It is funny how scripture uses the analogy of sheep for humans. I did a little research on sheep to better understand the sheep like characteristics the Bible is referring to. Here is a brief description of the characteristics of sheep from an online encyclopedia,
“Sheep are frequently thought of as extremely unintelligent animals. All sheep have a tendency to congregate close to other members of a flock. Farmers exploit this behavior to keep sheep together on unfenced pastures and to move them more easily. In displaying flocking, sheep have a strong lead-follow tendency, and a leader often as not is simply the first sheep to move. A sheep’s herd mentality and quickness to flee and panic in the face of stress often make shepherding a difficult endeavor for the uninitiated. For sheep, the primary defense mechanism is simply to flee from danger when their flight zone is crossed (“Domestic sheep.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 11 Nov 2008, 18:00 UTC. 11 Nov 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Domestic_sheep&oldid=251141691>.).”
The main characteristic of sheep is they feel safe in a large herd. They don’t like to be alone. Often we tend to follow the crowd rather than being the individual God created us to be. Usually this tendency to follow the crowd is motivated by a fear of being alone. Above it said “Farmers exploit this behavior to keep sheep together in unfenced pasture and to move them more easily”. Our enemy exploits our fear of being alone to keep us in the captivity of the crowd and direct us more easily. Jesus came to set us free. He has torn down the fences holding us captive, but our tendency to follow the crowd keeps us from embracing our freedom and fulfilling God’s plan for our lives. We have to dare to stray from the beaten path and the push of the crowd. We must follow the still small voice of the shepherd. He will lead us through scary and unknown territory of the wilderness, but our destination is the green pastures and still waters that restore our soul. We have to trust him and follow. He does not force us to come.
After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice… I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. (John 10:4, 14-15)
The butcher drives the sheep in the direction he wants them to go. The sheep do not know the butcher, nor do they recognize the danger in traveling with the herd to the next destination. He drives them to their destruction. The shepherd leads the sheep. The sheep follow because they know his voice. Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for our salvation and freedom. But we must leave the flow of the crowd to follow his voice. He will lead through the wilderness into the Promised Land where peace and joy are reality.
We can be driven through life pursuing one meaningless goal after the next. A busy life is not a full life. Often it is an empty life, filled with regrets when time runs out. We pass time waiting for something greater, anticipating a moment to really live, rather than living in the moment. We can live life like we are on the football field. Our childhood years are filled with desires to get bigger and go to school like the big kids. After we start school, we just want to graduate. Then we can’t wait till we get married. Then we want to have kids. We are always desiring what lies ahead rather than fully living where we are. We can’t wait to get a job. Then we can’t wait to retire. Once we get to the 50 yard line we start looking back. Wishing we could go back to when our kids were young, reminiscing about the good old years.
We can live our entire lives longing for the future or the past, and never live the present. We can be driven by success or to avoid failure. We can be driven through our entire life without enjoying one moment of contentment and peace. This is the butchers plan. He wants you to be a part of the herd so he can drive you past the path of purpose and intimacy with your creator. We never realize what we are missing, because the herd is all going the same direction. There is something deep inside that longs for more, but we are too busy to hear the shepherd calling us.
We shall not be in want when the Lord is our shepherd. He leads us beside still waters. He leads us to green pastures. Sometimes it is just the two of us. Sometimes there are others to share in this journey. Our fulfillment comes from being with the shepherd. We have to get quiet and listen for his voice. Life is so loud, we will not here him unless we intentionally listen.