Sheep are really really stupid, is it a coincidence that the Bible compares us to sheep? I’m not sure about you but for me I feel like this comparison makes a ton of sense. James (1:23) says that we are like a person who looks in a mirror and then walks away and forgets what they look like. In all our intellect, the great amount of wisdom we feel like we possess all boils down to nothing at the end of the day if we don’t get one thing: we are like sheep.
The book of Isaiah says, 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on his servant the sins of us all.” The second Bible verse is from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus had been out in the countryside healing people of their illnesses. In chapter 8 and 9 of Matthew, the miracles are grouped together, and at the end of this section on miracles of healing, Jesus stood before that group of people who still were sick, who still were poor, maimed, blind and lame. Jesus looked on all of them, and I quote from the Gospel of Matthew 9:36: “I will have pity on them for these people are harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd.”
A few things about the natural tendencies of sheep:
1. Sheep have strong herd instincts- Its one of the reasons why we think they are stupid. If one sheep goes over the cliff the whole herd will follow him right over. If the lead sheep doesn’t eat from a pot of food then there is a good chance the rest of them won’t either. We have the exact same tendencies to follow the crowd, to do what someone else is doing- to follow the lead of others whether it is good or bad for us. We have the same instincts in us. Basically the herd instinct in sheep is stronger than their reasoning and intelligence.
2. Sheep easily wander- sheep are constantly wandering away from the shepherd and always have to be brought back. I’m not sure about you but I feel the natural pull all the time to wander. Wandering happens so quickly and effortlessly for me that before long I notice that my wandering has taken me far from the safety and security of being under the watch and protection of the shepherd. The bad news about this is that sheep are not good at directions and have a lot of trouble getting back without help.
3. Sheep are vulnerable- Sheep are not very good at protecting themselves on their own. The sheep’s only hope for survival is to be under the protection and watch of the shepherd. Sheep are no match for the wolves. Thus we are no match for Satan or the evil in this world on our own. We can try to convince ourselves that we have what it takes to be strong, have things together, to have self-control, but we never will. ( I have tried this many times and it just doesn’t work) As sheep we do not have the ability to not be vulnerable to the mess of life, our only hope is in the good shepherd to be close to us.
Do you see any parts of you in the picture of a sheep? If you don’t yet, someday you will come face to face with the reality of humanity and our natural weaknesses and tendencies. As I was praying this morning I was asking God for the ability to live a life that matters, to not be out of touch of the limitations I have, but also be like the good shepherd that Jesus refers to himself as in John chapter 10.
I felt like God said to me- CJ you will never be the good shepherd (even though you may want to) you will always be a sheep- but if you ask for it I will give you the heart of a shepherd. In other words the amazing news for us is that God wants us to be sheep with HIS HEART! He wants us to understand our reliance on Him as the good shepherd, but he lets us participate in the process of laying our lives down with him for others. The closer we get to shepherd the more we see us move from insignificance to purpose.
Sheep with the Shepherds heart have some characteristics:
1. They know the Shepherds voice- Sheep will only respond to the shepherd’s voice that they know. Do we know His voice? Can we distinguish it from all the other voices that surround us and beg for us to follow? This takes time to learn to hear His voice and starts with just asking for the ability to hear it.
2. They will stay close to the Shepherd– When we have His heart it will draw us to stay close to Him, being close not only protects us but gives us significance as we join Him in being hope-givers and the ones who run after the other sheep when they go missing. There is an amazing feeling of being under His protection- that He is my PROTECTOR and I have nothing to fear when I am close to Him! Sheep that are close to Him will go where He goes- This will cause us to never be the same as we are walking into the craziness of life to fight battles that we never could face on our own. Do you feel close to the Jesus today, if not that’s ok- but getting close requires action- just take a step every day intentionally towards Him.
3. They will see from the Shepherds perspective- seeing from a sheep’s perspective is completely different than seeing from the shepherd’s perspective. The shepherd sees what is ahead, He knows the dangers and he knows how to lead to a place of safety and where the sheep can find food, water and life. He sees how the pieces of life fit together, he knows how far greater how to lead than we do. If we ask for His heart daily we will gain his perspective as well. This changes everything! Sheep just follow the sheep in front of them and have a dangerously limited understanding without the Shepherd.
4. They will make sacrifices for others– The shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. Sheep with a shepherd’s heart will do the same. They will leave the safety and security of the rest of the flock to go with the Shepherd to search for the one sheep that gets lost, the sheep that does this takes on the identity and the heart of the shepherd in such a way that it shapes the very decisions and direction of its life. Do you trust the shepherd in such a way as to lay down your life for the chance to save another sheep?
If I’m never going to be the good shepherd and will always have the tendencies of a sheep then I want the next best thing- The shepherds heart. I don’t think we have any idea of the power of receiving the shepherd’s heart and the extraordinary things that it will bring to the world and people around us and lastly the most important thing: the brand new life inside of us. All of this happens with asking- He will always honor a sincere desire for His heart. That’s what I’m asking for today- please pray for me and join me as I run after Him.
John Chapter 10- The Good Shepherd and His Sheep 10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”