If given a choice, a sheep will not be the animal you and I would choose to be. Our choice would likely be powerful and courageous animals such as the lion, elephant or the crocodile. Yet, our Lord Jesus deliberately chose to call us sheep and He, our Shepherd, not just because His audience was Jewish who were mainly shepherds but because He had the qualities of sheep in mind.
In John 10:11-16, Jesus said, “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 Believer as a Sheep
Sheep know and respond to the shepherd’s voice: It is said that when several shepherds take their sheep to the river to drink, each sheep only leaves when their shepherd calls them to leave. They will not respond to the voice of the other shepherds. We, as sheep, must recognize, listen and respond only to the voice of our Shepherd.
Sheep are meek: They are gentle, easy to control, teachable and not aggressive. We need to come back to being meek, self controlled, teachable, gentle, and humble, recognizing our low estate. Only then can the Holy Spirit revive us and use us.
Sheep are timid, fearful and easily panic: We know deep down that these describe us and the response is to rely on the One who gives courage and casts out fear. We must stop using the Shepherd’s word to act macho without connecting with Him as His sheep.
Sheep are dumb, stupid and gullible: Many believers will reject these sorts of qualities but these are what Jesus seeks in us in order for us to surrender totally and be completely reliant on Him.
Sheep don’t know how to think for themselves, so they follow the crowd: Jesus wants us to allow Him, through His Spirit, to will and do for His pleasure and He desires we operate in a community (never in isolation).
Sheep have little or no means of self-defense: They rely on the strength and wisdom of their Shepherd. Our Lord desires that we don’t take up the fight but run to Him who promised to fight for us, as the battle is His.
Sheep can’t lead themselves: They will starve or die of dehydration if the shepherd doesn’t lead them to food or water. They are very needy and dependent on their shepherd. This is a quality Jesus seeks in His sheep and yet, many will reject this because of how humbling and helpless this looks.
Sheep are always hungry: This means, they always look out for the shepherd who will provide them with food and water. How the Lord Jesus longs for a people who will always be hungry for Him and as such, be constantly in search of Him.
The sheep trust the shepherd: They never doubt what the shepherd instructs and know fully well that the shepherd loves and cares for them. This is what Jesus seeks from us.
The modern Christian is too arrogant to desire these qualities of a sheep as defined by the One who created and saved us. Yet, Jesus was first a sheep (the Lamb of God) to His Father (the Great Shepherd) so we have an excellent model for us to follow sheepishly. This is the true worship which God desires.
You’ve heard idioms like, ‘As meek as a lamb’ and ‘As stubborn as a goat”. According to Matthew 25:32-34, “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
Will you develop the qualities of the sheep so your Shepherd can call you His sheep instead of being called a goat?