I had to write about sheep today. No, really, I had no choice. Last week our ladies group began Jennifer Rothschild’s study, “Psalm 23.” Our life group began a new disciple making study, and one of the first scriptures I read was Ezekiel 34:11-16, which is all about sheep and their shepherd. And my husband began a new message series at church this past Sunday about bringing God’s lost sheep back into the fold. Do you understand why I must write about sheep?
I thought we’d start off with a few facts. Sheep are very social animals. They will usually stay together in a group while grazing. Some animal behaviorists note that when 4 or 5 sheep graze together, they maintain a visual link to one another. Their natural flocking instinct causes them to band together in large groups, which protects them from predators. The outliers in the flock are more susceptible to attack. A sheep will become highly agitated if it is separated from the group. They have a strong instinct to follow the sheep in front of them. If one sheep decides to go somewhere, all other sheep normally follow, even if it’s not a good decision. They will even follow each other to slaughter. Their tracks are never straight. They have an amazing tolerance for pain. When sheep are faced with danger, their natural instinct is to flee, not fight.
After reading about some of the behaviors of sheep, it’s easy to see why the Lord calls His children sheep.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3
What about the shepherd? Do sheep really need a shepherd?
“The shepherd is the first profession mentioned in the Bible (Gen 4:2). Sheep are utterly dependent upon their shepherd to lead them to pastures, provide them with water, and protect them from danger. Sheep and flocks are mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible, using twelve different Hebrew words and four Greek words. They are the most prominent animal mentioned in Scripture.” (Source: bibleplaces.com)
When sheep wander away from the flock, the shepherd leaves all other sheep safe within the pen and seeks out that lost little lamb. He gently and lovingly guides the sheep back to the flock.
Contrary to popular opinion, sheep aren’t dumb. They know who feeds them, protects them, and cares for their needs. Sheep can distinguish their keeper’s voice from all others. What about newborn lambs? How do they learn to recognize the shepherd’s voice? From birth, lambs are conditioned to follow the flock. Even sheep that are introduced to a new flock will follow the other sheep until they, too, recognize the shepherd and his voice. What a beautiful picture of discipleship. We bring along non-believers and new believers, walk beside them, lead them, teach them, and always point them to Jesus. (Source: christianitytoday.com)
Speaking of Jesus…He is our gatekeeper. A gatekeeper is someone who controls access to something. Jesus is the door, the gate, we enter through to find pasture with our Shepherd.
And Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests. And they built the Sheep Gate. They sanctified it and set up its doors. Even to the Tower of Meah they sanctified it, to the Tower of Hananeel. Nehemiah 3:1
The high priest, Eliashib, with his brothers, the priests, built the Sheep Gate and set up its doors. This is first of Jerusalem’s gates mentioned in the Bible. The spiritual meaning of the Sheep Gate is that the high priest was building it and that through the Sheep Gate, lambs and sheep were brought to the temple. The Lord Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant, who is the Lamb, the one offered for the sake of our sins. He gathers the Father’s sheep and leads them through the gate into safety. Watch the short video below to gain perspective on this truth.
Have you followed The Great Shepherd into the safety of the sheep pen? If not, why not do so today? Jesus is the door, He is the gate. Confess your sins to God, turn from your sins, and ask that the blood Christ shed on the cross to cover your sin be applied to your life. Ask for God’s forgiveness and tell Him your desire to follow Him as Savior and Lord from this day forward.
If you just made this decision, I’d love to hear about it! Please let me know. Or if you have any questions about this decision, I’d love to speak with you about it.
Join the conversation. In what ways are you most like sheep? Are you social? Like to flock together with others? Have a strong instinct to follow another who is further along in their spiritual walk than you? Comment below.
If you know someone who is a lost sheep, who has wandered away from the flock and needs encouragement, share this post with them through the social media links below. Invite them to your church. Set up a coffee or lunch date, and talk with them about returning to the flock.