It's Time to be a Sheep!
This month your family gets to be among the most beloved and useful animals in the Bible. You are going to act like sheep! These clever animals are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible and their history goes back to 9000 B.C. when it's believed they were imported to Palestine.
The framework for this month of sheep-activities is the familiar verses from Psalm 23 where God is shown to be our guiding shepherd. You can look it up in your King James Bible as I quote lines from Eugene Peterson's "The Message" paraphrase. And with each verse, you will learn more about sheep, about yourself as God's lambs, and about something interesting your family can think about or do. Here are the verses from the Peterson paraphrase:
- "God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing." In Biblical times, sheep were precious -- they supplied meat, milk, hides for clothing, horns as oil containers and musical instruments, and of course, wool. You are precious, and God supplies all you need – a good idea, a solution to a problem, necessary funds, a lost item, a tangible material need. With God, you "don't need a thing."
- "You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from." Shepherds supply safe enclosures for the night hours - you may recall that the night of Jesus' birth, the shepherds were guarding their resting sheep (See Luke 2: 8). The safe place might be a cave or an area surrounded by bramble. But, after a day of munching on plants (sheep's favorite snack), they need to drink. Sheep cannot slurp from rushing water, so the Shepherd must find the still waters. Let’s consider your bedtime routine and how to make it a happy one - a quiet pool. Perhaps yours can include a quiet game or reading aloud, a snack, a drink of water, and then kids go to bed with parents watching over them. Find new ways to make "going to bed" even more enjoyable at your house.
- "True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction." It is amazing that the shepherd knows each sheep by name, and each sheep only responds to the voice of its own shepherd. Your Shepherd God knows each family member personally and, when listened to, the Shepherd leads His lambs in the right direction. Each family member is listening only to His voice. Do your family members take time daily to listen to what God is saying to them?
- "Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure." The crook, or rod and staff, as it says in the King James version, are symbols of guidance. The shepherd can actually pick up a lamb that has fallen in a crevice by using his crook. So it is that the mistakes we make are not permanent; God picks us up and moves us onward. Talk about how mistakes in the family have been resolved in the past and how a current problem can be settled through expressing God's caring wisdom and love.
- "You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head, my cup brims with blessings." What are your enemies -- lack of money, bullies at school, a sour relationship? God's meal, His abundance of good, can make all those things into blessings. Actually prepare a small-portioned six-course dinner (cheese and crackers, soup, salad, main dish, bread/vegetable, dessert). With each course, lift those drooping heads with a realization that God doesn't even acknowledge enemies. We are reminded in Ezekiel 34:11-16 that God as shepherd never forgets us and delivers us in dark days, overcoming sickness, and reviving those who think they have lost their way.
- "Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life." In the New Testament, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12) and the joy of bringing that lamb back home. You have really never left that safe haven. No matter what you think of your surroundings, you are a beloved lamb of God, your forever shepherd.