Isaiah 40:11 CSB
He protects his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them in the fold of his garment.
Many times in scripture, Jesus is likened to a shepherd. We, as Christians have grown comfortable with the imagery of us in a flock, being watched over by him. But this morning as I prayed, the Holy Spirit quickened me to remember that those in his flock have the ability to be somewhere off in the field, or intimately close to him. The one that is farther from him is still beloved. That lamb is still covered with all the goodness and mercy listed in Psalm 23. But don’t you know it is one thing to be a part of a herd and it is another thing entirely to be so close to him that we rest in the folds of his garments? Would you believe me if I told you there is more available to those who put themselves in close proximity to the Good Shepherd?
You see, the sheep who stays closest to the shepherd reminds me of the pet that is always underfoot. I have a pug like that. She receives extra morsels from the table, even getting ahold of some tasty things that were never even meant for her. (Think about that for a moment from a spiritual perspective!) This kind of pet receives a gentle touch more often than the one who is uninterested in closeness with the master. The needy pet receives a greater portion of the master’s affection, not because it is more loved but because it is undeniable because of its proximity. Are you starved for a touch from the Lord? Do you feel cut off from his affection? Perhaps it is time to position yourself differently, my friend.
It reminds me of my sister-in-law Kinsey who lives in Wichita, mere miles from her mom, who we lovingly call Grammy. Because Kinsey lives so close by, Grammy knows when one of the kids is sick or needs something repaired. If she finds out one of her grandkids has a broken bike, she might just pick up the needed part while she is out at the store and drop it by for them. Does Grammy love Kinsey’s kids more than mine? Of course not, but because of proximity she knows their need before they ask (Matt. 6:8) and like any good Grammy she meets it with great joy. The bible says that there are endless pleasures in God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11). I can’t help but think that the sheep that stays close to the shepherd is quick to sniff out those pleasures and lay hold of them.
As one so close that we are ‘carried in the fold of his garment,’ I can’t help but think of the healing virtue available there that we read about in Luke 8. When the woman in this passage touched Jesus’ cloak, immediately she was made well. How much more is healing available to those who reside in the folds of his garment? Jesus said it this way, “If you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.” (MSG) Do you feel your prayers go unanswered? Do you ask but you don’t receive? Jesus is telling us the key; abiding in him. Living, and continually dwelling in him. From that place, all is available and all is possible.
And finally, the bible says, “My sheep know my voice.” Have you noticed, dear Christian how noisy the flock is lately? Lots of opinions are swirling around about all sorts of stuff. Lots of concerns. Lots of drama. Lots of uncertainty. Sheep get loud when they are unsettled or startled. They get loud when they are moved to a new place, and aren’t we ever in uncharted territory these days? Sheep that are moved into a new enclosure sometimes bleat all night long, looking for their ewes that are right underfoot. Uncertainty doesn’t agree with sheep in any way, shape or form. Sounds like some church people I know! With all this noise, how do we hear the voice of the master? It’s simple, friend! We get ourselves into the optimal position to hear him. Where might that be? As close as humanly possible, folded up and tucked into his garment. There’s no chance that anyone or anything can drown him out there.
If ever there was a time that we needed what Psalm 23 promises, it is now. His promises to shield, to guide, to refresh, to comfort and protect are available to all who call him Lord. But can we all agree that there is a greater portion available? A next level of blessing and intimacy? For the few who will make him their dwelling place, who will make him their place of habitation, there is indeed something more. I don’t know about you, but I want to climb up into the folds of his garment and rest there a while. It seems like a good season to hide ourselves in the shadow of his wings (Psalm 91:4).