Back in my youth pastor days, we would put on a church-wide Passover service every Spring. One year, to better promote the service, I went to a local sheep farmer to see if I could borrow a lamb. My plan was to keep it in our backyard and bring him to church on Sundays. We lived in a parsonage on church property, so logistics once I got the lamb home would be simple. Or so I thought.
The farmer was accommodating, so I put the lamb in the back of my rusted-out Ford with David, one of my High School students, and drove to church.
But the lamb stunk.
The farmer didn’t raise his sheep by bringing them to different fields, he simply brought food in. The result in Lake Charles LA was that they ate whatever food was given, and whatever grew on the ground, down to the ground, and lived in mud. All his sheep were needing sheering, and this one was no exception. So, he (or she, I really don’t remember) had 7-inch-long wool full of mud and other stuff they were living in.
This lamb really stunk.
I had no idea how bad they could stink until we had him living in our backyard for a week or two. Mercy. And they aren’t like a dog that you can train. They just eat and poop and baa all night when you want to sleep.
Anyway, my friend David and I decided we needed to wash this sheep if we were going to bring it to church. Water alone would not cut it. David went and bought a bottle of Woolite, and we got out the hose, and a brush and started scrubbing. That poor lamb. Anyway, once he was kind of clean, we needed to get him dry. We couldn’t. The wool was too thick, and we were concerned about him getting sick overnight when it got cool. So, we hatched a plan.
David went home and got his dad’s lawn and leaf blower. We thought we could use it like a giant hairdryer.
It blew the lamb over.
So, I got on the wet side of the lamb to hold him up, and David blew all the dirty water off of the lamb and onto me.
OK, now to Psalm 23. It begins The LORD is my Shepherd. When God called us the sheep of his pasture, it wasn’t a compliment. He could have called us the ambassadors of His kingdom. Warriors in His army. Water boys of His team. Anything but sheep.
How fantastic it is that the unchanging all-powerful, self-existent Creator of the universe would care about us smelly sheep. How remarkable that He would send His Son.
John 10:7 (NIV) Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
There are so many analogies. Like sheep, we aren’t too bright. In our sin, we smell. God becomes one of us so that our dirt can be taken by Him, blown on him as we become clean. And He pays the price for us.
I read two books on Psalms 23 during our vacation that were helpful. One was an old favorite of my dad’s, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller. It has sold over 2 million copies so far, so I guess my dad was in good company. The other book I read was Traveling Light by Max Lucado. If you want more information on the Psalm, they are both great devotionals.
OH – the is a picture of Lambchops, David, and me from back in the 80s. David is still a dear friend.