Becoming Jesus’ Sheep

Shepherds, sheep, and goats show up throughout the Biblical narrative. Aaron to Moses to David were all shepherds. A shepherd’s life is hard, uncomfortable, and in some cases far from honorable. Shepherds have to be savvy, strong, resourceful, patient, skilled, and strategic (sounds a bit like a caddie). They understand how to read the land as they care for their flocks (sheep and goats) in the barren and dangerous wilderness environment.

In North America, the majority of us have a limited understanding about sheep and goats. Due to modern-day breeding, we see discernable differences between sheep and goats. But in the ancient period, and even in Asia and Africa today, it was only the shepherd who could tell the difference within their flocks.

A closer look at God’s original design in sheep and goats can help us gain understanding as to why the Son of Man (Jesus) will separate the sheep from the goats upon his return, giving sheep an honored position on his right and sending the goats to his unfavorable left.

Sheep need to be tended to and protected from the environment by someone stronger. Annual shearing is a necessity, otherwise their wooly coats will lead them to death. Sheep are believed to be lethargic, but it’s because they have excellent hearing, limiting their need for excess, hyper movement. In biblical days, sheep had curved horns and attacked head-on. And as low-foraging grazers, sheep eat one mouthful at a time and most often appear to be content.

Goats, on the other hand, are self-reliant, resist being led, and don’t require shearing. They must turn their ears to focus on sound, which makes them more energetic. They wander away from the flock in search of brush in more difficult and higher ground, insensitive to their own vulnerability. With straight and often sharp horns for self-protection, goats rear on their back legs and crash down with their heads in a fight. A shepherd must protect the environment from their goats.

Understanding how sheep and goats demonstrate who they are in their environment sheds light on which animal we are more like. In a conflict do we face it head-on seeking resolution, or do we smash our opponents with angry violence? Being grateful for the provision we have for today fosters contentment, while always looking for what is next and for more leaves us feeling unfulfilled and anxious.

Sensitivity to leaving our environment (the golf course or our workplace) better than how we found it is more sheeplike. Consuming everything in our path is being a goat. Offering and receiving help reflects our dependence on staying in community, while an I’m-fine-on-my-own attitude is filled with pride and loneliness.

Jesus’ sheep know the voice of their Shepherd and choose to follow. Goats do not. I want to be more like a sheep. How about you?

Tracy Hanson
June 28, 2018
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