be Nutritionists. We should read and study to find out the healthiest ways of feeding our children. There is so much "junk" food and processed food available today. It is fast and doesn't take much time in preparation, but I do not believe that it is the food that God intended us to feed our families. God has provided wonderful foods for us to enjoy, and He planned for us to eat them in their unrefined and natural state. Of course, this takes a lot more time in preparation.
It takes time to grind wheat and make your bread each day, but it will nourish your family far more than the foodless, chemically infested white bread you buy at the supermarket. It will take longer to prepare a nutritious breakfast of home-cooked cereal such as oats or millet, but it will sustain your family far more than refined, sugary, packaged cereals. It is much cheaper, too. It will take longer to prepare a healthy dinner for your family for the evening meal, but the time spent will result in healthier and happier children.
It is interesting to notice how many times God talks about "feeding" in His Word. And He doesn't feed His sheep "junk" food. He leads them to good pastures! It is so important to make sure we feed good and wholesome food to our families, even if it takes longer to prepare.
Read these scriptures:
Psalm 23:2, 5, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters... Thou preparest a table before me. ".
Psalm 36:8 TLB, "You feed them with blessings from Your own table and let them drink from Your rivers of delight."
Ezekiel 34:14-15. "I will feed them in a good pasture... there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed... .upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord."
Revelation 7:17. "For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters" Read also: John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:2 and Revelation 7:17.
If God is interested in feeding, shouldn't we be too? Feeding people is part of His nature! We show forth something of God's heart when we take time to feed our families. It is God-like. Let's do it with joy.
9. The Good Shepherd protects his sheep (Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2-4).
Most animals have a way of defending themselves. Some can run with speed, some give off poison, some bite, some release a horrific smell and so on. But the sheep? It is a totally defenseless animal. It has no protection against its predators. My father sheared over a million sheep in his lifetime and was never been bitten by one of these animals. Mother, you must protect your lambs from predators that would seek to destroy their souls.
There are times when our children, especially our older ones, do not like our intense watchfulness over them. However, they also need to know that this is the heart of the Chief Shepherd. God likens us to sheep because they are meek and also vulnerable. Sheep have one bad point! They go astray easily! Isaiah 53:6 says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." Isn't that so true of us, too? Most sheep don't willfully go astray, so how does it happen?
My husband, who had nearly 2,000 sheep on their family farm, tells how he watched a whole flock of sheep go astray. One sheep finds a hole in the fence and gradually the other sheep follow. They continue grazing with absolutely no intention of going through the hole - they don't even know the hole is there or that the other sheep have gone through! But gradually, the flock slowly gravitates toward that hole. The ones at the far end of the flock are slowly getting closer, but they don't even know it yet! Eventually, without realizing, all the sheep have gone through the hole into the other paddock! Isn't this what happens to us? We are hardly aware of going astray, but ever so slowly we imbibe the spirit of the world. No wonder we need a Shepherd to watch over our souls. No wonder we as "mother shepherds" need to watch over the souls of our children.
10. The Good Shepherd uses a "rod" (Psalm 23:4).
The Middle Eastern shepherd always carried a rod. In fact, it never left his hand. It was actually a club, which was carved and whittled from a young sapling, shaped to fit the owner's hand.. The shepherd carried this rod to:
a) Discipline. The shepherd would hurl his rod to alert a sheep of danger, to save one from eating poisonous weeds, or to bring back a wayward sheep. This emblem of authority and discipline was also a comfort and protection to the sheep to save them from unnecessary problems, or even death. This is the reason we discipline our children, to save them from walking the wrong path, from going down the broad way that leads to destruction.
b) Protect his sheep. A skilful shepherd could throw his rod at a lurking wild animal with perfect aim. It was a weapon of protection. No wonder David confessed that the rod was a comfort.
c) Scrutinize. When the Shepherd counted his sheep, he used the rod to touch each one as they entered through the gate. The Bible calls this "passing under the rod" (Leviticus 27:32 and Ezekiel 20:37). Not only did the Shepherd count the sheep with the rod, but also carefully examined the sheep for disease, sores, and the health the skin. Have you ever heard the expression, "Don't pull the wool over my eyes"? As we shepherd our children, we must watch over them intensely to make sure they don't pull the wool over our eyes. We look beyond the "wool" that covers over festering things that may be underneath.
11. The Good Shepherd uses a "staff" (Psalm 23:4).
The staff, a long stick with a hook on one end, is a symbol of compassion and long-suffering. It is used to:
a) Intimately draw the sheep to himself. The shepherd uses the staff to reach out and draw a sheep close to him. If a newborn becomes separated from its mother, the shepherd will use the staff to gently lift the newborn to the mother. He doesn't use his hand as he doesn't want his smell upon it. Remember, the ewe knows her lamb by its smell.
b) Guide the sheep. The shepherd uses his staff to guide the sheep along a dangerous path or along a new path. He doesn't beat the sheep but puts pressure on the sheep's side to guide it. Sometimes a shepherd will actually hold the staff against the side of a special sheep as they walk along, just so they can "be in touch" together.
c) Rescue the sheep from thorns and brambles and steep cliffs where they have fallen (Luke 15: 4-7).
12. The Good Shepherd "seeks out the lost ones" (Ezekiel 34:11, 16).
Maybe there is some member in your family who has strayed from the faith and from your home. Don't give up until you find them and bring them home. The Chief Shepherd does not give up until He finds the one that is lost. He says, "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."
God also knows what it is like to have children who rebel against Him. Isaiah 63:9,10 says, "He bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed His Holy Spirit." Read also Isaiah 46:3,4.
May God anoint us to be a gentle, but a brave and protecting shepherdess.