In this modern age, sheep remain a rather mysterious creature. Few of us have actually come in contact with these wholly quadrupeds. Some have even eaten lamb, which is usually mutton. In this age, sheep are considered a pejorative, that is, a symbol for people who blindly and stupidly follow whatever fad is about. Some call them sheeple. Unfortunately, elitists tend to call anyone who disagrees with them sheeple.
Deprecation of sheep did not begin in our time. The ancient Egyptians hated both shepherds and sheep. They had no use for wool or venison, neither were the sheep used in their sacrifices.
Yet, God calls His People His Flock (of sheep, not sheeple). What is it about sheep that God would want to compare His Chosen Ones to these fuzzy animals? They are not wise as many animals go; they do tend to be rather simple and trusting, rather than clever and wary. God particularly likes His Flock because they are meek, patient, and submissive major characteristics of sheep and His People.
Wolves, horses, camels, and cows do not seem to be a fit analogy for Gods People. But sheep do. And God made Jesus the shepherd of His Flock.
(See: Ungers Bible Dictionary, topic: Sheep.)
In the morning, the shepherd went to the fold or pen and called the sheep out to take them to the meadows. With the assistance of dogs, which we might think of as angels as far as Gods Flock might be concerned, the shepherd would move the flock from pasture to pasture. He brought the flock to water, either a stream or from a trough near a well. At night, he counted and bedded the flock in the fold. He kept a watch over them during the night. Unlike the so-called law of evolution, which likes to talk about the survival of the fittest, the shepherd takes special care of the young, weak and old.
Life of the Shepherd
Hardship and danger comprised the main elements of the shepherds life. The little food he could bring with him must be supplemented by whatever was growing wild fruit of the sycamore tree, figs, husks of carob trees and maybe locusts and honey, if available.
The presence of danger kept the shepherd alert and ready for action. Bears, wolves, panthers, and lions the natural predators of sheep constantly stalked the herd. Human predators also presented a considerable danger to him more than the herd. These thieves would more likely want to steal the sheep rather than injure or kill them. The shepherd had few but effective weapons of defense, his sling shot and a strong staff.
God describes Himself as a shepherd and assigned that symbolic role to Jesus. He further describes rulers and kings as shepherds as well as those in charge of His People.
(See: Ungers topic on shepherds.)
God uses the analogy of shepherds to prophesy about Jesus. In Isaiah, God said Jesus would tend His Father's Flock like a shepherd. He would gather them as lambs in his arms and lead them gently into the Kingdom of God.
God describes Jesus as the righteous branch descended from the house of David. As such, Jesus would rule Gods Flock wisely, do justice, and maintain righteousness in the land.
(See: Isa 28:16, 40:11, 49:10, Eze 37:24, Jer 23:5, Psa 78:71, Zec 13:7.)
The Shepherd Knows His Sheep
How does the shepherd know his sheep? They are the ones who listen to him. They hear his voice even through the babble of everyday living. When he speaks their ears perk up, and they look toward him.
Not only do they listen to the shepherds voice, as I said, with meekness and child-like awe, they act on his words regardless of what others may be doing. With that simplicity, they just do as the shepherd says.
So the shepherd knows his sheep. They are the ones who listening to him. They always turn to him as he talks. They do not turn away or walk away. Instead they nuzzle up to him with confidence and simple trust.
(See: John 10:27.)
The Shepherd Gathers His Sheep
Since the shepherd has the attention of his own sheep, he calls them to himself. They all come from the far ends of the Earth when they hear his voice. Like the shepherds of the fields, our shepherd Jesus brings us to water, the streams of living water the well of life.
Even those who follow the Shepherd from God but are not of the flock are gathered to him. They hear his voice and are drawn into the one flock and move unrelentingly to the Kingdom of God.
(See: John 10:3, 16, Isa 40:11, Rev 7:17.)
The Shepherd Guides His Sheep
So simple are the flock of God that they get lost and wander off so easily. So Jesus guides them on the way to the Kingdom of God. Whatever it takes, our shepherd will do it to bring the flock to His Fathers fold.
(See: Psa 34:8, John 10:11, Eze 34:14.)
