Gathering the Sheep

Word received Sunday, July 19, 2015 about the Shepherd gathering the sheep. Recorded here January 8, 2016.

During worship this morning, the Lord showed me a great landscape of rolling hills. The sky was sunny but in the distance I could see encroaching darkness, the first hint of the coming of a great storm. The hills were covered with sheep scattered here and there, each one grazing or lying in the grass, oblivious to the other sheep, self-absorbed, passive, and unafraid.

Some grazed on dead ground, long since depleted. These sheep were gaunt and emaciated, yet strangely unaware of their starvation.

Some lay on rich, lush carpets of grass, so fat and overfed that they were unable to stand.

Some stood near a waterfall that cascaded down from a great height, splashing all around them, making pools of clear water here and there on the grass. The sheep stared at the waterfall, reaching out with their tongues to catch the cascading water in their mouths but unable to hold it.  They remained thirsty because they wouldn’t turn toward the still water right beside them.

Other sheep walked in processions over the more distant hills, some moving in great circles, others veering side to side. All of the processions were led by the smallest sheep in the lines, small yet oddly proud and self-important.

Near where I stood, I saw Jesus as the great Shepherd (John 10:14-16) kneeling on the ground, holding one of the sheep close to his breast as He whispered to him and petted him.  As the sheep lay in the Lord’s arms, he grew more relaxed, more aware of the love of his Shepherd. I saw light growing in his eyes, the light of great joy and life.

Finally, the Lord released the now transformed sheep, who began to dance around his Shepherd, as another sheep took his place in the Lord’s embrace.  Soon, a great crowd of sheep were dancing around the Lord, their joy increasing with the beauty of their dance.

Still the hills were scattered with sheep, the darkness was growing nearer, the air was growing cool and electric. The Lord called out to the distant sheep, beckoning them to come to Him before the storm came.

The Lord showed me that each sheep was a division in His bride, a group or denomination or type of believer who were more or less distant from Him in different ways and for different reasons. The sheep who danced around Him and who let Him hold them were those believers whose focus was the great Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

The sheep at the waterfall are those who believe that God’s gifts to others are also for them.  The cascading water is the flow of gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11) from the Lord, different gifts for different believers. The pools of water near the sheep are those gifts that the Lord has for them and them alone. The sheep are blind to their own gifts because they are focused on the gifts given to others when they should instead receive what the Lord has given them. This blindness comes from lack of intimacy with the Shepherd.

The sheep marching in procession are following other sheep instead of their true Shepherd. The odd arrogance and small stature of the lead sheep speak to the lack of character, wisdom and strength of sheep that choose to lead others for their own purposes rather than the Lord’s. Because they do not follow the Shepherd, they either go in circles or meander back and forth. They either go nowhere at all or are lost.

The fat sheep in the lush grass are wealthy, in need of nothing, yet helpless under the great weight of their own excess. Though they need to rise up and come in from the hills to the shelter of the Shepherd, they see no need (Revelation 3:17-18).

The sheep grazing on the barren ground are those who practice lifeless ritual because that is what they have always done. The problem is not that they practice ritual but that the ritual is devoid of life and nutrition. They have forgotten their need for the Lord Himself.

I saw many more sheep scattered across the hills that the Lord did not tell me about, but there was once central message through everything I saw and heard, and that is that being scattered in the hills, out of touch with the Shepherd, is no longer safe. The Lord is calling all of His sheep, all members of His bride, to come to Him, to hear Him and draw near to Him so that He can heal them and shield them against the coming great storm.

I believe that the great storm will not come until the true bride of Christ is manifest, when all the sheep have come in from the hills and become part of the great crowd of dancing, joyful sheep. The sheep will then be the bride.

A final message from this is that unity in the body of Christ will not be realized by human effort. All of the unity will be brought about as the sheep listen to the Shepherd and come home to Him. This is a work of the Lord Himself (John 10:27-29).

Added Thoughts

The Lord has been speaking to me a little more about the dancing sheep. They dance with joy, the joy of being close to their Shepherd. But it’s also the joy of a child restored to innocence, playing without shame or fear. The bride of Christ will only become one when the sheep that are part of her become innocent, free and joyful once again.