The Bible always uses the metaphor of Christian sheep. In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Even in the Old Testament, Ezekiel 34:12 says that God promises to look after His flock and rescue them from the places where they have been scattered. And, in Psalm 23, David acknowledges that the Lord is his Shepherd and will take care of him always. In fact, if you look it up, there are more than 40 verses using this exact comparison of people as sheep and God as the one who takes care of us. That might be kind of hard to relate to in our society today, a society filled with high speed internet, suburbs and Suburbans. But, a look at some of the characteristics of sheep will put things into perspective.
Sheep are prey.
They are good for food and ripe pickings for predators. In 1 Peter 5:8, it admonishes us to be sober and vigilant because the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Matthew 7:15 tells us to beware of false prophets who come looking like sheep but are really wolves on the inside. Lions and wolves would love nothing more than a delicious mutton meal, and the sheep are helpless on their own. They can’t run very fast or far. Really, their best hope is for them to be protected by their shepherd day and night. Now think about our limitations in our current age of information. Whether it is news, advertising, or entertainment, messages are all around us trying to turn our minds away from the ways of God and life to hell and death.
The current party line everywhere you turn is that wrong is right, right is intolerant, and love means supporting any and every sinful lifestyle choice that people want to make. We are not even guaranteed to be safe in church, as the age of apostasy is upon us. So many pastors forgo teaching about sin and repentance. Instead, they have turned their sermons to little more than self-help pep-talks. Or worse, some churches have become a haven for demonic entities. They bring flocks of people in to see feathers, gold dust, and/or uncontrollable falling or laughing. Without the Holy Spirit to guide us in discernment and the constant renewing of our minds by reading the Bible, we Christian sheep are easy targets for both wolves and lions.
Sheep are mass-minded.
They are social and often bond closely with their flock members. Moving in unison, sheep follow each other to safety or to peril. They will even follow each other right off the edge of a cliff! Separation from the flock can cause fear and even panic, and isolation can cause severe stress. Matthew 18:12 tells of the shepherd who will leave the 99 to find the one who strays to separation. It makes even more sense when we understand that the shepherd would be concerned for the sheep’s fear and distress.
When we leave the safety of obedience to our Father, we are in danger of predators. We can find ourselves feeling alone and out of place. We need our Shepherd to bring us back with his rod and staff. The rod can beat off the enemy or even snap us on the behind when we aren’t behaving or are headed for a ledge. The staff is a stick with a curved end in which the sheep’s neck fits perfectly. The shepherd can grab hold of the Christian sheep and pull them from danger right back into His arms.
Sheep are fearful.
Because they have few natural defenses, sheep are afraid of so many things. This can even keep them from doing what is good for them. They are afraid of water because they can’t swim, so the shepherd must lead them to still waters to drink. They can even be fearful of laying down to rest if they are concerned with conflict with other sheep or pests bothering them. Plus, if a resting sheep is too heavy or wet, the sheep can get stuck on its back. Without a shepherd to right the sheep, it would be easy prey for predators or can even starve to death.
Sheep are prone to panic in a situation in which they feel helpless or fearful. It takes a shepherd to comfort the sheep. He must lead them into places in which they feel comfortable enough to even do every day things. It is little wonder that the Holy Spirit who comes to live in the hearts of Christians is called the Comforter. We need that constant assurance that He is with us, protecting us and seeing to our needs so that we can even rest. If we ever get flipped around or stuck, He comes along to put us Christian sheep back on our feet.
Sheep are stubborn and habit-minded.
Left to their own devices, sheep will graze the same land over and over,. They will eat grass to the roots and can ruin the land. They will even eat bad grass instead of moving on to better pasture. Sheep need the shepherd to move them out of their comfort zone. It is the same with us and our Heavenly Father. So many of us would just stay where we are doing what we do without His prodding. He helps us get closer to Him, go further in our walk, and/or stretch ourselves to achieve things that our natural man tells us are impossible. But nothing is impossible in the power of Christ.
Sheep are loyal.
Sheep aren’t the smartest animals on God’s earth. But, they can recognize the sheep in their flock and even their human handlers for up to two years. In the old times, several shepherds would herd their flocks into the nightly enclosures together. In the morning, individual shepherds would come to get their flocks, and each group would separate themselves to follow only their own shepherd. Sheep know their shepherd’s voice and will not follow another. What if they were to follow a shepherd who is cruel? How about one who is careless and would allow them to wander into danger? Or what about one who neglects them and wouldn’t lead them to water or good grazing?
No, sheep only follow the shepherd they know will take care of them. It is the same with us. Spending time with God in prayer and in reading His Word helps us to know what He sounds like, to know His personality. When we encounter ideas and attitudes that don’t match with what we know to be true about God, we run from them like sheep running from a stranger. Our Shepherd takes care of us. We Christian sheep can trust Him, and we aren’t taking any chances on another.
Sheep must be anointed.
Oil rubbed onto the heads of sheep calms them and serves three purposes. It protects their ears and nose from insects that might lay eggs in there. This can cause the sheep to bang their heads against trees and rocks to get relief. It also protects them from hurting themselves or others when they butt up against other sheep for authority and position. And, it salves the many scrapes and cuts sheep might get from rocks, sticks, or thistles. In the same way we, as Christians, have been given a spiritual anointing.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” The Holy Spirit can protect us from Satan’s attacks that get into our brains. He brings to mind scripture to dispel the devil’s lies. Also, He keeps us from harming ourselves and others when we, like sheep, butt heads with others for position and authority. We can remember God’s admonition to love each other and pray for our brethren even when we disagree. Finally, the Holy Spirit is our comforter. He is our healer in a world of so much hurt, whether physical, mental, or emotional. When we spend time with Him in His Word and in prayer, He soothes us, He binds us up, and He brings healing to our weary souls.
Sheep Need a Shepherd
In John 10:11, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Back then as today, we are still very much like sheep. As such, we need someone to take care of us and watch out for us. While earthly church leaders are helpful, they aren’t perfect and can’t always see the whole picture in any situation. Only Jesus looks out for us perfectly. Only Jesus protects His Christian sheep from harm, saves us from our own natures, and gives us comfort and healing when things don’t always go as planned. And only Jesus gave His life for us so that we can go out and come in safely. We can look to Him and trust Him now and even forever more.
Check out my sister’s blog where Evangelical Christian sisters “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.