My son recently taught me a valuable lesson about my identity. He had refused to do his Bible memory verse because the passage likened us to sheep!
“Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
Having always liked the image of a cuddly little lamb in the Shepherd’s arms, I was puzzled.
“Why don’t you like that comparison, son?” I asked.
“Because sheep are stinky and smelly and dumb! I don’t like being called a sheep!”
Impressed by his response, I moved on and tried to help him understand the parallels, assuring him we were not called sheep because of our hygiene. I explained how sheep need a shepherd to keep them safe – just like we do. Eventually, the passage was memorized with the caveat he didn’t have to like the picture.
But the definition of sheep painted by my son stuck with me and I began thinking about what it really means to be called “His sheep.”
Sheep are, by their very nature, not very smart and tend to be slow learners. They are stubborn and not easily moved, yet quick to panic and flee. Interestingly, sheep have incredible peripheral vision – and the ability to see behind them without turning their head. Their depth perception, however, is very poor and as a result they prefer well-lit places and stay away from shadows.
Sheep have a strong follow-lead mentality and do what the others are doing – if one starts to run, they all run. Though they stay together in a flock, sheep are very vulnerable to predators and have no ability to defend themselves – no claws, sharp teeth or dangerous horns. Predators always target the youngest, most indefensible.
Very food-oriented animals, sheep are dependent on others to care for their needs and require constant supervision.
Yes, sheep are dirty and smelly. And though I might beg to differ, many people consider the animal downright ugly!
See a little of our culture in any of that? Reading down this list of characteristics, it’s really no wonder that God draws the comparison between us, and sheep.
One amazing quality of sheep, however, is their ability to recognize individual faces and remember them for years.
When we know our shepherd, we recognize him as the one who protects, rescues, feeds, shears and cleans us. But more than our needs, He cares for 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.”
Called by him, led by him, cared for by him, fed by him.
By choice, we are his people…the sheep of his pasture.
You, Lord Jesus, are the Good Shepherd! How comforting it is to be in your arms, held close to your heart. When we wander, you look for us and watch over us until – in the exhaustion of our self-will – we are ready to return. Thank you for loving us – even while we are still dirty with sin – and allowing that filthy stench to transfer to you when you hold us tight in your loving embrace. Help me today to follow only you. Amen.
Taking it deeper:
In what new ways do you identify with sheep?