Thursday, May 29, 2014
And sheep can be dumb
Sheep are so cute, aren't they? So fluffy, and so bouncy and well, just cute!
Did you also know that sheep can be kinda stupid?
Ohhhhhh, and we are compared to sheep in John 10, right? Oy.
Let's look closely at sheep and see what we can learn about ourselves, ok? Let's dive in!
When we think about most of the other animals in the world, we can see that they have ways to protect themselves. Wolves and dogs have teeth, cats have claws, skunks have spray, and sheep have....sheep have.....well, they don't have much. They are fuzzy, and they have this instinct called "flocking." It's like the old days of stuffing people into Volkswagens -- if it rains, the ones on the inside are OK. Well, if you are on the inside of a flock of sheep, the wolf will leave you alone, since he is busy deciding which one of the outer ring of sheep he's going to nibble on.
Many other animals have well-developed senses. We've all heard the expression "eagle-eye" and there are animals with keen hearing, as well. Well, when the first sheep heard they were passing out those traits, he must have thought it was something different, because he didn't go get any. (Grin) Sheep don't see very well -- that is why the shepherd's staff has that crook on one end. He can hoist a sheep out of a ravine after they keep on grazing right past the edge and fall. He can also fish them out of the water once they fall in there! Remember Psalm 23, and "still water"? Sheep need still water instead of rapidly-flowing streams, or they will drown. Just try putting a wool sweater into a tub of water and then see how heavy it is when you want to pull it out! You can see why sheep need to be "by still waters," right?
I think you can probably see right through my comparisons, can't you? We (the sheep in John 10) don't have much luck in protecting ourselves from Satan and his temptations. We are pretty blind sometimes, and just keep blundering along until we fall into sin, because we didn't see it coming. We need to stay by the still waters, because we're not nearly as good swimmers as we think we may be!
We passed over some of the duties of the shepherds in our studies. Did you know that when it's dusk and it's time for the sheep to go into the pen, the shepherd will sit in the opening of the pen? He'll block the opening with his staff, and count each sheep as it goes in for the night . . . there's Blackie, the one that toes in a little; there's Snow, I know her by that droopy ear; there's Graybeard, oh, come here, boy, you got pretty torn up in that thorn bush today. Let's put a little oil on it and make sure it heals up. And so on, and so on till the sheep are all inside and the shepherd lies down in the gate to ensure that nothing and no one get to the sheep. He lays down his life for them if something threatens them.
You saw through that comparison, too, didn't you? Y'all are smart! Our good Shepherd has said that He is our gate. He is our way to be safe, and to be saved. And He knows all about us -- He knows us by name; He knows how many hairs are on our heads; He knows when we've been hurt, and how to comfort and heal us. And He laid down His life for us and died on the cross; He lives again to offer us salvation and to show us how to live.
I saw a sermon online from a pastor (thank you, Rob Brink) who said there were actually three kinds of shepherds. We already discussed the hired hand; he just does the bare minimum. He feeds the flock, waters the flock, watches them as they go in the community pen, and then when a wolf comes, he runs away.
The bad shepherd drives the sheep along, and pushes them from behind, smacking them to make them obey, and probably has a very yappy dog to help keep them in line. The sheep never have a chance to exercise the (limited) intelligence that God gave them, so they are just surviving. They aren't growing, thriving, maturing.
The good shepherd knows the sheep, and they know him. He leads them out of the pen and on their way, so that whoever wants to attack must deal with him first. He calls them by name, and cares for their hurts.
It bothers me to think of how much joy I've missed, how much time I've wasted, not being a good sheep. We need to stay close to the Shepherd. We can find comfort in His care. He will be our guard, our guide, and our companion every step of the way.