Our Shepherd’s Voice
Have you ever questioned why G–d refers to human beings as sheep in the Tanach? Is it because we’re cute and cuddly? Maybe it’s because sheep (people) like to run about merrily. There are other reasons that would be more accurate; however, the ones mentioned certainly contribute. Running wild in an open field, aimlessly, certainly invites mischief. Sheep need constant care, direction, and protection from a shepherd, just as man needs their Shepherd.
“We have all strayed like sheep, each of us turning his own way, and HASHEM inflicted upon him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
We may not always understand Hashem’s ways, but His ways surpass our understanding. Having raised sheep, I can testify that our sheep needed proper direction, protection, and constant care.
I would like to tell two short stories about two different flocks of sheep. It will be fairly easy to understand the connection to why people are referred to as “sheep.”
The first group was a wild bunch–a mixed multitude of breeds. Most were the typical fluffy sheep, white in color; however, there was an additional sheep that was a blackish-cinnamon mix in the fold. Even though he was different from the others, he enjoyed spending the day with the other sheep. Sheep are very social animals and share in the joy of eating and sleeping together. They are often seen running gleefully in all directions.
Whenever I walked into the pasture and called out his name, he would stop what he was doing and run to me. Often, centered in the middle of the crowded flock, it was extraordinary to see his head pop-up every time he heard the familiar voice of his shepherdess.
I do believe that is the response Hashem loves to see when He calls to us. Will we hear and obey (Shema)? As His flock, we need to recognize Hashem’s voice and know Him by His Name (Isaiah 52:6), believe G–d reigns, and raise our voices, singing in glad song. Hashem’s sheep, like my blackish-cinnamon mixed lamb, are to be obedient and run to Him joyfully. We are reminded in Psalms 23 that Hashem is our Shepherd and He will guide, comfort, and protect us.
While raising sheep, they constantly needed their shepherd (my husband) or shepherdess (me) nearby. If the lambs found a gap in the fence, they would crawl under it. We also had a mischievous neighbor (children) who liked to open the gate occasionally. There were large dogs that lived down the road that delighted in chasing sheep and relished having lamb chops for dinner. The sheep were naïve and carefree; unable to detect danger.
They had plentiful water, grass, and feed to eat, but they seemed to never hesitate to wander off. One would hope since they followed each other out of the pasture, that upon returning home, they would follow suit. NOPE! It wasn’t easy getting them back into their pasture. They would go in separate directions; willfully-minded! Does that sound familiar?
“‘HASHEM said to the Satan, Where is it that you are coming from? “The Satan answered G–d, and said, “From wandering and walking about the earth.’” (Job 2:2)
Like the dogs desired lamb chops, the Adversary prowls along…seeking someone to devour. When His sheep choose to follow their own agenda, we become easy prey for Satan (haSatan).
Sheep can become alarmed and separate rapidly. Imagine holding a dandelion in your hand, blowing it, and watching the seeds scatter in the wind. When frightened by sounds and sight, sheep scatter in like manner.
Sheep have excellent hearing and rely heavily on their eyesight. If one loses its way and gets stuck in a corner, all it sees is darkness. The poor sheep is unable to figure out that all it needs to do is back up and turn around. It could simply turn its face to the light to be out of darkness—freed from bondage. Sadly, if the shepherd doesn’t notice the trouble the sheep is in, it will remain in darkness, alone and depraved of sustenance, leading to death. Likewise, without turning our face to His light we will remain spiritually dead and starve to death. We need the guidance and protection of Hashem who brings our redemption. Will we turn toward His Light? Hashem’s Light is Truth (Emet).
What of the second group of sheep? The previous owner had neglected them. They continually went into other farmer’s fields searching for food. My husband and I took in this drove of sheep. They were the black-faced sheep called Suffolks. They were pregnant and in four to six weeks they would be ready for lambing. They were very scrawny and needed proper nutrition in order to deliver healthy live lambs.
We provided for their nutritional needs. We prepared with specialized paint, iodine, string, and a clean sheepfold so everything would be ready when the time came for the mommies to deliver. Of course, when the time arrived, it was almost midnight during a BLIZZARD! Thankfully, we had a spotlight set up from the house that shined light towards the corral and sheepfold. While my husband was at his place of employment, I was on watch. Sure enough they had begun to deliver—all at once! I was grateful for all preparations we had done. Sheep become anxious easily. Lambing can be challenging enough. The blizzard intensified their tensions. The stressed ewes would deliver their young, stand up, and walk off. The umbilical cord not yet cut, the lamb would be in tow—connected to the umbilical cord! Yes, I was a little apprehensive as well.
