We are the Sheep of His Pasture
It’s interesting how Scripture refers to us as His sheep. Have you ever given any thought to what might be behind that metaphor? I believe that understanding the sheep metaphor holds the key to understanding our relationship with the Good Shepherd and with the other sheep in His fold.
So what is the significance of God using the metaphor of sheep to describe His children? Well, did you know…
First of all, did you know that sheep are one of the few animals that do not have a defense system? Sheep are helpless without a shepherd. In Matthew 9:36, it says, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." In the Old Testament, God raised Moses up as a shepherd for Israel. In Numbers 27:17, "Who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”
Even the first line of Psalm 23 reflects the wonderful truth that God Himself is our Defender: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Without the Lord as our Shepherd we’re helpless when our enemy Satan attacks. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 "But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one."
Secondly, did you know that sheep are notorious for following a leader, even when the leader leads them astray? Much like sheep, we are extremely gullible when an attractive or charismatic leader comes along, offering some emotionally-driven appeal of some mystical promise or some shiny new idea that he discovered in Scripture.
The truth is, Scripture is filled with tragic illustrations of the “herd mentality” in action. That sheep-like mentality is evident when Pilate brought Jesus before the people to ask what should be done with Him. Only days before, Jesus had been the popular Teacher who healed, forgave, and taught about God. People eagerly followed Him. But, less than a week later, many of those who had witnessed His miracles were shouting, “Crucify Him!”
Thirdly, did you know that throughout Scripture sheep are prone to wander away from the flock? Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
A sheep’s only chance of survival is staying within the fold, under the care of a competent shepherd. But too often, we like sheep become overconfident, rebellious, or distracted, and we wander away from the safety of the flock.
In this age of consumer-based church, many sheep have a ‘greener grass’ mentality where they are always looking for the latest and greatest thing. Instead of focusing on developing deeper relationships within the flock that God has placed them, they’re always looking ahead to another destination, often moving in the opposite direction of God’s leadership over the flock.
Peter had this tendency in mind when he warned the church to be on the alert because the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). A lion doesn’t attack the flock. It waits until a solitary lamb wanders too far from the shepherd. One of Jesus’ most famous parables is about a lamb that strayed so far it became lost. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, left the ninety-nine sheep in the fold and went searching for the one lost lamb (Luke 15:2–17).
Sheep are significant throughout the Bible. We can learn a lot about God and His dealings with us by understanding their nature. They teach us about ourselves and our helplessness without Christ. They remind us about sin’s shocking consequences when innocence is sacrificed to atone for the guilty. But they also teach us about God and His desire to deal tenderly with us: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11). When we study the ways sheep are used as teaching tools in the Bible, it helps us better understand ourselves in relation to our Good Shepherd and to one another as God’s church.
Why don’t you spend some time contemplating yourself as one of God’s sheep and your relationship with the flock in which He has placed you.
Blessings to you as you follow the leadership of the Good Shepherd!
~~ Pastor Greg