Are You A Sheep?

by Kathryn M. Graves

Rain blew in sideways sheets. The dirt under the shepherd's feet turned to muck that pulled at his shoes. Baa, baa. The sheep's loud cries made the shepherd more determined to reach his goal.

A rain-swollen creek gushed past. The shepherd squinted against the downpour, looking for a place to cross. To his left he spotted a narrow part of the creek. He jumped across and continued his quest for the lost sheep.

Baaa!

The shepherd knew he was getting closer. He slid down a hill into a thicket. There, stuck in a brambly bush, lay his lost sheep.

Feeling Sheepish?
In one of Jesus' parables, He says if a man owned 100 sheep, he would willingly leave 99 of them to find the one that's lost. And when he finds the lost sheep, "he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost" (Matthew 8:13-14).

Even before Jesus tells this story to explain how much God loves us, there are many times in the Bible where humans are compared to sheep. And who wouldn't want to be a sheep? After all, sheep are soft and cute and cuddly.

But being a sheep isn't all warm and fuzzy. Sheep are afraid of rushing water because they can easily drown. You'll probably never see sheep in a circus because they're almost impossible to train. They have no natural protection like other animals—such as quills, claws, defensive scent or sharp teeth. Plus, they don't smell that great.

However, God had a reason for comparing us to sheep. Take a closer look at how we are like sheep and how God is our perfect Shepherd.

Wandering
Without a shepherd, sheep wander aimlessly. We do that, too. Isaiah 53:6 says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray." When we don't follow God's commandments, we get into trouble. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:14). He leads us away from danger and toward what is good. John 10:27 says, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

Needy
Sheep are totally dependent on the shepherd for protection. They also need him to lead them to good pastures and safe water. Similarly, God provides all our needs. He gives us skills and strength so we can work. God cares for every detail of our lives. As it says in Isaiah 40:11, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart."

Be Still
Psalm 23:2 says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters." Just like sheep are afraid of rushing water, we can become anxious when life gets bumpy. By praying to God and reading His Word, we can draw close to the Good Shepherd and find peace. Sheep love lying down with a full belly, just as God designed us to enjoy peaceful rest.

Ouch!
When a sheep gets a wound or bite, it can't care for itself. Other animals lick a wound until it heals, but not sheep. They need a shepherd to tend to their injuries. God gave us parents, who help us when we're hurt. And the Good Shepherd is always there to comfort us. When we have emotional hurts, sickness or social problems, God can help us. He can make us feel better and help us avoid things that hurt us.

Lamb of God
In Genesis 22, we read about God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. When Isaac asked about the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham said, "God himself will provide the lamb." Some scholars believe this verse means, "God will provide himself as a lamb." That's what He did by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, as the offering for the world's sins. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he shouted, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

Be a Sheep
Starting in Matthew 25:31, Jesus tells of when He'll return again to earth. Instead of coming as a baby, He'll come in all His glory with a host of angels. And He'll "separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" (Matthew 25:32). Then He'll invite the righteous "sheep" into His kingdom to enjoy eternal life, but He'll send the "goats" away.

If you don't know Jesus as your Good Shepherd, He wants you to be one of His precious sheep. Just pray:

Jesus, I've done some bad things. I believe You took the punishment for my sins on the Cross so I could be forgiven. Thank You! I accept Your gift of salvation and invite You to be the Lord and Shepherd of my life. I want to follow You as Your sheep. Amen.

If you just prayed this prayer, tell your parents or a pastor. They'll celebrate with you!

This article first appeared in the April 2010 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2010 by Kathryn M. Graves. Used by permission; Photo © 2009 James Bowe/Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.