Pastor and Pasture—Two Important Words
The word we use for a scene suitable as habitat for livestock with broad grasslands and maybe a split-rail fence is, “pastoral.” What is the link between those guys up there carefully not wearing suits with this rural vision? Care—Pastoral Care. The word “Pastor” means “shepherd”–One who cares for the sheep.
King David, poet laureate of the Scriptures, gives us the timeless metaphor:
“The Lord is my shepherd.”
The composer of Psalm 100 continues the metaphor:
“We are his people and the sheep of his pasture”
Believers are like sheep?
It may not be flattering to think of Christ-followers as sheep since these animals are not known for the qualities we think are most human: intelligence, creativity, independence, etc. But it is accurate. With all our excellent, highly “evolved” humanity we are still so like sheep. What we need is a good pasture, a safe, abundant place to live and make more sheep.
And, of course, we need a Shepherd. If it is unpleasant to think of ourselves as a dumb sheep, it is just as pleasant to think of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. He makes it OK to be a sheep. We have value because He loves us, is focused upon us, provides for us, disciplines us, and because we know His voice. When He calls us, we come to Him. At night when we need to sleep, He sings over us until we are at rest. When we need to move, He prods us and gets us going. When we need a cause, He gives us one worth moving for.
The pasture in which we are enclosed (not confined!) is His Kingdom.
It is expressed locally as a church, a congregation of fellow believers, a spiritual flock of spiritual sheep. Most are top notch sheep, but some are unruly and stay on the fringes of the flock. Others are stupid and move only by their baser instincts.
- These self-absorbed sheep hear only the bleating of other sheep, not the Shepherd’s beautiful call.
- They stay lost and confused and are always fighting.
- When they wander too far from the safety of the Shepherd’s reach, they too easily and too often become the prey of the many predators sneaking around the pasture.
Out on the edges, there are false shepherds who are themselves predators.
There are also sheep who aren’t real sheep. These conspire to deceive the true sheep with promises of greener pastures outside the fence. They lie. They destroy but they are never satisfied; they never cease to patrol the edges. Some of them even win places in the flock, places where their lies can contaminate the grass, poison the still waters, and alienate the sheep from the Good Shepherd.
The safety of the sheep is in proximity.
Stay away from the edges. Snuggle in close to the Shepherd. Listen carefully to His voice and sing along with Him. Drink deeply from the still waters and feast on the nutrition He has led you to. There is no need to stray, no reason to starve or die of thirst, no reason to roam aimlessly through this world. The Lord is our Shepherd and we are the sheep of His Pasture.
Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song. Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; give thanks to him and call upon his Name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age.
Psalm 23 NIV
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
Mark 6:32-34 NIV
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things
John 10:14-15 NIV
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
Matthew 7:15-16 NIV
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.
John 21:15-18 NIV
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
Lord Jesus, You are my Shepherd! I am safe in Your fold, secure in Your flock, and cared for in Your nearness. Sometimes Your pasture is a noisy place. I will listen carefully for Your voice today. Your call is gentle and always true. Your loving-kindness is the staff in Your hand. Guide me with it, today! We will pause and drink from the still waters and rest in green pastures. We will feast at the table You provide in the face my enemies and no shadow of any valley shall give me fear. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Walking Beside the Still Waters
Words and Music: J.D. Phifer
1. Tired from the day’s pace of living,
Weak from the chaos of sin,
I go down by the still waters,
And talk things over with Him
Walking beside the still waters,
Problems of life will grow dim.
Walking beside the still waters,
Walking and talking with Him.
2. O how I long for that morning,
Free from the chaos of sin,
I’ll go down by those still waters,
And walk forever with Him.
For an article on things sheep should not believe: “Don’t Believe the Lies”
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved