Daily Devotion – April 20, 2021 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

John 10:11-18
10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
10:12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away–and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
10:13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.
10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
10:15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
10:16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

This shepherd is inextricably linked to the sheep. This shepherd is not new to the game – from the beginning of time this shepherd and each sheep have been connected – by love – to one another. This shepherd knows the sheep and how they panic during a threat. The shepherd knows how distractable the sheep are, how they wander off. But this shepherd has a vested interest in keeping each one of them. And keeping all of them from harm.

A person could be insulted to be likened to a sheep. But I don’t spend a lot of time worried about what might be insulting to me. I just think of all the sorts of gods there have been in literature and in cultures from the beginning of recorded history, and very few gods have shown up who care this much about their creatures. Really. Think about it. Most gods you have heard or read about are more interested in exploiting the humans they are in charge of or demanding sacrifices of them than caring for them to the extent that a shepherd looks after his flock.

This is some other kind of god. This one, God, the Ruler/Creator/Redeemer of the Universe, and of every single soul in it, is willing to lay down his life for the sheep in order to protect the sheep. This one is interested in the fate of each sheep, no matter how distractable, no matter how stubborn. This one wants the sheep healthy and safe. For the coming few days, I am resolving to wake up in the morning and think for a solid minute about the sort of god who does NOT just use human beings as playthings but who cares about the health and safety of each person, whether the person knows it or not.

And then I promise to reflect some time during that same day on what I am doing that day to care for the health and safety of any fellow sheep I might encounter on that day.  Will you join me?

Gracious God, Thank you for loving us. Thank you for being our God, the one who loves us no matter what. Even though we are often as stubborn and distractible as sheep.   Amen.