Have you ever seen a farmer trying to catch a pig? It’s one of the funniest and yet most frustrating things you’ll see. The four-legged form of bacon scampers around the pen, squealing like a, well, you know. The farmer, though full of consternation, patiently waits for the opportune moment. Maybe it’s the thought of tender pork belly or the awareness of cured ham that motivates the endurance. Either way you slice it, the farmer finally catches it, pulls the hog close to keep it from wriggling away and carries his prized pork away.
Get the picture in your head. See the chaotic pig-pen chase. Hear the squealing. Feel the animal desperately trying to escape the clutches of the farmer. What does this remind you of?
Mary had a little lamb, blah blah blah. You know that story. Lambs tend to wander and can get lost. As the farmer is to the pig, so the shepherd is to the lamb. But unlike the raucous workout in the pigpen, the shepherd’s pursuit of the lamb is quite subdued. In contrast to the evasive maneuvers and yelping of the pig, the lamb wants to be found and bleats out to signal its position. Through gentle means, the shepherd pulls the lamb close not to keep it from escape, but to assure it of safety. What does this remind you of?
By now you’re probably associating at least the lamb example with how God looks at us. We stray like the lamb. We wander away from the flock (church, community, etc.). When we find ourselves in our lost situation we “bleat” or cry out like the lamb. Just like the faithful, gentle shepherd God moves toward us and safely guides us back under his care. It’s a serene and even pleasant picture, unlike the imagery of the farmer chasing the pig. But let’s be honest, we’re more like the squirming pig in the pen, aren’t we?
I don’t know about you, but my mind is so much more temporarily oriented than it is permanently oriented. Here’s what I mean: this life is short and I want to enjoy as much of it as I possibly can. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that at all. The rub comes when the thing that I want and the thing that God wants are different. So you have a human version of chase the bacon. I run, slide, scamper, and hustle my way out of the hands of God. I feel like I know better. I feel like my goals are more practical, more realistic than His. Or, more often than not, I just feel like since I don’t really know what He wants I’ll just do whatever I want. So, I see myself more as the pig trying to stay away from the farmer than I do the lamb crying out for the shepherd.
“He pulls me close with nail scarred hands, in to His everlasting arms.” This Sunday, we’ll be singing a familiar song written by Rend Collective called “Boldly I Approach.” The line about nail scarred hands and everlasting arms is lyrical imagery for Jesus. It would be one thing if that line read something like this: ‘He pulls me close with his hands in to his arms.’ The reality is that His hands are scarred from the nails. The reality is that his arms are bigger than big and stronger than strong. As a shepherd or as a farmer, our God pursues us with absolute resolve to catch us one way or another.
When we are the pig caught or the lamb rescued our response to the Catcher and Rescuer is grateful praise. The chorus of the song goes, “Boldly I approach your throne. Blameless now I’m running home. By your blood I come, welcomed as your own, into the arms of Majesty.” Friends, let’s approach His throne with boldness and get more and more familiar with the one who loves us so much that he would die for us. “This is the art of celebration! Knowing we’re free from condemnation! Oh, Praise the One! Praise the One who made an end to all my sin!”