I had string, scissors, iodine, and special paints ready for action. Trying to keep a ewe immobile long enough to tie the strings, apply iodine, dab on some paint, and cut the umbilical cord was a bit like a well-choreographed musical. Sheep don’t always accept their offspring and it’s important to identify which lamb belongs to which ewe. The paint is used to mark the same alphabetic letter on the mommy and her lamb in the same color. The letter/paint system came in handy considering all thirteen- fourteen sheep delivered twins and triplets!
The ewes delivered their lambs wherever they were; on top of snow drifts or the muddy banks in their large pen! While some acknowledged their lambs, others were first-time moms and didn’t know what to do. I am happy to announce a good report that a shepherdess can be a midwife for her flock with multiple deliveries without assistance!
As a shepherdess, I was responsible for supplying their provisions, assisting with deliveries, guiding them to where they were supposed to be, and providing the opened doorway into a clean warm sheepfold. Their fresh food and water were readily available. I cannot recall the amount lambed-out, but it had to have been over thirty lambs. It had been a long, cold winter’s night.
One of the lambs wasn’t doing well. I took it inside our heated home to provide additional care (I had placed him on the bathroom floor and wrapped him in bath towels to keep him warm). Unfortunately, the poor lamb couldn’t retain its temperature. My heart broke when he died. I felt so helpless and wept at the loss of this little lamb in spite of the many survivors. Even though I lost one lamb during that horrible blizzard, others have voiced that it was remarkable to have lost only one lamb under those circumstances. It was heart-wrenching to have lost just that one. As a shepherdess, wrapping the lamb in towels reminds me of when Hashem clothed Isaiah in His salvation and righteousness:
“I will rejoice intensely with HASHEM, my soul will exult with my G–d, for He has dressed me in the raiment of salvation, in a robe of righteousness has He cloaked me, like a bridegroom who exalts [himself] with splendor, like a bride who bedecks herself with her jewelry.” (Isaiah 61:10)
Hashem sees all and places His spotlight upon the Torah—Light. He has given us “Free Will” to choose “Life” or “Death.” Will we stay in Hashem’s sheepfold, close to the Master, follow His Ways, or will we choose to wander our way—away?
“[He is] like a shepherd who grazes his flock; who gathers the lambs in his arm, who carries them in his bosom, who guides the nursing ewes.” (Isaiah 40:11)
Here is another very interesting parallel for us to gleam from:
“‘Our teachers have said: Once, while Moses our Teacher was tending [his father-in-law] Yitro’s sheep, one of the sheep ran away. Moses ran after it until it reached a small, shaded place. There, the lamb came across a pool and began to drink. As Moses approached the lamb, he said, “I did not know you ran away because you were thirsty. You are so exhausted!” He then put the lamb on his shoulders and carried him back. The Holy One said, “Since you tend the sheep of human beings with such overwhelming love—by your life, I swear you shall be the shepherd of My sheep, Israel.’”(Shemot Rabbah 2:2)
As His sheep, we may not always do things correctly. We might stand dumbfounded in a dark corner, lie in the mud, or just walk around aimlessly before we begin to learn to follow Torah.
We need to turn our face away from the dark corners in our lives and look to G–d. He will guide our feet in His paths of righteousness. He guides and provides for us. He breathes Life! Hashem is Sovereign, and the Torah is our lamp and a light to our feet (Proverbs 6:23). Will we turn our faces toward Him? Will we come running to our Shepherd who prepares a table for us as written in Psalms 23? Will we trust in Hashem and in His promises?
It’s important to learn to ignore the many counterfeit voices calling out to us. Those other voices are an imitation, only seeming authentic. When we walk in His Ways, His Torah, we will become refined; discerning the difference and easily identify the truth.
Let’s do a comparison with Jeremiah 23:1-2 and Ezekiel 34:1-22 (read the entire context).
The Coming Messiah—the Righteous Branch:
“Woe to the shepherds who lose and scatter My sheep of pasture!—the word of HASHEM. 2 Therefore, thus said HASHEM, G–d of Israel concerning the shepherds who tend My people: You have scattered My sheep and dispersed them, and you did not pay attention to them; behold, therefore, I visit upon you the wickedness of your deeds—the word of HASHEM. 3 And I shall gather together the remnant of My sheep from all the lands wherein I had dispersed them, and I shall bring them back to their cotes, and they will be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will establish shepherds for them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid nor be terrified nor suffer losses—the word of HASHEM.” (Jeremiah 23:1-4)
Hashem has clearly sent a warning. The G–d of Israel has His hand upon Israel. He will gather His chosen ones (His sheep), the remnant, as well as the non-Jews who will be grafted into Israel—not the other way around. In other words, contrary to the false teachings of replacement theology, the Jews were NEVER removed from the Covenant that was given to them on Mount Sinai, or replaced, by G–d, our Creator!
