By Paul Goddard
“The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests, and his own, are the same” (Henri-Marie Beyle).
On July 24, 1923, Nicholas Brodie Hardeman and Ira Arthur Douthitt stood between the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, west of the Jordan River. Douthitt described their view:
“Here we watched the shepherds keeping their flocks. We counted thirteen flocks from where we were standing. Our guide told us he wanted to illustrate to us the lesson of John 10. He called several shepherds and their flocks together, and when he had them well bunched, about 2,500 sheep or more, he told us to watch them and remember the Bible lesson. One shepherd started calling his sheep. They all did the same going in different directions. Every man’s sheep followed the right shepherd, and we were soon left standing alone.” /1
As described, Palestinian shepherds do not drive their flocks while moving them to pasture. Instead of goading (Ecclesiastes 12:11), they go ahead of the flock, calling their sheep to follow. Each ram, ewe, and lamb recognizes the voice, and they follow their shepherd.
Sheep have always had metaphorical significance in scripture (Psalm 23:1-6). That is why Jesus used a metaphor in John 10:15 when he referred to his followers. “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
When is the last time you heard the voice of Jesus? When the Good Shepherd calls, will you respond? Christian, are you up for the task?
“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.”
— Will Thompson
1/ I.A. Douthitt, My Trip Abroad (Paducah, Kentucky: Abernathy, 1924), 77. N.B. Hardeman and I.A. Douthitt toured Europe, Egypt, Greece, and Palestine, in 1923. Hardeman was from Henderson, Tennessee, and Douthitt was from Sedalia, Kentucky.