Clyde Crittenden - Sheep and the Shepherd - Hong Kong Convention - 1961

I Peter 2:25, God's people can always look back to the time when they were as sheep going astray. They can also look back to the time with rejoicing, when they returned to the shepherd....the Shepherd of their soul. I am very glad that over 40 years ago, the gospel came to the district where we lived. As we heard the gospel preached, we heard the true Shepherd's voice calling us from that which is of men, unto God Himself. I have been glad to prove in these later years the love and care and provision of the 'true' Shepherd.

 

I thought of speaking a little from Psalm 23. David was able to say, "The Lord is my shepherd." The Lord is my Shepherd....perfect protection. It is true that sheep need protection...they need a shepherd. They are very defenseless animals. The scripture mentions the dog, the wolf, and the lion. In Australia, I believe one of the saddest things I have ever seen take place, with regard to sheep, is when the fox catches the lambs and eats their tongues out. They cannot drink, they cannot eat, and they cannot bleat. It is true we have just as cruel an enemy to destroy our souls in Christ today. We were hearing about the enemy wanting to put out the eye of the children of Israel. So we need to live near the Shepherd and seek His protection continually or else death or disaster will become our portion also.

 

David said, "I shall not want."…perfect satisfaction! The Psalmist said, "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." That is one of the first things that impressed us when we first met the servants of God. They had full satisfaction in Christ Jesus. Though people are religious, they turn to the world for satisfaction. It is good to prove for ourselves there is full satisfaction in Christ and we do not need to turn to the world. David also said in this Psalm, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures".......which would suggest perfect rest. He also said, "Will lead me beside still waters," which speaks of perfect quietness. It is true sheep need rest and quietness. I have seen the sheep come in early in the day and take their drink of water and lay down quietly, but not idly, for they begin to chew the cud. I believe as you watched them, you have to say every second, they are taking a chew. If they do not chew the cud, they cannot produce wool. I have seen the value of fleece reduced because the sheep did not rest quietly. It is true that the quality of our fruitfulness will not be developed if we do not give time to meditation upon what God gives us. David also said, "He restoreth my soul," which suggests perfect restoration. I believe that one of the reasons why God has gathered us here at convention is to restore our souls, to build us up, and strengthen us. Verse 3 says, "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness," which suggest perfect guidance. "He leadeth me!" One of the things that I have noticed about sheep is that they are responsive to light. We often gathered them just at eventide. I used to wonder why there was more light outside than there was inside. One time, we decided to gather them after we had our evening meal. I went down with a light, and they all gathered around me in the shed. Wherever I put the light, the sheep went and stood by it. That is one of the marks or characteristics of sheep by nature. Therefore as we claim to be the sheep of God, this mark should be made very manifest in us. Jesus is spoken of as the true light of the world. God's word is also spoken of as a light. The Psalmist said, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." So as we profess to be the people of God, we need to be guided by two things.....the true light of the world, Jesus, and God's word which also is a light to our path. If we can say that we are guided by these two things, we can dwell safely.

 

David said, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." It is true that in the journey God would lead us through, there are dangers. But it is a precious thing to have true confidence and trust in the one who is leading us. A hymn mentions (#347), "My hope and confidence are deeply rooted in the Lord." There is the danger of being self-confident instead of being confident in Him who is able. It also mentions in this fourth verse, "Thou are with me," which is perfect companionship. Proverbs mentions there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. I think that is referring to Jesus, also. It is a wonderful thing that we can have a perfect companionship with Jesus and we do not need to journey alone. David also said, "Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me," which would suggest perfect consolation. One of the saddest experiences I faced naturally was when I lost my own Mother. But I would have to say that the consolation of God was greater than the sorrow. It is true that we often need to face sad experiences in this life, but it is wonderful to have a greater consolation in Christ Jesus. Verse 5 has these words, "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies." That would suggest perfect triumph. I am sure that many people around here have wondered why we have congregated together like this. It is because our Lord has triumphed and prevailed and is able to spread before us a table here. I am sure we have valued what God has spread upon the table from the least to the greatest. David said, "Thou anointest my head with oil." Perfect joy. The joy that God gives exceeds the joy and greatness of anything else. David once said, "Thou hast put gladness in my heart." The gladness that God puts in our hearts is far greater than the gladness we have ever obtained from this world. David also said, "My cup runneth over," which would suggest perfect provision. I believe that as we have come here that our cup has been filled to over-flowing. Therefore our joy and provision is very great.

 

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Goodness and mercy would suggest God's perfect love toward us. When I think of God gathering His people into these annual gatherings, I am reminded at home when we gathered in our father's sheep yearly, to be shorn. I have seen those sheep coming in, one looking often much different than another. We could see evidence where those sheep had been reaching through the fences and pulling the wool off their necks. Others had eaten poison weeds. It had affected their wool; one-half to two-thirds had fallen off. Some had been blinded because of having seeds in their eyes, which blinded them. Some were lame.....feet needed attention. As we sheared them, my Father would watch them and often take seeds out of their eyes. Others would need their feet attended to. There was one thing that I always noticed after the shearing, that when they went out they all look similar. They went out different than when they came in. I believe that is how God wants us to leave this convention; we have proved God's goodness and mercy. He has unburdened us from the burdens of the past. He has anointed us with eye salve. He has caused us to put shoes on our feet. I have seen those sheep, after being sheared, jumping and leaping in the air because they felt they were unburdened with what they had previously been burdened down with.

 

Before those sheep were let go, there was something my Father was very particular about, and that was they bear his identification on them. Sheep, when they are shorn, have a whiteness that is very noticeable. We are going out into an unspotted future. Our future is unstained. It is a very precious thing that we realize too, that we can carry our Heavenly Father's identification as we go out into the future. When we used to put the identification on the sheep, it was often referred to as a brand; it made the sheep conspicuous. It is true that as we go out bearing our Heavenly Father's imprint, we are conspicuous before the world. These marks on the sheep were put on the sheep so if they strayed my Father could claim them. God doesn't want any of us to stray, as He wants to lay full claim upon us and wants us to keep close to Him.

 

The last thing that is mentioned in this 23rd Psalm is, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Perfect habitation. I hope we can see the true value of the house of the Lord, that the desire of our hearts is that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, because the enemy would like for us to dwell in dangerous places. God wants us to dwell in His house so that we would know His comfort and provision and protection here and throughout the countless ages of eternity. I hope we will value the true Shepherd of our souls. Allow Him to lead us and guide us in future days so when we come next year we can lay down a sacrifice that is well pleasing to Him. Sometimes when the fleece was shorn off the sheep, my Father would put it on the scale because he gloated to tell how much that one sheep produced in on year. God has pleasure in His people. Psalm 121:8, "The Lord shall preserve their going out and their coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore." I hope that as we go out from this convention that He will preserve us.