“My sheep wander on all the mountains and upon every high hill; My sheep have scattered upon the whole face of the earth, but no one seeks and no one searches. 7 Therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of HASHEM: 8 As I live—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM—[I swear] that because My sheep have become spoils, and my sheep have become food for every beast of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not seek out My sheep, for the shepherds tended themselves, but did not tend My flock— 9 therefore, shepherds, hear the words of HASHEM! 10 Thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will seek out My flock from their hand, and I will cause them to cease herding sheep, and the shepherds will no longer tend themselves; thus I will rescue My sheep from their mouths, and they will no longer be food for them. 11 For thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM: Behold, I am here, and I will seek out my sheep and I will tend them. 12 As a shepherd tends his flock on the day he is among his separated sheep, so I will tend to My sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on the day of cloud and thick cloud. 13 I will remove them from the peoples and gather them from the lands and bring them to their soil, and I will tend them upon the mountains of Israel, in the streams and in all the land’s habitations. 14 I will shepherd them upon good pasture and their fold will be upon the heights of Israel’s mountains; there they will lie down in a good fold and graze upon fat pastures, on the mountains of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:6-14)
The days are drawing near when Hashem will gather His scattered “sheep” and will bring them home into the Land of Israel—The New Jerusalem for the Kingdom of G–d. Hashem will take vengeance on those who have brought harm to His Sheep, as well as on those who led His sheep astray with false doctrines. He will seek after His sheep to bring them Home into the Land of Good Pasture, Israel, protected by Hashem!
~The Restoration Of All Israel~
Israel is G–d’s flock. In His timing, Hashem will bring all of Israel back home to the Land of Israel completely restored. Those who have brought harshness and deep affliction upon the “Apple of His Eye,” causing scattering, assimilation, division, and unspeakable conduct such as the Holocaust, will not escape the Day of Judgment. No amount of evil will ever crush the Light of the Jewish people, for HASHEM’s Chosen ones carry the Light to the Nations!
“They will no longer be spoils for the nations, and the beasts of the land will no longer devour them; they will dwell securely, and none will make [them] afraid. 29 I will establish for them a planting of renown, and they will no longer be decimated by famine in the land, and they will no longer bear the shame of the nations. 30 Then they will know that I, HASHEM their G-d, am with them, and that they are MY people, the House of Israel—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM. 31 Now, you are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are Man; I am your G–d—the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM” (Ezekiel 34: 28-31)
Israel will be planted firmly in their land; forever under the protection of G–d. Nothing will come up against them with fear or harm.
“HASHEM will be the King over all the land; on that day HASHEM will be One and His Name will be One.” (Zechariah 14:9)
We are called to “trust” G–d for His ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The ways of man lead to death (Proverbs 14:12). Man’s ways of understanding leave out the Ruach (Spirit). When the Ruach is left out, the flesh leads; disregarding the Ruach. The Ruach is to lead (head), the Nefesh (flesh) is the feet (lowest on body). We are at dirt level when the Nefesh leads. We are called to trust the Will of G–d. When we trust in Hashem, we affirm our faith in Him.
As Hashem’s sheep, we will encounter many hardships during our journey in “our wilderness.” On our journey, though difficult, we will learn that Hashem does everything for our good. Learning to accept that, our Emunah is strengthened by trusting in Hashem’s promises.
“Emunah” is a Hebrew word which means having the faith that goes beyond belief. It’s the understanding that G–d is above us and much wiser—Sovereign. It’s the acceptance that throughout life, our trials and tribulations become lessons learned for our benefit.
“Bitachon” is a Hebrew word which means “Trust.” It’s a powerful sense of optimism and confidence built on Emunah. Bitachon gives us the confidence to accept the trials with the ability to move forward in life. Sometimes life brings many hardships, failures, loss of loved ones, tragedy and brokenness. Emunah is the ability to reach into our past without fear or anger, grasp it, and have the “Bitachon” knowing that we can stand up from our brokenness and take those difficult steps forward.
“Faith/Emunah” is when we accept the brokenness and difficulties in our life and truly see the validity in the lessons given for our benefit in order to grow in His righteousness (whether we understand its reasons or not) is spiritual maturity. Trusting G–d with all things is accepting, knowing, and believing that no matter what trials are given Hashem has our best interest in all things. G–d is Good!
For His Glory!
 Isaiah 53:6, The Stone Edition, Tanach
 Job 2:2, The Stone Edition, Tanach
 Isaiah 61:10, The Stone Edition, Tanach
 Isaiah 40:11, The Stone Edition, Tanach
 Jeremiah 23:1-3-4, The Stone Edition, Tanach
 Ezekiel 34: 6-13, The Stone Edition, Tanach
 Ezekiel 34: 28-31, The Stone Edition, Tanach
 Zechariah 14:9, The Stone Edition, Tanach