A meditation on John 10:1-5
The prophet Isaiah spoke about a time without hunger or thirst, but that isn’t the case today. The little one’s tummy is empty in these pre-dawn hours. She opens her sleepy eyes to gauge the time.
The heavens unfold above her,
the moon and the stars come in to focus;
each one’s place in the sky
set by the finger of Yahweh.
Rolling to her right she sees moonlight reflecting off pieces of glass. Bits of blue and green and white twinkle along the top of the barrier that circles her. Pretty, yes, but also protective.
She’d seen it happen just last week. Robbers working together outside the stone wall to lean up a ladder and scale its six-foot height. They had quietly scooped up the vulnerable ones and passed them back over the wall into waiting, malicious arms.
“Thief!” she had wanted to cry out. She knew their intentions. Their entrance told her everything she needed to know. Those who don’t come in the front gate desire only to steal, to kill, and to destroy.
But it had all happened so quickly, so insidiously. Squeezing the tears out of her eyes she prays, “Good Shepherd, please protect those who walk in the valley of the shadow of death. Prepare before them a banquet in the presence of the enemy. Thank you for redeeming even broken glass and sharp thorns by embedding them across the walls of this resting place.”
A gentle breeze moves across the fold. The scent is comforting, like the cedars of Lebanon. As if all around them the trees are standing guard and whispering.
Goodness and mercy will pursue you,
all the days of your life.
The sky slowly turns from sparkly black to warm pink. Members of the flock near her begin to stretch their legs, soft creaks and pops echoing off the stones. From the other side of the wall she hears the familiar voice drawing close.
“Good morning!” says the Shepherd to the watchman. “You may open the gate now, I AM here.”
“Good morning, Good Shepherd” comes the reply. “The heavens declared Yahweh’s majesty last night and all was calm.”
“Good,” says the Shepherd, eyes twinkling. “Very good.”
Coming down the lane behind Him are other shepherds, the kind the prophet Ezekiel had spoken about.
Woe to the shepherds who do not care!
Those clothed in wool who do not
strengthen the weak,
heal the sick,
bind up the injured,
bring back the strays, or
search for the lost.
These herders eagerly, greedily approach the gate, but keep a wary eye on the Shepherd. Inside the fold there is much jostling. Noses and shoulders bump as the flock rights itself and begins to funnel into the street. All are hungry.
Above the shuffle of feet comes the sound she has learned to love.
“Haa, haa, ta’o, ta’o,” calls the Shepherd.
She tips her head to discern the direction of His voice. To the east, someone plays a shepherd’s pipe and many of her nighttime companions follow the tune. She continues to listen, not yet moving her feet.
It comes again. “Haa, haa, ta’o, ta’o.” But this time it doesn’t sound right. The cadence seems too fast; the timber is too harsh. Yet a part of the mass peels off down the street towards the ill-tuned voice.
Closing her eyes, she listens, really listens for the gentle, soothing voice. The voice that promises and delivers green pastures and quiet waters.
“Haa, haa, ta’o, ta’o! All of you, come here!”
There He is! Straight ahead. She hears and sees Him now. In the sunlight He stands with rod, staff, and oil. He’s calling each one in His flock by name.
“Come to me, Bright Eye and Split Ear.
Come to me, Beloved and Redeemed.
Come to me, Weary One and Brokenheart.
I AM the door. Come out and follow me.”
Hearing her name and knowing His voice, she crosses the opening and moves up beside her Good Shepherd. He continues to call out names, making sure that all His own are indeed with Him.
“Come to me, Rascal and Tenderheart.
Follow me, Fighter and Fearful.”
As she stands there, dreaming of the coming feast, other voices can be heard. A stranger to the right offers a glittering buffet of treats. “Come and get it! I can give you what you want without delay. Why wait a little longer?”
She turns her head away only to find another unfamiliar voice. This one whispers, “Did he really call your name? It was probably a misunderstanding. He only wants those who are important, successful, and perfect in his flock. Come, I can help you get those things.”
The words unsettle her. She leans into the Shepherd, rubbing against His cloak, urging Him to move on. Yet, He waits until the entire mixed mass of wooly creatures has sorted itself out and each sheep has heard and followed its own shepherd.
Only then does He turn to lead them. Only then does He embark toward the promised land. Never driving them. Always going before to mark the path. She hears him sing.
“Haa, haa, ta’o, ta’o!
All of you, come here!
For the LORD is the shepherd,
we shall not be in want.
Fear no evil,
for you are with Me.
Together we will dwell
in the house of the LORD forever.”
She moves her feet along the paths of righteousness, following the sound of His voice.