It was a warm spring day. Perched high atop the crest, gazing down into the valley, he spotted what he came looking for. With the soft breeze blowing behind him, it seemed as if the field grasses were waving their blades together, beckoning him down.
“Over there," he shouted.
"Over where, Papa, over where?” His son answered without taking his eyes off the creature he had discovered under the pile of rocks he was poking at.
“There, my son, right there.” His slender finger pointed. “That will be the grazing field,” replied the shepherd.
“Go, go and find your brothers and gather up the sheep. I will soon come and meet up with you.” He watched his son dart off in steps of obedience, as he picked up his staff and let it guide him to the valley below.
The children were not there when he arrived. Wondering what was keeping them, or distracting them as only children can be, his thoughts suddenly shifted by the frantic calls from his sons running towards him.
“Papa, Papa, we gathered the sheep as you asked and began herding them to the land which you pointed to, but along the way some of the sheep broke away from the herd and went off in many directions.” His oldest son spoke breathlessly.
“And one, Papa, my favorite and the smallest, ran further away than the rest.” His youngest son whimpered.
“Come at once, we must gather them and we will not stop or rest until the last one is found.” The shepherd father reassured his sons.
“Father, if we gather up most of the herd, do we still need to go after the little one that has gone off too far?” His middle son complained.
“Son, a good shepherd will go after each sheep, even the littlest one that has wandered the furthest. A good shepherd will search and not return until he brings him back home.” He firmly reminded his son.
“Papa, what would a bad shepherd do?” His youngest son asked.
“Son, a good shepherd loves his sheep. He knows the number of sheep in his herd and knows each of them by their name. His sheep recognize his voice and will follow him when he calls for them and they will go wherever he may leadeth. He will never lead them astray, so great is his love for them.
A good shepherd will tend to each of their needs. He guides them to lush valley floors, and along flowing mountain streams, so that they may never hunger or thirst. He will always lead them into green pastures and he alone will provide for them - their every need.
He will watch over them and protect them from the beasts that roam about, looking to devour them. He will guide them into safe havens each night, so that they may be refreshed each day. He will do everything in his power to keep them out of harm’s way. He will even give up his own life for them.
The shepherd father stopped and turned to his three sons, looking intently into their eyes he continued.
“Oh, my beloved son’s, a bad shepherd will do none of these things. You must always beware of the sheep in wolves clothing, as these are the charges of the bad shepherd, who only wishes to lead man astray.”
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