Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my Shepherd
We see David likens himself and all of us to sheep. David knows well the attributes of the shepherd. He also knows the attributes of the sheep. As we will see, we are more like sheep than we may want to admit.
Sheep Repeat the Same Deadly Patterns
The first characteristic of sheep involves their level of intelligence. Let me say I am not a sheep expert. Even though I grew up in a small town with much farmland and country, I lived a block from Main Street. I do not have much experience with animals or farming. In fact, last year – at the age of 37, I received my first pet. So, I depend highly on the experience of those who have a much more intimate knowledge of sheep than I.
In my study, I find sheep are not smart. If you have to identify their intelligence level, you may even say they are dumb. Many of the articles and books, use this exact phrase. However, I have come across some writings that get angry when people say sheep are dumb. I will give you the facts, and you can label as you wish.
Sheep cannot survive alone. Many animals are easy to take care. You can feed and water them and leave them alone for the day. They will survive. Not so with sheep. They will not make it without a shepherd continually taking care of them. In fact, sheep are prone to wander and stray from the herd. Often when they wander, they put themselves in life-threatening situations only to be rescued by the shepherd. Likewise, when one sheep strays, other sheep will follow. I read several accounts where one sheep walked off of a cliff to his death, and 1000 other sheep followed his example. Overwhelmingly, we see sheep are not smart. (That is the phrase we use in our house so that young mouths don’t continually say something is dumb.) I could give you example after example, only to show that sheep do not learn from their experiences. They will repeat the same detrimental choices until the shepherd comes on the scene.
Sheep are Relational
Surprisingly, sheep are very relational. They may show signs of not being smart in much of their life, but one defining characteristic of sheep is they know their shepherd and his voice. Their relational aptitude is seen so clearly in how shepherds lead their sheep. Shepherds lead from the front of the herd, not from the back. Sheep are known to scatter when the shepherd is behind them. But, when the shepherd goes before them, they hear his voice and follow. We see the same situation when they join other flocks. Many times shepherds will find the same water supply as other shepherds to nourish their flocks. The sheep are all mixed. When it is time to go, the shepherd calls out and the sheep separate from the other flocks and follow him. The other sheep stay and continue to drink because they know the call is not from their shepherd.
Admit It – We are Like Sheep
I hope you can see David is correct when he likens all of us to sheep. We are so slow to learn. We will put ourselves in a situation over and over again that lead to our destruction – situations that will lead us into sin. We are not smart. Yet, we can hear the voice of the One who goes before us and beckons us to Himself. We have a Good Shepherd who calls us from our ignorance and offers us abundant life. Without our Good Shepherd, we are dead. With Him, we have life. As Jesus is speaking to some of the religious leaders around Him during His incarnate ministry, he says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” We are sheep who need Jesus, the Good Shepherd for LIFE and HOPE. How do you know if you have Jesus as your Good Shepherd? The answer is simple and found in response to this question – do you obey the voice of Jesus?