Sheep Need a Shepherd. And So Do YOU

The Curious Case of the Wandering Sheep

Isaiah’s lament is something we hear in Christmas programs from time to time. It is somewhat cryptic, but when you connect the dots, his comments about sheep get kinda personal. “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6, NKJV) It is well-documented that sheep are not very intelligent animals. Sheep don’t strategize, they don‘t figure things out, and their general approach to life is that they wander around intent on finding things to appease their appetites. I’m sure Isaiah used this comparison because that sounds like a lot of people out there.

Shepherds were needed because sheep couldn’t figure things out for themselves. A shepherd could help them find watering holes and pastures with grass to eat as the seasons changed. Even when sheep have a shepherd who is looking out after their interests, protecting them from danger, leading them to food and water, and generally taking care of them, there are still sheepish tragedies. Sheep will wander off by themselves to suffer dehydration or starvation, or they will fall prey to predators who want to eat them for dinner.

Having a Guide Helps

Without a shepherd though, it gets worse. When sheep achieve freedom from their shepherd, they find themselves in a world full of possibilities. They might stumble into a rich pasture by a nice pond, or they could find themselves alone and friendless in a life and death situation. I wonder, as the sheep bleats plaintively in the desert, or when the lion is closing fast, does the sheep ever think, “Gee, I wish I had stayed with that shepherd. Maybe he knows something I don’t.” By then it is almost always too late.

When you think about it, we are a lot like sheep. We have a shepherd, but we mostly like to venture out on our own. Our tendency, like theirs, is to go astray. We have turned, every one to his own way, and traded the security of the shepherd’s control and limitations for the chance of freedom in a dangerous world. Our curiosity or our appetite will call us away from the shepherd’s advice and limitations to go out on our own.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Doing What You Want

The essence of sin is doing what you want, taking control, being selfish, and turning aside from your created purpose. That’s the also at the heart of Lucifer’s arrogant proclamation in Isaiah 14:12 and following: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’“

Notice how many times he says “I will”. It’s the same thing that all of us do. As the preacher says, “Whenever you sin, there’s always an “I” right in the middle of it. So how about you? Are you astray? Do you have a tendency to leave the Shepherd and go off on your own?

There’s another 14:12 in the Bible that says it this way. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Don’t trade the security of the Shepherd’s limitations for the freedom to wander about in a deadly world. 1 Peter 5:8 warns: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” When the lion finds you alone in the world, I guarantee you will end up feeling sheepish.

The Hungry Lion

Just like sheep, we go astray by turning off to our own way,
And make an independent choice unguided by the Shepherd’s voice.
We choose to go our own direction, wander off from his protection,
Hoping good will come to pass as we go off for greener grass…
But sadly, there’s an evil power who’s seeking those he may devour,
Stalking independent sheep who wander down the pathways steep.

Be vigilant, and be alert: the devil wants to cause you hurt,
To bring you down and bring you in to feel the ravages of sin!
Be watchful, careful, and be wary, lest this deadly adversary
Tempt you to a path that makes a detour into grave mistakes…
So listen to the shepherd’s call: he bore the iniquity of us all,
Extending love to great and small, redeeming sinners from the fall.

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