Last time we looked at the first part of verse 3 of Psalm 100-“Know that the Lord is God.” Today, in the second half of the verse we learn one reason to trust that the Lord is God: “It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
A long time ago, when I was learning about the many religions of the world, I told my father, “I’d rather be a sheep than a sacred cow.” That was based more on the fact that sheep are fuzzy and soft looking while cows aren’t that soft and cuddly. Sheep, on the other hand, need more care than cows so they don’t get in trouble.
Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10). A shepherd has to watch out for his flock all the time. Sheep will wander off and fall off a cliff or drown in a stream if the shepherd isn’t watchful. (Last Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday, so these readings are probably fresh in your minds.)
Like sheep, we tend to prefer to wander off. Isaiah reminds us “we, like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6). We like to look for greener pastures than the one set in front of us by our Shepherd. Along the way, we can fall off a cliff or drown in a stream, too. Like the story in the Gospel, the shepherd has to “leave the 99 in the wilderness, to seek the one that is lost.” This image of the Good Shepherd (by Alfred Soord) always touches me with a reminder of how far the Shepherd, our Lord, must sometimes go to rescue us. He is hanging over a cliff to retrieve the lost sheep.
Slowly, over our lives, we may just learn to listen to the voice of our Shepherd above the siren calls of the world. More often, out of love, the Shepherd has to come and find us and bring us home to safety.
God made us to be individuals and not puppets, so we have the free will to wander off. God made us as ‘his people, the sheep of his pasture.’ We are in his care, even (maybe especially) when we wander afield. We have the promise that God will seek and save us from our wanderings. That is one way we can ‘know that the Lord is God.’ Feeling safe in our Shepherd’s care is certainly a reason to ‘make a joyful noise’ as verse one says. It also leads us into verse 4 where we are encouraged to ‘enter his courts with thanksgiving…’
You can read another Good Shepherd meditation from last Sunday here. Next time we will consider what it means to 'enter his courts with thanksgiving...!'