Some people look at a sheep, or a lamb and go “SHEEP = ITCHY!” It really depends on the wool and how it is cared for. Thank Goodness for that! I love my wool socks.
Sheep were a mainstay in the time of Jesus. The people of that time used them for more than wool. Milk, and meat were also valuable products from them. Any person that had many of them was considered blessed and wealthy. You can find an example of this in the book of Job.
Job 42:10-12 KJV, modified a little to fit the New Testament understanding of Christ.
And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the (Devil) had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold. So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand female donkeys.
14000 SHEEP?!?!? I can only imagine the pasture space you would need for all of them. Considering how ubiquitous livestock and sheep were in the ancient world — sheep pop up in the bible quite often. Usually to allegorically describe the nature of God, and His children’s relationship with Him.
Just look at the classic Psalm 23 as an example of this. It is a favorite psalm of mine, and of many. It uses imagery that was common to a shepherd’s daily life, and it beautifully fits the inner dynamics of the Spirit of God guiding her children in life, and deep within their souls.
Psalm 23, KJV
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 23 isn’t just a great passage of scripture to remind the heart about the nature of God’s shepherd-like ways. It is a GREAT passage to remind us how to be towards him, and it is telling of our likeness to sheep (even if we don’t like to admit it).
For example… Sheep have a incredibly strong flocking instinct. It is so powerful that back in 2006 four-hundred out of one thousand five-hundred sheep died, in Turkey, due to following one that tried to go across a deep chasm.
Like sheep following another one to their doom, major accidents with airplanes have happened in the past due to little mistakes coming from humans following the bad practices of others. When investigations in airplanes are conducted these types of mistakes are placed in the category of human factors. People just following the bad habits of others, even when the people are good in general. When we make mistakes though… we cannot always claim we didn’t know better. We more often than not know better, but if someone else is doing something wrong; it is often easier to let it go and just go along with it. In this way we are like sheep.
Now those are some examples of “flocking” without wisdom. It isn’t all bad. This trait can be bad in us, or good. It is the same way with sheep. For the most part when sheep flock together in the pasture they increase their safety. They are far safer together than alone. And people do better together than apart if they can learn to operate on a good consensus.
Because there are notes of herd dynamics in our own behavior — we can understand how to create consensus among many when the reason for there being a consensus is compelling enough. Against all the common peer pressure and other great influences society places on people there MUST be some shepherd to help anchor against the tide of madness and monotony.
John 14:27, NIV
2Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
The shepherd can vary among us, but what doesn’t change is the universal desire to feel the comfort of someone looking after you in some way. It isn’t good to want someone to control you and look after you in everything you do, but there is nothing wrong with wanting a guide, a helping hand; a gentle old soul, etc.
With good leaders people can do much good — especially if those leaders get in the mud with their constituents. “Telling” them is absent from their vocabulary; instead, they LEAD. A good shepherd goes through all the grime that his, or her herd comes across, and helps them through it.
Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd, and he extolled this style of leadership, as can be seen here.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”John 10:11-18, NIV
Here is the moral to the story. It is important to be independent — in life and mind — but not to the point that one forsakes community, and all deep connection with people. It’s okay to be a sheep, or a lamb some of the time. Just be sure to be lead by the right Shepherd. It is more than okay to be a shepherd, but if you lead… lead well. Humans have a mind far greater than one of these beautiful little FLOOFERS, and yet Christ cares even for them.
Have you consulted your inner Shepherd today?