In New Zealand sheep are herded by dogs. While the shepherd usually has the best interest of the animals at heart, the sheep do not listen to the shepherd’s voice. They only to run away from him scared. It has probably been said many times, but I just want to reiterate it here, that in the Middle East the shepherd really does lead the sheep and they follow him or her. That’s what a shepherd did in David’s time and at the time of Jesus. The shepherd leads the sheep to good pasture, to water and to shelter.
Little wonder that King David could compare the LORD’s provision with that of a shepherd.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Jesus also used this picture and compared himself to the good shepherd:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Of course, he went further and said that the good shepherd would lay down his life for the sheep.
I’m not sure whether we would see such dedication today. It is an extension of what it means to be a good shepherd. Nevertheless, many customs in the Bible can still be seen in Israel today. The shepherd might be wearing jeans and a baseball cap, but like thousands of years ago, he still leads the sheep to pasture. This picture was taken not far from Lahav near Beersheba.