“The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and does not care about the sheep.” John 10:13
Lord, I have probably heard the story of the Good Shepherd more than any other of Your parables. I think that was one of the first things I learned about You when we started going to church when I was five years old. I remember seeing a stained glass of You in that church with the shepherd’s crook in your hand, and children around You. Because the other story that profoundly influenced me was how You welcomed the little children that the disciples would have sent away. So, I know You are the Shepherd.
But today, I’m wondering about who this hired man is? And there isn’t a lot said on this word. The Greek word for “hireling” or “hired man” here is “misthotos.” It’s a wage worker. That’s it. It’s all about someone who was given a job to do for certain wages. But it’s not a bad thing. It can be good or bad.
You, Jesus, are not only the gate for Your sheep, for believers. Which is an awesome thing in itself. Because by entering You and entering Your sheepfold, by believing in You and entering into You, we are filled with Your Holy Spirit and saved from eternal damnation, saved unto Your eternal presence, AND equipped to go back into the world to draw others to Your fold. We have free access in You and free access to minister continually! How is that for fullness!
But the way that You minister to Your sheep is what really gets me. It’s what really hits home today. Here is what You continue to say, “I am the Good Shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep.” The point is, You are not just taking care of some sheep here. It’s not o.k. with You if a couple are lost here and there. You are not worried about numbers or a good percentage. You would actually give Your life to save these sheep and to keep them all safe. Now that’s a shepherd.
Come to think of it, You told me about another shepherd like that once before. His name was David. I think he was willing to give his life for his sheep. He fought off bears and lions to keep his sheep safe. I wonder if all shepherds would do that? Well, I guess I don’t have to wonder too long, because that was part of Your point in the verse I chose today. Not all shepherds would die for their sheep.
Obviously, David was one of those good hired men who would die for his sheep. And I guess it all boils down to what wages I am working for. There are lots of people who think they are “working” for You. Some have placed their trust completely in You and are. Some have placed their trust in You but haven’t completely handed themselves over. And some are trusting in their wages, not You. Still others, well, they are just doing what comes naturally. So, what are the wages?
I guess part of it boils down to whether the wages I see myself as receiving are just for my benefit. If the wages I’m looking forward to are to be experienced by me now, then my demise would negate my wages. My life becomes about the wages and not the sheep. The sheep are not my priority, they are just a means to my own gain. My passion is for the wage, not the sheep. So I run for the wages and leave the sheep.
But, I can still be a hired man and choose not to run. What if I realize that my wage and my position as a shepherd depend on the fluffiness and wellness of my sheep? What if I realize that my Benefactor’s whole “income” is based on this “livelihood.” He is all about these sheep. To lose a sheep is to disappoint this Benefactor. He holds them as dear. And what if, because of how dearly I held this Benefactor, I treasured these sheep just as dearly because they represented Him? And now my wage is more than the money I receive. The wage is the response of the Benefactor to me. Now, having a “Well done!” is more precious to me than the money received. Now, His sheep, become my sheep. His treasure, becomes my treasure. And now I would agonize over these sheep. I would fight lions and bears over these sheep. I would risk my life for them.
And now I think back to David. I wonder if David so much wanted his father to notice him and be pleased with him that he treated these sheep like his dad’s own personal treasures? Because, I’m thinking David didn’t get much attention. Face it, when Samuel came, David’s dad hadn’t even called him in. The thought of David hadn’t even crossed his mind. He was pretty insignificant. But all boys want to be loved and valued by their dads. And David was so hungry for that relationship that he would have given his life for his dad’s sheep.
David had another good thing going for him. He was a boy after God’s own heart. He already knew how to meditate in God’s Word and to dwell on Him. Which makes this whole shepherd heart even more exciting. I wonder if, as David was meditating on Your Words, he focussed in on Moses’ prayer in Numbers 27? “Lord God, source of all life, appoint, I pray, a man who can lead the people and can command them in battle, so that your community will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” I wonder if You, Lord, spoke those words so that one day a young boy named David would hear them and be encouraged? Who would have thought to equate a shepherd with a man who can lead the people and command them in battle? Sounds to me like Your idea of a shepherd is quite brave.
So, am I an outside hireling who hasn’t even got a shepherd heart? Or am I a hired servant with a shepherd’s heart? And, have I got the Shepherd’s heart for the sheep? What would I sacrifice to keep others safe in the Lord? What would I sacrifice to be able to feed others in You? What would I sacrifice to lead others in Your way and to lead others to Your living water? Woudl I die to self? Would I give up things. Do I expect wages? Or do I see each safe sheep as my wage? Are they the value of my work? Are they the ultimate treasure I work for to be able to present them back to my lead Shepherd?
Actually this whole shepherding experience is a miracle in itself. When has anyone ever heard of a sheep becoming a shepherd? But that’s exactly what You do. You take a mangy, matty, silly sheep and turn it into a shepherd like You. And then, because I was one of those sheep first, and You loved me when I was all mangy, matty, and silly, I can look on the other sheep and love them. I was one too. And I was loved by You. And then You transfom me into a shepherd, a shepherd like You, a shepherd with a heart for the sheep. I know You. I know Your voice. I know sheep. And now I can teach them to hear Your voice.
Lord, I am so grateful that You made me one of Your sheep. I am so eternally grateful that You opened my ears so I could hear You and I could learn to distinguish Your voice and that I’ve fallen in love with Your voice and You. You alone are my Wage and You alone are worth my life and everything. And what You love is worth everything to me. I want to love what You love. I want to be passionate over what You are passionate over. Lord, make me a faithful shepherd. I want to be willing and able to give my life for Your sheep. I want to care. I mean, I want to really care as deeply as You care and I can’t do that without You putting that in my heart. God, thank You for this miraculous transformation. Keep transforming me, Lord, that I will be more and more like You every day!