A 4-part short story by Jim Brewer
Seeking Pasture Near Bethlehem
The sheep had gone easily into the fold that evening. Young Amos was pleased that he had not been called on to round up any stragglers. Rather, the flock of 98 was safely within the confines of the corral made of stones from the fields, and erected just north of the town of Bethlehem, known to the shepherds as the City of David.
Amos knew there were 98 in his flock. He had counted each one as it passed beneath his extended rod into the pen. Had even one been missing, Amos would have set out to find it. Such was the responsibility of a shepherd boy in Judaea.
Amos was a proud, young shepherd and had been named for the prophet Amos, who once was a shepherd himself in the hills and rugged terrain around Tekoa, tracing back to the earliest days of the Jewish people. Amos, his father Benjamin, and Shimron, his uncle, were tending the largest flock in the fold that evening. Two other groups of shepherds had also penned their sheep within the same stone enclosure. Tonight, Amos would be guarding the fold by lying down at the gate, keeping the sheep confined and the wolves and wild dogs at bay. If he slept at all, it would be lightly.
Though there were three separate flocks of sheep within the single fold, Amos knew his flock and they knew him. He had names for many of the sheep, and he had a special way of calling to his flock that they instantly recognized.
They did not respond to the calls of other shepherds. The flock had come to trust and rely solely on Amos, his father and uncle to protect them, to lead them to water and safe pastures.
Some thought of sheep as dumb animals, perhaps because of their timid-ness, but Amos knew better. One call to the sheep, in a high pitched “Hi-yup” alerted them of danger. Another call,”Yori, yori” indicated nearby water and a “Hoy, hoy” cry from Amos told the sheep it was time to move on to new pastures.
Sheep, Amos knew, would graze a pasture to the bare nubs if allowed. His flock had moved that day some ten miles to settle in near Bethlehem. They would feed well in this area, though wild animals were a constant threat. Often, the sheep themselves were the first to sense danger. Their
hearing was excellent, as was their vision.
Finding water was a constant chore for the shepherds, especially in the winter when the flocks ate mostly dried grass. The fresh grasses of spring quenched their thirst, but the demand for water throughout the winter was a constant requirement.
As the sheep settled in for the night, Amos, and his father and uncle ate a welcomed dinner of bread, dried figs and salted fish, a staple meal for the shepherds. Following the meal, Amos sat at his father’s feet to learn more about the history of his people that God had delivered from Egypt many years ago.
Tonight, Benjamin would tell his son about the greatest shepherd of all – King David.
“As a young man, David was a shepherd like you,” Benjamin noted. “His father Jesse sent him out alone to watch over the flocks and David was fearless. He used a sling to kill wild animals, the same sling he used to slay Goliath.”
His father told Amos that David’s faithfulness to God was rewarded with his anointment by Samuel to become the King of Israel. And David himself had written the passage in Psalms stating that
“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.”
“Imagine, a shepherd boy becoming the King of Israel,” Amos thought to himself, and soon the boy left his father’s side to guard the sheep. He placed his blanket at the entrance of the fold and lay down upon it. He would protect his flock with his life if need be. After all, these were special sheep.