Shepherd

I’ve heard countless sermons and Sunday School lessons about the Shepherd and the sheep. But coming face to face with an actual shepherd and his tiny newborn lambs yesterday put those sermons and lessons and scriptures into a whole new perspective for me.

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I don’t know why I got it into my head that I wanted to visit a sheep farm and take the “lambing tour” offered at Valley Shepherd Creamery in Long Valley, New Jersey. I’m here visiting my family and I was looking for something different to do. So we piled in the car and drove the 45 minutes to a gorgeous part of my home state, passing by pastures and farms and peaceful countryside.

The young “shepherd” in charge of the “lambing” took us on a tour of the barn where the newborn lambs were kept. You’d think he’d be tired of telling these tour groups the same information day after day after day. But it was like it was his first day. He was excited and passionate and there was no doubt he knew his sheep.

He told us of sleepless nights while the lambs were being born. He told us of having to watch each one very closely to make sure they were getting the milk they needed to gain strength and grow. He knew the weakest ones. He knew the stronger ones. He explained about needing to protect them from foxes and bears and other threats when they weren’t in the safety of the barn.

And as I heard the love and care and compassion in his voice and as I held a wriggling little four day old lamb in my arms, I thought about Jesus and those Sunday School lessons.

There’s a reason why He’s called the Shepherd. I love that He’ll never get tired of watching out for me, holding me, caring about what will make me grow. He knows when I’m weak, and when I’m strong and when I need protecting.

And I know I need to listen for His voice.

That real-life shepherd probably had no idea I was having my own personal moment with God there in that lambing barn. But I bet my Shepherd was looking down on this particular sheep of His – and smiling.

So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture,
Will give You thanks forever;
We will show forth Your praise to all generations. Psalm 79:14

Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3

As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. Ezekiel 34:12

;

The title of this post isn’t a mistake. I didn’t forget to put in words. That little semi-colon is very much intentional, and Biblically speaking, very significant.

“Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” (Genesis 25:21)

I have to credit my pastor with bringing this to my attention during a sermon a few weeks ago, but do you see that little “;” there between those sentences? That little “;” symbolizes twenty years. Isaac started interceding for his wife when he was 40 years old (Genesis 25:20). And he was 60 years old when Rebekah’s twins were born (Genesis 25:26).

Twenty years.

That’s a long time to pray. We aren’t given details about what those twenty years looked like for Isaac, and maybe God wanted it that way. Maybe God just wanted to remind us, thousands of years later, that He answers prayer. In His timing. In ways specific to our individual stories and our individual needs. My story won’t be like Isaac’s. My “;” will be known only to God until He chooses to reveal the other part of my story.

I looked up the meaning of the semi-colon on a grammar website. It said, “The semi-colon indicates a pause in the series. It is used instead of a full stop or period.”

On those days when I get discouraged, when the interceding and the pleading seem to fall on deaf ears, I’m going to remind myself that I’m just in a pause, not a full stop. God is doing things in the “;” that I just can’t see or understand in this moment. My story won’t be that “Sharon prayed.” It will be that “Sharon prayed;_________”.

I will wait patiently in this pause. Because I know that God is the author of my life and faith. He will write the rest of the sentence someday and that little “;” I’m living in right now will make perfect and complete sense.

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:25

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

Gold

It is because He loves us so much that He tries us by delaying His answers of peace…Love closes the hand of divine bounty and restrains the outflow of favor when it sees that a solid gain will ensue from a period of trial…Who would desire to see the gold taken out of the fire before its waste is consumed? Wait, O precious thing, until you have gained the utmost of purity! These furnace moments when you are in the hands of God are profitable. It would be unwise to shorten such golden hours. The time of the promise corresponds with the time most enriching to the heart and soul.

Charles Spurgeon, from the book “God Promises You” as quoted by Tim Burns in the Bible study titled, “Forged in The Fire”.

But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10

That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:7

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:4