Every day we use animal analogies, i.e. “tired as a dog”, “happy as a dead pig in the sunshine”, “hungry as a bear”, so we know what being compared to an animal is all about. There are more than two hundred references and comparisons, in the Bible, concerning “sheep”. I have heard preachers say that sheep are dumb and compare the congregants sitting in front of them to those dumb animals. After doing a little research, I would say that they couldn’t be THAT dumb, at least they knew their own shepherd’s voice and that was key in their protection from wild beasts. In the “olden” days, shepherds named their sheep the way we name our pets! At night several shepherds would put their flocks into one pen so they could take turns sitting in the gate keeping watch, while the others slept. When morning came each shepherd would call their sheep out, they would come and follow their own shepherd, because they recognized his voice!
Jesus gave His disciples the example of how the shepherd sits in the gate and then told them that He was THE Good Shepherd. It is comforting to know that He is the One sitting in the gate guarding me from the wiles of the enemy! Our problem is that, unlike the sheep, we sometimes listen to other voices and go bleating off in other directions, while our own Good Shepherd is calling us out by name. There is one practice that a good shepherd does which seems cruel to me, what is that? First I remind you that no one likes to carry a load of weight on their shoulders for too long, and so it may seem that the Good Shepherd is picking up a little lamb and hoisting it over His shoulders to help it move over to the greener pasture, perhaps the little baa-baa is just tired or fatigued and simply needs that extra gentle touch, but that’s not the way it works. A shepherd’s role in the life of his sheep is to guard them, prod them, to get them onto the right path going in the right direction and occasionally there is a need for discipline as well. When an animal that is supposed to be following and staying within the pasture that the shepherd has deemed as safe continues to wander off getting itself and possible the others in danger, he is shown, lovingly shown, forcibly shown, and when it still refuses to do what it is supposed to do, the shepherd has two choices: he can either kill the little guy or break its leg to render it unable to continue disobeying him. Almost immediately after the leg is broken the sheep gets the message that the shepherd is serious about the direction or the commandment given and it doesn’t take too long for the waywardness to subside and the dependency upon the shepherd to take place. Then, and only then, does the Good Shepherd pick up the broken lamb and place it over His shoulders to carry it for a matter of a long time and an enduring lesson, which over a course of weeks, and usually close intimate conversation and discussion from His mouth to the lamb’s ears, will the lamb be strong enough to walk on its own again. Breaking the animal’s leg is better than the alternative.
I wonder how many actual shepherds take the time to do that? Or would they feast on mutton rather than make the effort when they have many other obedient sheep walking correctly? I certainly don’t want to be that little fluffy lamb on Jesus’ shoulders.
If our pastors are our “shepherd”, and they certainly are, then it is up to them to correct us when they see that we are in error, to show us the error of our way before we lead someone else off into a strange pasture, but I fear that some are afraid to offend “sheep” that might be giving financial support to the church, afraid they might leave the confines of that particular “pasture” and find a new group of sheep and a new shepherd. Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
As for me, I’m content to being one of the first sheep in line – keeping pace, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Now how do you feel about being compared to sheep? Psalm 100:3 Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Jesus is standing in the gate and protecting me from the wild animals of life that try to take my life. Matthew 10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Should I say blessings or to my fellow sheep simply say, “Baa baa”?