Part 1 of Sheep, Shepherds and Goats
Are sheep stupid? I’m not sure they are anymore. I used to think that a sheep was just flat dumb but that is an adjective I reserve for cows. With the exception of my neighbors cows who have learned to bust out of his fence and come eat my beans and peas in the garden. I went to Sicily once and found, to my undying surprise, that sheep can be trained. The only way to get them around over there is to have them walk on the roads. When the shepherd hears a car coming he gives the signal and all the sheep line up. No kidding: a single file of sheep walking down the side of the road.
So sheep aren’t too dumb—if they’ve got someone who’s willing to go the distance with them in their training. The Bible has a lot to say about sheep. More actually than I could put into a three or even a thirty-three part series. From Genesis to Deuteronomy—with the notable exception of the slaying of the first shepherd in Genesis—most of the sheep verses talk about them being sacrifices, food, or being killed off in some other fashion. There are several in the law that say something about what to do if they wander or are killed or something like that. Or how many sheep a person is to reimburse his neighbor if they fall in a pit or whatever. I can’t remember it exactly. Abel was a keeper of sheep and, if you recall, his offering was acceptable. Cain’s offering, was not. He worked the soil. I’m not sure what this says about gardeners in general but it concerns me.
Then in Joshua 6:21, God commands Joshua him to kill everything in the city including the sheep and other livestock and the women and children. Except Rahab the harlot, remember, she alone was saved out of Jerico because she hid the spies. I think it’s instructive here to the holier –than-thou to note that she turns up again in the New Testament in Jesus genealogy in Matthew. Think on that for awhile before you condemn someone for whoring around or turning up pregnant or anything like that. People who do bad things can change when confronted with Christ.
And it goes on and on. Sheep play an important role in the life of the people of the Bible. They were food and a source of wool and served as a sacrifice at the temple. They were tough, they traveled well, and could eat just about anything. But if I were to look at the state of the church today it would make me wonder why the people of God are compared to them. We aren’t that tough and we only want the best food served up sweet and easy from the pulpit. We are fat and lazy and living off the fat of the land of our sojourn.
I see a lot of bloggers these days blogging about the persecuted church and I think that’s a fine and noble thing to do. But take a step back a minute folks and look in the mirror. I think it would be better if they prayed for us. It would be better if those who are being tried by fire could pray for our own spiritual listlessness. You can be sure that they know what it’s like to be a sheep in a land of wolves.
Oh wait, theres one other thing. They are herd animals. They stick together when things get tough. They look after their own. They usually have a shepherd who looks after them. And, of course, they can’t line up to get out of danger if they don’t recognize the call of the shepherd.