Jun 1, 2011, 2:58 PM
Most people would consider a sheep as a stupid animal unable to take any initiative, slow and lacking intelligence. Few would want to identify with it as a result. In fact, nothing describes this characteristic better than the English word ‘sheepish’, meaning, embarrassed through having done something stupid or foolish. Yet it is this animal that God, in His infinite wisdom, elects to identify His people by. Since God does everything on purpose, we may want to find out what aspects of a sheep’s image befit God’s people.
In general, a sheep is by nature humble and meek, offering little resistance. Should one of them leave the fold or happens to go astray and the shepherd embarks on a search, be sure that when he finds it and gives chase, the sheep would hardly try to escape. It literally offers up itself. What does this mean?
Well, a sheep realises that it is very vulnerable and can fall easy prey to wild animals. It cannot fend for itself. Out in the open, it is totally reliant for its subsistence (food and drink) on the shepherd. In the face of danger, it has no form of defence – not being equipped with either fangs or claws. Therefore what else can a sheep do but to surrender itself to the shepherd!
Since the fall of our great ancestors, Adam and Eve, human beings have lost their sense of direction. The prophet Isaiah in chapter 53 verse 6 of the book bearing the same name underlines the fact that: “We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, …” Indeed like sheep we have not only drifted far away from the Creator, we have also lost our bearings. Completely lost and disoriented, God had to send His Son to show us the only way, teach us the truth and show us how to live. (John 14:6)
What does the Good Shepherd do when one sheep goes astray? He goes “…after the lost sheep in the open country until he finds it. And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” Luke 15:4-6. It is for this reason that God sent His Son, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to redeem humankind. He gave up His life for the sheep in order to pay for the sins of all who believe in Him. In this regard, God’s love was manifested on the cross when He afflicted His Son in our place.
Another spectacular aspect that marks the intelligence of the sheep is that it places its whole confidence on the shepherd. He trusts him for its pasture, so it is always beside him – who definitely knows where to find food and water. The sheep would just follow him wherever he leads, without giving heed to the distance covered and without asking questions. One thing is certain; the shepherd will not lead his sheep astray – the reason why they rely on him for their protection and safety. They enjoy peace, joy and communion under his guidance. They submit themselves knowing that the shepherd’s wisdom surpasses theirs.
Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel of John chapter 6 verse 3 declares “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never thirst.” In chapter 7 verse 37of the same book, He states: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” The sheep’s intelligence is evident in the type of relationship it knits with its shepherd. It spares itself the worry and heaps everything on its guide, its shepherd. David in Psalm 23 wrote “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Verse 3.
All the sheep’s needs are met. Provision and sufficiency for the sheep is guaranteed to the point that it can say; “my cup overflows” verse 5. What else would the sheep need if everything is already prepared for it by the Father? Christians need not fear for the Lord is at the helm of affairs. He even goes ahead of his sheep.
Our Lord Jesus promises an abundant life (John 10:10) if we would stick by Him always contrary to the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. If however we seek to live by our own strength and by our own wisdom we cannot claim all the benefits put at our disposal. It all boils down to cultivating a personal relationship with our Saviour so that we can bask in His presence. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19:
Nothing is so striking by way of total confidence than that displayed by three Jewish lads - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They faced instant death by burning for defying king Nebuchadnezzar’s instructions for all his subjects to bow to an idol of his own making. The intensity of the flames was such that the soldiers who threw them into the furnace did not escape death. However, they had made their position very clear to the king: “…we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.” Daniel 3:16-17.
Nothing equals this kind of dependence. It is in this manner that our Lord Jesus was obedient to His Father even unto death. He relied on His Father for everything and earned the title the Lamb of God.
Are you truly seeking to be near God? Do you believe He is capable of taking you to green pastures or are you looking for another? One thing is sure ‘green pastures’ and ‘still waters’ are only found near Him. Follow Him!