Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)
Why would a shepherd need to “gather lambs”?
In my experience, lambs can only be “gathered” (picked up) easily when they are very young. Lambs much more than one to three weeks old can be impossible to catch! In a large herd, even though new born lambs can and do run fast enough to keep up with the herd, because they are so small, they can easily become separated from mom in a crowd of older, bigger sheep.
When the herd begins to move, a very new, baby lamb that is napping in the grass may not be aware it is time to get up and follow.
So a shepherd who gathers up a very young baby lamb is making extra effort to be sure the little ewe or ram doesn’t get left behind and lost when the herd moves.
What is it like to gather a new lamb?
New baby lambs are sweet, floppy, and gangly. They have very long legs! To pick up a young baby lamb, my daughters and I have learned two ways of holding them that work well:
- Hold them with their stomach in the palm of your hand, with two fingers under its brisket (chest). Make the legs dangle on either side of your arm (left legs on the left, right legs on the right). Hold them close to the front of your body so they feel safe and don’t fall.
- Pick up lamb and fold his back legs up under him the way they go when he is laying down; hold these back legs together in your left hand. (The knees of the back legs fold the opposite direction of the knees of the front legs). Then fold the two front legs at the knees up under the front of the lamb. Tuck lamb up under your left arm, with left hand grasping all four legs thus folded up under the lamb. Holding the legs keeps the lamb from struggling and throwing itself onto the ground, and makes it feel secure.
Why would He carry them close to His heart, or “in His bosom” as some translations say?
- It keeps the lamb safe; you cannot accidentally drop them and they will not struggle and fall.
- It makes the lamb feel safe and secure, which helps him or her to relax and trust. A trusting lamb is much easier for a shepherd to carry!
- The lamb is really cute. Those big shiny eyes and soft coat make anyone with a heart want to cuddle it close!! The sweet little baby voice can be endearing.
- It is a fun, heartwarming experience. It actually feeds the shepherd’s soul!
- Did you ever consider that when Jesus gets the chance to take care of you in your need, in your place of vulnerability, it may actually make Him feel good?? He thinks you are cute and you warm His heart! He likes to hold you close. Carrying you thru your difficulties is not a chore to Him, it is gratifying, because He loves you!
by Kelli Miller 2015
All photos by Kelli Miller