I’m an animal lover. In fact, I am downright in awe at the variety and complexity of the species within the animal kingdom. The giraffe with that long neck that only contains seven vertebrae. Or how about the pufferfish? Now, there’s an interesting creature. Seriously, even though I am nearing forty years of age, one of my favorite date activities is a trip to the zoo. I love it!
That being said, of all the wonderful animals on this earth, why is it that the Lord likens us to sheep? Why couldn’t we be majestic like the eagle or magnificent like the elephant? Courageous as a lion or strong like an ox? I can think of many animals with which I would like to share characteristics, but honestly, a sheep is not one of them. But I must admit that when I studied out the characteristics of sheep, I discovered that we actually do have much in common.
1) Sheep have no natural means of protection. – Unlike most animals, sheep have no claws, fangs, venom or quills. They are essentially defenseless, making them easy prey for wolves, dingoes and other predators. Similarly, the Bible tells us I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5). Did you catch that? Without God, we can do nothing. We’re defenseless. We don’t have what it takes to stand up against that roaring lion, the devil. We need the help of the Shepherd.
2) Sheep lack a sense of direction. – I have heard countless tales of dogs finding their way home after being lost during a vacation hundreds of miles away. Pigeons have been used for hundreds (maybe even thousands) of years to send messages from one place to another, even to places the pigeon has never been. Let’s face it, some animals have an extraordinary sense of direction. Someway, somehow, they knew where to go and how to get there. Sheep, however, are not like that. They can get lost in the middle of a wide open field, and being easily distracted, they are likely to find themselves lost and in danger. In like fashion, Isaiah 53:6 says All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. . . Without the Shepherd, we are lost and have no idea which way to go. We are dependent on Him for guidance and direction.
3) Sheep are dirty and incapable of cleaning themselves. – Despite how soft and fluffy a sheep’s wool may appear, the truth is that the wool is sticky, dirty and matted. Because of the consistency of the wool, dirt is easily trapped deep within the folds of fur and skin, making it impossible for the sheep to clean itself. No matter how hard it may try, the sheep simply cannot remove the filth that has contaminated its body. In the same manner, we cannot remove the filth of sin that has contaminated our souls. Good deeds won’t wash it away. Baptism can’t loosen the grit. Church standing doesn’t diminish the grime. Only the Shepherd can make us clean. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Revelation 1:5).
For sake of time, I won’t go on, but there are many other characteristics that we share with sheep. Now, you may be wondering, Who cares? Why does it matter that we’re similar to sheep? It matters because only a sheep can truly appreciate the Shepherd. It matters because it is only through understanding the sheep that we can understand what it truly means to be a shepherd. It matters because by comprehending what the sheep can’t do, we can more fully understand what the Shepherd does for us. In Psalm 23, David stated with confidence, The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Can we say the same?
In what ways do you feel you’re like a sheep? What traits or characteristics do you share?