Psalm 23 is one of the best known and most often quoted passages in the scriptures. David plainly says “The LORD is my shepherd.” In John 10, Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd. The sheep know his voice and follow him, and he gives his life for the sheep. Isn’t that adorable?
Neither author was thinking about how cute and cuddly little lambs are. We are like sheep, and it has nothing to do with cuddles. We are totally and utterly helpless. We cannot make it on our own. The psalmist is led to green pastures and beside still water because he could not find them on his own. The rod and the staff are used to guide and to correct, which we need because we are like sheep. Some animals have sharp teeth or claws. Others are extremely fast. Still others have natural camouflage, or fangs, or stink glands. Sheep are slow, weak, nearsighted and have no natural defenses, unless perhaps their attacker is allergic to wool. God must have created them to be food for other animals.
All we like sheep have gone astray. We need care. We need guidance. We must be fed, watered, guarded from predators. Which the Good Shepard does. Lambs are in fact adorable, but he loved us when we were unlovable. He loves us because… he loves us.