Growing up, I lived in the country. My parents had friends who owned a sheep farm. It was a treat to visit this farm to witness the birth of a lamb, to help feed the sheep or just to spend time chasing them. It was a game they seemed to enjoy. They were so easy to scatter. My sisters and I would go into the sheep pen and run around waving our arms and screaming and the sheep would run off in a hundred different directions. Then, they would come back in little groups waiting for the game to begin again. They were not the most intelligent of creatures.
I was reading in Isaiah the other day and the familiar verse, Isaiah 53:6, reminded me of those days chasing sheep. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Shepherds have an important job in watching over a flock of sheep. They must be alert at all times because it is so easy for a flock to scatter and run off. If the sheep become distracted, or spooked, they scramble and take off in all directions. It is the shepherd who takes the blame for the sheep’s behavior. The shepherd must be vigilant or valuable sheep can be lost.
Isaiah understood sheep and he understood people. We are like sheep who wander off, who follow distractions and who run in different directions. Instead of following our shepherd, Christ, we go astray and follow our own paths. And, it is Christ who took the blame for our bad behavior. “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Christ accepted the responsibility for us and bore the punishment when we scattered in our own directions and ran away from God. Our conduct was not his fault but he accepted the penalty and took the blame for our sins.
We are smarter than sheep. We need to express gratitude to our shepherd, who loved us enough to accept our punishment, and stay close to him where we are protected and cared for.