“The Lord is my Shepherd…” (Psalm 23:1)
In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller wrote about the distinctive mark of the shepherd that is made on each of his sheep. Out in the open field, sheep would get mixed with those of other flocks. Sheep would wander. They get sick or injured. It was important that the shepherd had a clear identifying mark to say, “That is my sheep.”
For some shepherds, it was a “lug mark,” a distinctive notch made in the ear of each of his sheep. Today, shepherds might use ear tags, or some use “smit marks” which is a uniquely colored symbol on each sheep. The more “modern” way to do this is to microchip each sheep, like many pet owners do today.
In the Old Testament, if a servant fulfilled his 7 years of service he would be granted freedom according to the Lord. However, if the servant loved his master and wanted to stay forever as a servant, then the master would pierce the servant’s ear. This would serve as distinct mark that the servant belonged to his master (Exodus 21:6).
As God’s people today who have taken on Jesus as our Lord and Owner, our “Chief Shepherd” puts His unique mark of ownership upon us. When we believe in Jesus as Lord and are baptized into Christ’s death, we are given the seal of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:14). This serves as a mark of ownership, a sign of a relationship, and a guarantee that we safely belong in the Shepherd’s fold.
Romans 8:14-17 – For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
Going along with having the mark of our Good Shepherd upon us, we need to understand that as sheep of the Shepherd we need bear His mark to the world.
One way we do that is through how we behave. If we have the mark and seal of the Owner and Shepherd, then it will reflect in how we talk and act. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).
Secondly, if we bear His mark, then we also join in the sufferings of our Shepherd. Remember that Jesus the Shepherd was also the Lamb of God who suffered for the sins of the world. As we take on the ear tag of Jesus, we also take on his sufferings (Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 4). Listen to Paul as he wrote, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).
Is the Lord your Shepherd? Do you bear His mark?