August 25, 2011

Regarding Sheep

Posted in Obedience, Sheep, Shepherd at 10:45 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Sometimes they are so hurt,
So smudged with dirt,
A careless shepherd might
Forget they’re white
And beautiful when neat.
But hear them bleat!
They’re always needy,
Even greedy,
And rarely do they crave
The things that save,
Yet foolishly they blame
The one who came
To gently pasture them
And bring them home to Him.

Their Chief Shepherd, through the years,
Instructs their feeble ears
To heed His firm but tender voice,
So that they make the choice
To find contentment in the fold,
His safe, secure stronghold.
Then as they learn to trust,
Avoid the mire and dust,
And feed in pastures richly green,
Their lives become serene.
Beside the crystal waters still,
They deeply drink their fill,
Then follow Him down any road
For His way leads to His abode.

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

I have always been fascinated by the Biblical concept of God’s people as sheep and Himself as their Shepherd. I think if we were going to describe ourselves we wouldn’t choose anything as mundane as sheep. We would want to be known as sleek racehorses, perhaps willful, but even in our willfulness a creature to be admired for strength and beauty. But that is not who we are. Having wandered away on the thorny, treacherous mountain of sin, we are neither lovely nor admirable. We are scuffed and bloody and tangled with thorns. What’s even worse is that we are silly enough to be prone to wander away from the very love and goodness that should drive us home. We have all gone astray like lost sheep (Isaiah 53:6). But there is hope, for there is a Good Shepherd who fills our every need, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Furthermore, He has risen to the heights of heaven and intercedes for us. Though it is ultimately the Chief Shepherd who leads His people, there are earthly shepherds who assist Him with keeping us from going astray, and I thank God for those who take their ministry seriously enough to seek after the sheep with whom they have been entrusted.

One of my favorite pieces in Handel’s Messiah is the setting for Isaiah 53:6-7, in which Handel uses tone painting first to represent the light, airy, staccato movement of sheep skipping over the meadows and mountains. But then the tone of the wording turns somber, along with the music, which continues in a minor key with long, drawn out phrases repeated by the various voices, all resolving in a tragically beautiful harmony for the words “The iniquity of us all.” I certainly had that piece in mind when I wrote my first long verse of short, quick staccato lines. Then in the second verse, each line is longer and the words are chosen for a more peaceful, less frantic sound, just as our lives become when we follow the Shepherd. Finally, the title has a triple meaning. I’ve used regarding to mean “about,” “to look on,” “to show concern for,” and “to esteem.” There is nothing in us that would cause our Lord to esteem us, yet He gave His Son to redeem us.

My notes indicate that this poem was written on 2/7/03 at 6:09 PM. I’m not quite sure why I thought it important to record the time, but there it is. I then revised it on 4/7/03, 02/16/05, and 07/01/07. I wish I could remember why it needed so much revision. And what time of day it was revised on those days.

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