The Shepherd Feeds His Sheep
Of course, he brings his flock to the best pastures. They will lack no good thing. He makes them dine with the wolves and foxes without fear. And the dining is par excellence: the finest aged wine, the best meats, cold pressed olive oil, and bountiful amounts of the freshest vegetables and fruits.
But Gods Flock cannot live by bread only, even the best whole grain bread. They must live by every Word from the mouth of the Father. And that is food indeed food for the spirit. Here again the food is the best, not mixed with pagan additives or worldly chemicals.
Not only does our shepherd give all we need to live and live more abundantly, but he also gives us a time to rest and be refreshed from the hectic life. He satisfies the discouraged and restores the weary.
(See: Psa 34:10, Isa 25:6, 30:23, 31:12-14, 25, John 10:9, Jer 33:12.)
While the shepherds of the East concerned themselves with the dangerous wolves and bears, our shepherd protects us from the wiles of the subtle, serpent Satan. This demon is likened to a wolf, often in sheeps clothing.
Even when we stray into the uncharted, for us anyway, wilderness, Jesus seeks us out and rescues us from the inimical enemy. He calls us, when we venture off on our own, his lost sheep. Backsliding, as the Bible calls it, is a perennial problem with Gods Flock, and they should know better. Yet, Jesus guards us against our own self destructiveness, the waywardness we are predisposed to.
But Jesus promises that no Satan, no backsliding, no worldliness, no idolatry will remain within us because he will cleanse us by the Word and whatever other means he may devise. He protects us in the most relevant way as far as our needs are concerned.
(See: Jer 31:10, Eze 34:10, 37:23, Mal 3:17, Heb 13:17, Zec 9:16, John 10:28.)
Our Shepherd Laid Down His Life for Us
As we wander through the wilderness of worldliness, we have our Good Shepherd guiding us on the path to the Kingdom of God by the light of Gods Word. He has been there before. He knows the way, the way of love.
No greater love. . . Our Shepherd tells us. And he died for his enemies, maybe a dozen or so really loved him before his death, maybe less.
Like the shepherds of old, Our Good Shepherd defended Gods Flock against the wiles, snapping jaws, and fiery breath of the great dragon pretending to be a meek lamb.
He has and will do everything a Good Shepherd can do to lead us successfully into the Kingdom of God and eternal life.
(See: Zec 13:7, Isa 53:4, 6, Mark 14:27, John 1:29, Luke 12:32, Mat 11:25, Acts 13:2, 20:28, 1 Tim 4:14, 16, 1 Pet 1:9, 5:2, 1 Cor 12:28, Rev 5:9, Heb 9:14.)
Our Great Shepherd
What has the Great Shepherd done for us, his beloved sheep?
Incrementally, over the ages, Satan has infiltrated the religion and the gospel God gave us through Jesus. This demon blinded the minds of unbelievers and left them to live in the black light of ignorance. But Jesus enlightened our minds and caused the glorious light of Gods Word to shine in our hearts.
He caused us to say, let us return to the Lord. We have been wounded, crushed in spirit, and torn to pieces. We repent of the evil inspired by the demon. So our shepherd leads in the way of light.
His blood, shed for our sins, has freed us from the prison of the arid pit. He did this by inspiring our understanding of the Truth, which sets us free from the slavery to sin. He has opened the way for us to receive God Spirit, the Spirit of Truth and freedom. Now we seek out Gods precepts instead of Satans counterfeit way leading to death. As we wander the hilly pastures, we breathe the pure air of Gods Spirit.
God sent our Shepherd to restore the brokenhearted, to declare freedom to the oppressed, release the prisoners of darkness, give wisdom and understanding to the simple, inculcate the Spirit of counsel and power to the weak, and to promote the fear of the Lord in the faithful.
His intervention into our lives transforms us into his likeness and ever flourishing glory. Amen
In English, the term sheep is both singular and plural depending on usage. The significance being that the totality of Gods Flock is interdependent on each of the sheep. All are interconnected by a common goal and need the others to achieve that goal, the Kingdom of God. Yet each of us is a separate individual accountable for himself. Each of us has the obligation to participate in bringing the Flock of God into the Kingdom of God, as well.
Sheep (From Strongs)
Shepherd (From Strongs)
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.