I have read some of the the histories of nursery rhymes and sometimes I’ve wonder what the writer was thinking. After all, nursery rhymes are for little kids. Take Ring Around The Rosy for instance. The history of this rhyme dates back to the Great Plague of London in 1665 (bubonic plague) or even before when the first outbreak of the Plague hit England in the 1300’s. The symptoms of the plague included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin (Ring around the rosy). Pockets and pouches were filled with sweet smelling herbs ( or posies) which were carried due to the belief that the disease was transmitted by bad smells. The term “Ashes Ashes” refers to the cremation of the dead bodies! The death rate was over 60% and the plague was only halted by the Great Fire of London in 1666 which killed the rats which carried the disease which was transmitting via water sources. The English version of “Ring around the rosy” replaces Ashes with (A-tishoo, A-tishoo) as violent sneezing was another symptom of the disease. How is this appropriate for a nursery rhyme?
While there doesn’t seem to be any significant history for Little Bo Peep, if you consider the words, you would have to come to the conclusion that Bo Peep was not a good shepherd. I realize that Little Bo Peep is just a nursery rhyme, but I thought she would be a good contrast when compared to The Good Shepherd who is Jesus.
Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And can’t tell where to find them.
Leave them alone, And they’ll come home,
Wagging their tails behind them
Little Bo peep fell fast asleep
And dreamt she heard them bleating;
But when she awoke, she found it a joke,
For they were still a-fleeting.
Then up she took her little crook,
Determined her to find them;
She found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed,
For they’d left their tails behind them.
It happened one day, as Bo peep did stray
Into a meadow hard by,
There she espied their tails side by side,
All hung on a tree to dry.
She heaved a sigh and wiped her eye,
And over the hillocks went rambling,
And tried what she could, as a sheperdess should,
To tack each again to its lambkin.
If Little Bo Peep is one of your favorite nursery rhymes, you may want to stop reading, because I don’t think Bo Peep was a very good illustration of what a shepherd should be. In fact, I would call her incompetent and irresponsible. She was a bad shepherd. Here is why she was a bad Shepherd, especially compared to The Good Shepherd :
Bo Peep lost her sheep. Speaking about His sheep, Jesus said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” John 6:39. God’s will is going to be done. Those who truly are His sheep will not be lost.
Bo Peep had no clue where to find her lost sheep. In Psalm 139:7, the psalmist asks the rhetorical questions, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Jesus always knows where his sheep are. You may get as lost as lost can be, and Jesus will still know just where you are.
Bo Peep figured her sheep would find their way home if she just left them alone. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus finds His sheep who wander off and brings them back into the fold. Matthew 18:12-14 says, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
When Bo Peep finally went looking for her lost sheep, she could not find them so she decided to take a nap. Jesus pursues His lost sheep until He finds them. Luke 15:3-7, “ Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
The following are a few more verses that illustrate that Jesus is The Good Shepherd:
He is the gate and as such, he provides the way for His sheep to be saved and He also provide nourishment for them (Luke 10:9). This likely refers to spiritual nourishment.
He knows his sheep personally. He knows their names. (John 10:3b) “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” You aren’t just a number to Him. In fact, speaking of numbers, according to Luke 12:7 Jesus knows you so well that he knows how many hairs are on your head.
He leads His sheep. Psalm 23:2:b says He leads them by quiet waters. That’s important because sheep are afraid of fast water. Jesus knows your fears. Follow Him, and you will probably not encounter some of those things you fear the most.
He protects his sheep. I suspect that had a wild animal had come after Bo Peep’s sheep, she would have deserted her post and run for safety. Jesus, being The Good Shepherd, laid down His life to save His sheep (John 10:11).
These are only a few of the characteristics that illustrate the goodness of The Good Shepherd who is Jesus. I encourage you to do your own study and find out some more characteristics of The Good Shepherd.
I hope Jesus is your Good Shepherd and you thank Him for His watch care over you. If He is your Good Shepherd, you are in good Hands! If He is not your Good Shepherd but you would like Him to be, we would love to share with you how He can be your Good Shepherd.