I wonder if you are prepared to come on a little journey with me. Over the last few months, the concept of sheep has prevailed in my thoughts. It’s not because I’m thinking of becoming a sheep farmer, but maybe in some way, what it is being reaffirmed is that I must look to gather some sheep.
I have written about the hefted sheep and the lame sheep in recent articles. My thoughts, however, remain on the illustration that Jesus continually refers to us as ‘sheep’ in some way.
Let us look at these passages again.
Luke 15:2-7, the parable of the Lost sheep.
Matthew 25:32-34, the Separation of the sheep and the goats.
John 10:7, The Sheep gate
Matthew 10:16, Sheep among wolves
Isaiah 53:5-7, e have started like sheep
Matthew 15:24, Jesus sent to the Lost sheep of Israel
John 10, Jesus the good shepherd. Jesus knows His sheep, Jesus sacrifice for His sheep
Psalm 23, the Lord is our Shepherd
Psalm 100, the sheep of our pasture.
And there are many more.
How do we understand these references? It would make more sense if Jesus referred to Himself as our Master and that we belong to Him — maintaining the human aspect of our relationship with Him. He does show us this in John 17 and all believers know that we are His and that He is our sovereign Lord and Master. Despite this, the similitude between human and sheep continue in the imagery He uses. The image of the sheep is used to signify how we roam together as a flock or tribe and how we are easily led and how quickly we can become lost. It also highlights how frail we are and indeed, like sheep, we need to be shepherded.
Jesus tells us that we must be led by Him and by doing so we yield to the path that He sets before us. The fleece of the sheep has amazing qualities too. It keeps us warm in winter and cool in summer, and of course each breed, significant of the different tribes, has its own characteristics and colours. Some are hardy and weather resistant but some are very frail indeed, especially during the lambing season. In the wild, they are open to predators and other dangers. This is why we are admonished to draw near and keep close to God - His rod and staff are there to comfort us.
So what is the purpose of the sheep?
Isaiah 40: tells us this
Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.
Furthermore, notice that in the scriptures, Jesus refers to us as lambs. Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
How can Jesus be our shepherd and a lamb at the same time? Of course we are not animals, or lambs for that matter, but Jesus is telling us, using the symbols of idioms and parable, that He is like us, or became like us and as Shepherd, He has come to show us the way to a life that He has prepared for us. This the message of Christ. In turn, every believer also becomes a shepherd, like Him. Our role is to lead others to the way He has taught us.
Now, having set the basis for this little journey, I want you to remember a time when, and if indeed if you were ever lost. If you are reading this, then I would assume that you made it out from your predicament and that you no longer remain lost. Being lost is time limited, or in other words it will be only a matter of time, if you remain alive of course, when you will find your way. If you are on a path and civilisation is only a matter of miles away , you will, with perseverance , eventually make it there. If you are lost in a forest, you will eventually make it out to the other side. You might not be where you want to be but you can make your way back, having once found out where you ended up. Do you see what I mean?
In survival conditions, if you are lost, you take it a few yards at a time. You constantly have to be aware of a reference point from where you set off, and make markers in time and distance along the way. If you can, you keep going straight forward. Your nearest point of contact may only be a mile away, but if you don’t set your course and observe your steps, you may end up walking all day and probably finding yourself not far from where you first set off. However, finding your way back to where you began, though frustrating, is sometimes better as it’s a familiar place for you to rest and gather yourself together.
Now I want you to imagine a place where you are absolutely and truly lost. Someone has blindfolded you and taken you on a journey and dropped you off in a very strange and unknown place. There are no markers, just constant daylight, but no sun. You look around and see a vast plateaux of sand or ice. There is no wind, or sound. Every which way you look, it’s the same, and for as far as the eye can see. You have no concept of distance. Which way would you go?Remember there is no sun to watch or stars at night and the hands on your watch have stopped.
In this scenario, you are indeed truly lost. So you see now that we have just identified to levels of being lost.
In this journey, we are going to take the second scenario. You and I are totally and absolutely lost.
How does this feel?
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