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.