The farm where I keep my horse raises sheep. This has given me a firsthand opportunity to contemplate comparisons between sheep and people I read about in the Bible. Sometimes observations have brought me laughter. Sometimes reflections are sobering; other times, downright pensive and dreadful. Is this really how God sees us, as sheep?
*Sheep flock together, yet are prone to wander.
*When scared, they have no defense except to run. Also have no sense of direction, and so run wherever—and not always toward the best place, putting them in deeper trouble.
*If they get tangled up, then freed, they tend to get tangled up in the same place in the same way as before.
*They are easily persuaded; if one jumps off a ridge, the rest will follow without a glance at the precarious scenario.
*They are skittish, yet the one or two that are most distrustful seem bullish and pick on the weakest. These are also those that stand out and might spring to break your nose or kick when you try to wrangle them.
*You might provide a vat of fresh feed ten feet away, plenty for all, yet they’ll only perceive the crumbs left in your hand and will clamber for that as if the last bits of food on a dying earth—raid!
*When lifting their heads taking notice of you, they look guilty and act paranoid as if caught doing something wrong (because Big Sister has been watching).
*They can ignore danger, and sometimes… sometimes when they fear something, in their denial they will all simply turn around. Because if they can’t see you, then you (big mean bear) aren’t actually there. And all you view is several dirty back-ends a swipe away.
*They are inherently filthy and cannot care for themselves; they need their shepherd to clean and care for them.
*When a sheep is cast down, it needs the shepherd to pick it up and set it on its feet, right-side up again. And so they learn their shepherd’s voice, and this is the voice they will trust.
*With offspring, nothing seems as pure and innocent as a lamb. You celebrate and recognize the value in such creatures, in the evidence of the first breath of life on its own, and also in the hope and provision of more endless wool and milk.
*They are not pack animals, not meant to carry burdens.
*No two bleats are alike; their voices are distinct. Some baas are even comical. While some sheep are louder than others, some make little to no sound and seem to just stare or observe rather than vocalize.
And this next one especially fascinates me…
*The one that strays from the 99 tends to be the same one, and it is often the one rejected by its mother and picked on by the rest of the flock. You don’t know why, but that one is just different. It’s an outcast, a loner. Yet, has the biggest emotion toward its shepherd or person it trusts. It loves to be around that human more than the flock and almost smiles when found, and enjoys the caretaker’s arms, its legs dangling in complete trust; will even remain like that, content, going for a piggyback walk or car ride back to the barn. The shepherd recognizes the specialness and doesn’t mind at all going out again and again to rescue it, just to spend time together. The peculiar one with the big heart after its caretaker seems to make the most difference, beautifying the day with warmer memories and richer stories.
I could go on and on. And a lot of these comparative observations are humbling to me. What stands out the most is our need, as people, for the Good and Great Shepherd and how the Shepherd knows us and our behaviors so well. He sees our filth, weaknesses, and tendencies, our vulnerabilities and fear, yet loves us so much! When we learn our Shepherd’s voice, we follow, and the Shepherd takes care of our every necessity and more. We are valuable to him. He cleans us, guides us, feeds us, clothes us, rescues us, carries us, and gives our distinct voices purpose. I guess I don’t mind being compared to a sheep. I will trust my Shepherd.