I opened the curtains and peered into the morning darkness. The light was just beginning to spread across the skyline, brushing the snowy landscape with an unusual shade of blue.  My breath left a vapour on the chilled windowpane.

As I used my sleeve to brush away the haze, I noticed a large sheep gazing serenely at me as he paused along the barb wire fence separating the field from the small cottage in the Scottish highlands that we had rented for the weekend.

It was as though the sheep and the frosty blue morning were beckoning for me to join them. So I bundled up,  left the warmth of the crackling fire, and entered into the hushed wintery stillness.

Meandering along the snowy road, the silence was broken by the bleating of the sheep. They were huddled under the crest of a hill, desperately trying to stay out of the biting winter wind.

As the light shifted, I noticed that the sheep’s backs were spray painted with large patches of colour. Some of the sheep had been painted with two different coloured patches. Curious about this, I later asked the owner of the croft the reasons behind the spray paint.

He told me that owners spray paint a large spot on their sheep’s backs so when they share a pasture or a one escapes they can easily identify whose sheep it is and make sure it is safely returned to its rightful owner. And those painted with two colours, the second colour patch is used to indicate that they are expecting. In this way, the shepherds can be more mindful of the expectant mothers.

His response stirred me to thinking about our Good Shepherd.

“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.  As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.  And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.  I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice” (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

 And, I am the good shepherd…. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15)

There is a deep comfort in this image of God as a Shepherd. For as a good shepherd, He has identified us as belonging to Him. He is mindful of us. He protects, guides, and gathers us. He provides for us. He makes us lie down in green pastures, and ensures we rest. He is our living water. And when we stray and become lost, He pursues us and draws us back into safety.

The Good Shepherd knows us, marking us as His beloved.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Blegun Wschodni, Unsplash

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