March 13, 2023
We live in a day and age where all manner of self-identification is promoted. So, I shamelessly state that I identify as a sheep – it suits me well. So why a sheep and not some other animal? I once taught a Bible study on the “Shepherd of Psalm 23.” It was an intriguing eye-opener into the duties of a shepherd as well as the dynamics of a sheep. So, it is no surprise that Christ likens His children to sheep and perfectly fulfills the role as our “Good Shepherd.”
The study brought to life just how much I am loved and cared for, and broadened my perspective on the fallen nature of man who is in deep need of a Protector. You won’t find any Scripture verses that say, “all we like lions have gone astray.” Nope. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Why? Because the nature of a sheep demonstrates how easy it is to fall away just as sin is an integral part of our very nature.
I don’t want to burst any self-esteem bubbles, but sheep are not smart. They tend to wander. Remember the words from the beautiful hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the Lord I love.” That is us, and precisely the natural behavioral patterns of sheep. And like sheep, if we don’t stay close to our Shepherd, we will find ourselves off the beaten path and in grave danger.
Did you know sheep run aimlessly straight into water where their wool grows heavy and can cause them to drown? I never experienced drowning, but I have observed first-hand the suffocating effects of dabbling in the deep waters of bad decisions that eventually choke out a life.
Sheep also blindly walk off cliffs and others will follow to their demise. Sounds a bit like the familiar problem of peer pressure. Our current cancel culture has created such an environment of fear that a whole generation of young people are reluctant to answer even the most basic question: what is a woman? And whether we follow the crowd or not, our silence towards such notable cultural dilemmas is due to peer pressure and undermines the truth of the gospel of Christ and ultimately leads us off the cliff.
Sheep are clueless and defenseless. I can’t tell you how often I react before I think. I jump off in one direction and crash down in another – only to discover that if I had waited another minute or two, everything would have gone a lot more smoothly. Complacency always leaves us defenseless against spiritual attacks. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Sheep need to be protected from predators and bugs — and so do we. Not literal bugs but those things that get into our crawl that strive to annoy and diminish our strength as Christ followers.
Sheep also need to be guarded from tension in the flock. They will not sleep unless peace and quiet reigns and there are no external disturbances. Sound familiar? This sheds a new light on the importance to have a shepherd (aka Pastor) guiding and protecting the flock, by continually reminding them of the truth of His Word. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
If a sheep rolls over involuntarily, he needs to be placed upright. That visual can apply to us spiritually. Accept accountability. “If a brother sins, go, and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over” (Matthew 18:15).
The Good News: Amid all these frailties, the Shepherd is always near to His sheep. The Good Shepherd’s tools are “a rod and a staff” to provide added protection. The rod guides the sheep, and the sheep draws comfort from it. The rod conveys the concept of authority, power, discipline and is used in defense of the sheep.
The staff represents the Lord’s guidance and lovingkindness. The staff is a long slender stick with a crook on the end. It saves the wandering sheep’s life when in danger. The shepherd leads, feeds, and goes after lost sheep. He prepares the field and checks it beforehand for stones and thorn bushes. The shepherd provides rest for the sheep by finding green pastures and then he guards them while they sleep. The Shepherd is always on watch.
And finally, the shepherd never abandons His sheep. He stays with them and fights off all attacks—including from wolves. He knows each of his sheep individually and they recognize His voice. I’m happy to identify as a sheep. How about you?
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).