Here in the western world the owl is a symbol of wisdom. It’s an image that goes back to ancient Greece, and possibly beyond. In literature from the Illyad to Winnie the Pooh the owl is the wise one. So which is the dumbest of animals?
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The dumbest of all farm animals, sheep tend to place themselves in danger and will die if not for the ever-present care of a watchful shepherd. A sheep that gets separated from the rest of the flock will often just walk in circles, going nowhere and not eating until they die. Yet a lone sheep is one of the most difficult animals to handle, even with a sheepdog. They are prone to run away from the rest of the flock. A mother sheep who births twins often forgets about the first one and leaves it for the wolves. They cause lot of work and worry for the shepherd, who has to go out of his way to make sure they don’t wander off, eat the wrong plant or do something else stupid. When the bible compares us to sheep, it is not a compliment.
Before referring to us like “sheep who have gone astray” today’s verse gives a prophetic image of the Messiah. It says HE WAS PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS. HE WAS CRUSHED FOR OUR INIQUITIES. THE PUNISHMENT THAT BROUGHT OUR PEACE WAS UPON HIM; AND BY HIS WOUNDS WE ARE HEALED.
Jesus says He is the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. And yet you and I are prone to wander away. How dumb is that? Our shepherd faces the wolves out to steal us from the flock, kill us and eat us; and we sneak through small holes in the fence of a safe pasture as we try to escape His watchful gaze. How dumb is that? We have a good shepherd. He has baaaaad sheep.
The story is told of a Shakespearean actor who was known everywhere for his one-man shows of readings and recitations from the classics. He would always end his performance with a reading of Psalm 23.
Each night, without exception, as the actor began his recitation …. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want“.… the crowd would listen attentively. And then, at the conclusion of the psalm, they would rise in thunderous applause in appreciation of the actor’s incredible ability to bring the verse to life.
One evening the famous actor was visiting a church his friend pastored, and he asked him to recite the psalm. A strange look passed over the actor’s face; he paused for a moment, and said: “I will, but upon one condition; and that is that after I have recited it, that you, my friend, will do the same.”
“Me?” the clergyman, in surprise. “I don’t understand why you’d ask that. However, if that’s what you want, I will do so.”
Standing to his feet, impressively the great actor began the psalm. His voice and his intonation were perfect. He held his audience in rapt attention; and as he finished, a great burst of applause broke from the congregation.
Then, as it died away, the old clergyman arose and began the psalm. His voice was not remarkable; his intonation was not faultless. When he had finished, no sound of applause broke the silence—but there was not a dry eye in the room, and many heads were bowed.
Then the actor rose to his feet again. His voice shook as he laid his hand upon the shoulder of his old friend as he spoke to the church and said: “I reached your eyes and ears, my friends; the pastor reached your hearts. The difference is just this—I know the Twenty-Third Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”
Do you know the shepherd? If not, He’s searching for you and wants you to be part of His flock. HE WAS PIERCED FOR YOUR TRANSGRESSIONS. HE WAS CRUSHED FOR YOUR INIQUITIES. THE PUNISHMENT THAT BROUGHT YOUR PEACE WAS UPON HIM; AND BY HIS WOUNDS YOU ARE HEALED.
There are sheep that are still separated from His flock. The Good Shepherd is searching. The wise old owl knows that the shepherd will find someone today. Of course, his question is “Who? Who?”
While the Good Shepherd is searching for His lost sheep to bring them out of danger, feed them and care for them – some people will just keep walking in circles, going nowhere and eating nothing until they die.
How dumb is that?