Isaiah 53: 6 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’
I am admittedly a “city girl”. I was not raised on a farm and I know little of farm animals of any kind. I know even less about sheep but since the Bible says so much about these animals, my curiosity peaked. I turned to one of my sources of information, my old friend “Google”. There I found page after page of things to know about sheep. The teacher in me instantly felt the excitement and I was enthralled with what I found.
Did you know…
Sheep are social animals. They are not happy alone and will become agitated if separated from the rest of the flock. They need to see other sheep especially while grazing to enhance their appetite. Visual contact with other sheep develops their normal behavior such as their flocking instinct.
Humans are also social creatures. While being alone over a long period of time may not cause humans to be agitated (or maybe it does in some), we function best when we interact with others. It is through this interaction that we develop to our full emotional/spiritual potential. We thrive on hugs and kisses from parents and family which in turn develops our emotional instincts. Our appetites are enhance by watching others as they show love and compassion to those in need. We look to these examples to show us how to react in daily life.
God made us to live and grow in community. We learn from others both good and bad traits. As Christians, we learn valuable spiritual lessons from other Christians. We look to them as we graze on His Word and see examples of what it means to be a Christian. Our ultimate example, however, should be Jesus. Because Jesus lived on earth as the perfect man, He shows us how we are to love one another, we too are to reach out to others (Christians and non-Christians) in a loving, compassionate way. A Christian life should be a reflection of Jesus’ love for others.
1 Peter 3: 8 “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”
1 John 4: 11 “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Do you show love and compassion to others? Who do you look to as an example of God’s love? Do others see Jesus in you?
Sheep have a flocking instinct. The flocking instinct in sheep causes them to group together making them easier to manage and move from pasture to pasture. This same flocking instinct also causes them to run from what frightens them and band together in large groups for protection.
Comparison: Humans also tend to group together. We seek out those who have common interests and are like-minded. Groups offer support and reassurance when needed. Groups come in many forms: family, friends, churches, social groups, etc. We have a need for survival (physical and emotional) and groups offer that support. Our church families also offer prayers, encouragement and help during times of need.
Application: For the maximum effort of encouraging and supporting one another, our churches should continually be gathering others into the group in order to support and encourage one another. Becoming part of a Christian group is necessary for continued spiritual growth in an individual and gives an opportunity to minister to the needs of the individual in Christian love. Both the one who needs loving support and the ones giving the support are blessed by sharing their lives with one another.
Hebrews 10: 24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…”
Do you pray and serve others by seeking out opportunities to show Jesus’ love to someone in need? Are you part of a Christians community who continually gathers others into the fold? What is your response when someone expresses a need?
Sheep have the need to follow the leader. If one sheep moves, the rest will follow. The flocking and following instinct is so strong in sheep that it has caused the deaths of many sheep who simply followed the lead sheep as he stumbled and fell over a cliff.
Comparison: Hopefully, the need to follow a leader is not as strong in humans as to blindly follow a leader over a cliff. But certainly you can think of many examples of those who have done just that. Jim Jones took a group of believers to Guyana where they committed murder/suicide. David Koresh in Texas led 80 adults and 22 children in a standoff with FBI resulting in their deaths.
Application: Christians need to be careful in choosing a leader to follow. Do not blindly follow your pastor, elders, Sunday School teachers or others who teach you. God’s Word is true and sharper than a two edged sword and should be the standard through which we sift all things. Listen intently, carefully read God’s Word for yourself and let the Holy Spirit guide you to interpret what is being taught. Listen for the voice of Jesus and follow Him.
John 10: 27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
How often do you spend time reading the Holy Bible? When you are taught new ideas or new revelations from the Word, do you accept it without question or do you read for yourself to determine its truth? Do you accept what is being said blindly and agree with it just because it comes from someone you respect?
Sheep can get agitated and stress easily. Sheep have excellent hearing even though sound arrives on each ear at a different time. They are often frightened by sudden loud noises, such as yelling or barking. In response to these loud noises and other unnatural sounds, sheep become nervous and more difficult to handle. An agitated sheep is one that gets sick easily, has a tendency to run away, refuses to eat, grinds its teeth when in pain. and can’t relax or sleep. According to sheep handlers, these animals need to be cared for in a stress-free environment.
Comparison: Hmm! Need I explain the similarities? I, for one, have had my share of sleepless nights and grinding teeth. Humans are often stressed. Stress causes illness and aging among other things. So, why do we do it to ourselves?
Application: Worry, anxiety, and stress all go hand in hand. I have learned that I can do nothing to change my situation because I am not the one in control. Some things come in life and we never know why they happen? When I realize that God is in control and He has a purpose for everything that happens, He becomes my great stress reliever. I am commanded to rest in Jesus. and place my burdens upon Him.
Philippians 4: 6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Reflection: Are you a worrier? Do you take your burdens to Jesus in prayer and then take them back again because you don’t think He is working fast enough? Are you in total control of the situation? Do you know the One who is?
Perhaps we are more like sheep than I first realized. For those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are His sheep. He is the Good Shepherd and He always has us in His care. He moves us from pasture to pasture providing us with experiences that grow our faith and draw us close to Him. Jesus provides us the options of peace if we only rest in Him.
To those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, why Jesus? Because He is the one referred to in the Isaiah passage at the beginning of this post. We are those “like” sheep and all have sinned. Jesus was the One who bore the burden of iniquity for you and me.