In Scripture, sheep are spoken of quite frequently (possibly more than any other animal). In Old Testament times, sheep were a vital part of their livelihood and part of God’s sacrificial system, but sheep are spoken of many times in the Word, metaphorically, as those who belong to the Lord.
For years I’ve heard it said, in Christian circles, “Well, I’m just a stupid sheep, you know!” because sheep have gotten this reputation of being stupid. I, like many of you (possibly) have gone along with this little phrase. (Hopefully you’re nodding your head with me on this one!) I’ve said it about myself and used it in the counseling room as I speak with someone who has done something “stupid” (i.e., sinful) and joked a bit about it. Almost to the point that . . maybe . . possibly . . . its a way to justify why I, or we, keep doing what we know we should not do.
Are They Really??
Recently I began wondering if this statement is really true . . . are sheep really stupid? Is that why God symbolically uses sheep when He will talk about those of us who believe . . because He thinks that we are not very smart? Or, as I said, are we using the idea of ‘stupid sheep’ as an excuse and as a way to rationalize our choices and actions away so that we don’t have to feel so bad . .or better yet, so that we don’t have to feel the Holy Spirit conviction over our offense to the Lord?
So, I did a little research on sheep (yes, on the internet) to see if sheep are as stupid as we say, or have come to believe, they are.
What I Found . . .
Sheep are pretty amazing animals!
Did you know that sheep are gregarious animals? They are fond of company and are quite sociable. Hum, wait! This means they like ‘community’!
Did you know that they are also precocial? This means that they have a high degree of independence. Yet at the same time, sheep have a ‘flocking’ instinct. So, they are independently dependent!
They also have a ‘following’ instinct. Now, this is good . . and its bad. It’s good in that they learn this from early in their lives ~ they are taught who they are to follow. So, they will follow the ‘leader’ wherever he goes. What’s bad is that they follow without hesitation; so if the leader leads them over a cliff . . .then all the sheep will go over the cliff.
Did you also know that they have an excellent memory for faces? Recent research shows that sheep can remember up to 50 different faces (they have great sight but not good depth perception). They remember who has treated them well and they remember who has abused them. And, they easily recognize the voice of a familiar care taker (they have excellent hearing!) . . and if that care taker has given them a name, they will recognize it and respond to it.
I’m beginning to think that sheep are smarter than we’ve given them credit for!
But did you also know . . . that sheep are defenseless animals? Their ‘flocking’ instinct does help them in this area because if they sense danger they will gather themselves together so they can better protect themselves.
So, What Could This All Mean to You & Me?
I do not presume to speak for God but there are many things I’ve seen about sheep that maybe . . just maybe . . . God wants us to see and realize what He knows and thinks about us . . His little sheep.
First ~ COMMUNITY: We were made to be in community and fellowship with one another. When sheep get separated from the rest of the flock . . they get highly agitated. Can we say that about ourselves when we’ve not been in community with other believers, building one another up, for a while? In our Western culture its either about being busy or being by ourselves. We can get so busy with so many activities and many times the first ‘activity’ we cut can be . . . being with other believers. When God’s Word uses sheep to metaphorically describe us . . let our first thought be, COMMUNITY.
Second ~ INDEPENDENTLY DEPENDENT: At the root of all of our hearts is pride and selfishness. We want to do it our own way! And we wander . . . just as Scripture says: All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way (Is. 53.6). We stray to follow our own way . . . or sometimes to follow someone else’s way because we like having others around us. This is where we need to be taught at an early age WHO it is we are to depend on and follow. So, in Scripture when you read about sheep think about who you are depending on ~ you? Others? or HIM? Each of us must individually choose to be in relationship with Him (that’s the independent part!) and then fully depend on Him (the dependent part!)
Lastly ~ ABILITY TO REMEMBER: If God gave sheep the capacity to remember faces, voices and their own name . . . how much more capacity do you think HE gave to us? So, let me just say this loudly & boldly ~ WE ARE NOT STUPID “SHEEP”!! We have a capacity way beyond what we assume! And what is even better . . is that we have the Holy Spirit!! John 10 should give us so much encouragement ~ Jesus Himself says . . . “the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them . . ” and later He says, “I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me ands I know the Father” . . . be still my heart!! Jesus speaks so fondly and lovingly about sheep and with great confidence! He knows that we have been designed with an ability to remember so much! We must stop falling into Satan’s trap of doubt when we begin to think . . ‘awe, I’m just a stupid sheep!” Jesus knows what you and I are capable of . . .
So . . no more ‘stupid sheep’ excuses! Will you join me?