This is the first of a 4-part series on Sheep, Goats, Wolves and Sheepdogs.
When God refers to His people as sheep, it is not necessarily a compliment. Though there are many fine qualities about a sheep, it is perhaps best to begin with the negative characteristics:
a. Sheep have no defense system to protect themselves, no sharp teeth or claws.
b. Sheep have no sense of direction; they cannot find their way home if lost.
c. If sheep fall on their backs, they cannot turn themselves upright
d. Sheep by nature are easily given to rivalry and competition.
There are also many positive qualities about sheep. Though they seem so weak and helpless, this only causes a deep reliance to develop towards the shepherd. Self-reliance is a drawback to working in God’s kingdom. God needs submissive, obedient sheep that will follow Him.
The twenty-third Psalm reveals several wonderful qualities about spiritual sheep:
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
a. Sheep trust God to meet their needs: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially (v. 1)
b. Sheep like to lie down in green pastures (v. 2). Green pastures represent God’s Word. Sheep love to be fed the true Word of God.
c. True sheep are led by the Spirit (e.g. “He leads me” v. 2). There is longevity and quality to their decisions.
d. God’s sheep love still waters (v. 2), not troubled or agitated waters, but still waters. Spiritual sheep shun dissention and strife.
e. Sheep love a righteous standard (e.g. “paths of righteousness” v. 3b). Sheep love the truth, even when it hurts. Goats call it legalism.
f. Sheep respond positively to the rod (correction) and staff (protection) (v. 4).
g. Sheep stay in the fold in the presence of enemies (v. 5). Troubles and attacks won’t drive them away from the church.
h. Sheep constantly need fresh oil (v. 5b). They want the anointing of God; sheep won’t settle for less.
i. True sheep display contentment for the house (singular) of God (v. 6). There is no compulsion to roam (church hop).
j. Goodness and mercy follow sheep (v. 6b), not the other way around.
In summary, sheep need a lot of care and attention. But their desire is to be faithful, loyal and submissive. They are a joy to the shepherd (see Heb. 13:17).
Tomorrow we will look at goats.