Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Youth Page

Written by Mrs. Doreen Tamminga
It is early morning in Israel. The sun is just rising over the green pastures and in the distance a boy can be seen making his way over the hills. In his hand is a long staff with a crook at the end, which he is using as a walking stick to help him up the steep places. He is a shepherd. Every morning as the sun rises, this boy also rises to take the familyÕs flock out to pasture. His older brothers help his father with sowing, plowing, and harvesting crops in the fields. But being the youngest, he has the job of caring for the sheep.

See the shepherd boy come. He is leading the sheep to water. Running through the valley is a stream, but the sheep will not drink from running water. That is why he is taking them down to where the stream settles into a still pool of water. There the sheep can drink as much as they need. They are nearly there now, but just before they reach the pool, the sheep have to pass down a steep rocky place in the hill. One by one and two by two they bound down over the rough place as the shepherd boy coaxes them on. At last they are all down, all except one.

A young sheep stands at the top of the hill and raises its head to bleat out a cry of fear. It is afraid to come down the steep place. The boy calls the sheep by name, but still it hesitates. At last the boy reaches for his leather sling, chooses a smooth stone, and swinging the sling above his head by its two strings, suddenly lets go of one string. The stone flies high up the hill and lands with a clatter right behind the sheep. Startled, the sheep bounds forward and clambers awkwardly down the rocky hill

The shepherd boy settles down on a rock to wait while the sheep are drinking their fill. Once they have enough, they move away to feed on the thick green grass that grows in this area. And the boy also is hungry. He lays his staff alongside the rock and leans his rod against his knees. Reaching into his scrip, a bag made of dried skin, he pulls out some olives and dried fruit. He will keep the bread and cheese for later in the day.

Time passes, and soon a neighbouring flock is seen coming over the hills. This pool of water is shared by several Israelite farmers, and soon the area is filled with a mixture of sheep: the shepherd boyÕs herd, and the neighbourÕs herd. The sheep mill about, eating the rich grass, and some begin to wander further and further along the stream.

At last, the boy rises to go and calls for his sheep to follow. The sheep lift their heads, and hearing their masterÕs voice, come to him. He counts them as they come. Two are missing. They have followed the stream deeper into the valley, and cannot hear his voice. Quickly, the boy leaves his flock by the pool and runs along the stream looking for the sheep. Rounding a group of rocks, he sees them, feeding in some long grass. He calls urgently to the foolish sheep, so foolish to have left the safety of the flock and the protection of the shepherd to wander in the open, exposed to wild animals. The two sheep hear his voice, and come to him, willing to follow him back to the flock. And so, with every sheep accounted for, they leave the green grass of this area to find other pastures.

Their way now leads over sandier ground, and bushes dot the land. There is some underbrush and trees along the way, and the shepherd boy becomes very watchful now. He pauses suddenly, as he hears a rustle in the bushes. His hand grips his rod tightly, a short thick club with spikes driven in one end. There could be a wild animal prowling nearby, looking for a stray sheep. Waiting silently, his eyes move back and forth scanning the long grass and bushes. His other hand moves to his sling and fits a stone into its leather pouch. The danger passes however, as no animal appears to challenge the shepherd or sheep, and once more he leads his flock on.

At noon the shepherd rests in the shade from the midday sun, and when the afternoon shadows grow long, he leads his flock back to the watering place. There they are refreshed, and as they make their way back to the sheepfold, he calls to them, encourages the slow and tired ones, and gathers the smallest lamb up into his arms to carry it home. There, at the sheepfold, he counts his sheep, as they pass one by one into the narrow doorway. And there, safe within its walls, they can sleep for the night. He will lie down in the doorway. He will keep them safe. For no thieves or animals will get past him.

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What an important job a shepherd has. How much work it takes to feed and protect a flock of sheep! Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd. Just as a shepherd in Israel looks after his sheep, so Jesus will take good care of His people. He will give them joy and peace in their hearts; He will feed their souls with words from the Bible. He will comfort them when they are sad, give them strength when they are weak, and He is preparing a place for them in His heavenly sheepfold where they will be safe forever. This Good Shepherd is calling you by name. Are you one of His flock? Or are you still wandering away from Him? WonÕt you give up your own ways and follow Him?

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