The ‘Fulani’ are a tribe regarded as the shepherds of Africa. Growing up in Africa as kid I remember night after night spent under the canopy structured by the glimmering lights of the stars in the clear blue sky background, we would sit around a virtual table created in the sands by the legs of children as if closely knitted together but barely touching each other, waiting to hear the old African folk tales. One of such stories depicts the love of a Fulani shepherd for his herd! It is often insinuated, connoted or concurred that Fulani shepherd loves his herd above his family –he would risk and put his life on the line to ensure the safety of his herd.
Tales about the Fulani shepherds are not just myths, today some villages in Africa are continually terrorized by the Fulani shepherds who are somehow bonded with their herds- these shepherds kill and lay down their own lives to protect or provide their own flock.
It is not only in the African jungle that this passionate relationship between the shepherd and his sheep has been witnessed. Through times; BC, AD, and during Christ, the relationship of a shepherd with his sheep has always connote something distinct – such as courage, intense acceptance and great responsiveness to one another. David a young shepherd once remarked; “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it” – 1Samuel 17 vs 34.
Psalm 23 is a perfect narrative of the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep- as told by the sheep! The sheep acknowledged his shepherd thus revealing the detail that not only does the shepherd hold a subjective relationship with his sheep; the sheep admits this relationship too. Jesus, the good shepherd said “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”. John 10 vs 27. This relationship between the sheep and his shepherd is a two way relationship, a romance and not a crush on either party! God knows us in person and we know Him as the Lord over us. Paul the Apostle said “…then shall I know (the Shepherd) even as also I am known (by the Shepherd)”. Have ever you wondered why out of a hundred sheep if the shepherd loses one he leaves the ninety nine and goes after the one? Shepherds don’t have sheep (plural) they only have a sheep- yeah, an only sheep”, matchless and therefore cannot be replaced! All the hundred are regarded as individual ‘only sheep’; none takes the place of the other in the shepherd’s eyes. The loss of one is as the loss of all as there none like the other, and with the loss of one the shepherd is no longer whole nor is his herd!
So are we as sheep in the great shepherd’s herd, acknowledging this relationship we share with God the creator of the universe and the owner of all pastures green will open our eyes to the truth that we shall not want what is needed for us to thrive under his shepherd-hood! The good shepherd calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. Knowing the great shepherd knows my name and your name assures us that even if we are a billion sheep in His fold we are still God’s ‘only child’ and we are irreplaceable in His fold!
Eventhough God has many of us as children, individually we are unique and different to him, when he looks down into his fold he sees many ‘only child’ of His. God has only one of you, you are God’s only child and He treats you that way!