BY DAN CUMINGS
Mildred Bible Chapel youth pastor
What do you know about sheep?
Me? I’m fairly ignorant of any personal knowledge about these creatures. So, I discovered these insights from a fellow who is a pastor and lived near sheep (the four-legged kind).
“I pastored for 12 years in the Scottish Highlands. During that time, I was surrounded by sheep: sheep on the roads, sheep on the mountains, sheep on the beaches, sheep in my yard. Oh, yes, and sometimes sheep in the shepherds’ fields (where they are supposed to be!). My study on the Isle of Lewis was 12 inches away from a field full of sheep. Sometimes at night I would look up from my computer and see many pairs of luminous green eyes staring at me through my window! I got to know sheep pretty well.”
He had a few observations about sheep:
• “Sheep are straying.
“Perhaps the main reason Scripture chooses sheep to characterize us, more than any other animal, is because of its well-deserved reputation for straying (Isaiah 53:6 http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Isa.%2053.6) and getting lost (Luke 15 http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Lk.%2015.3ff).
“So many times I was out in the middle of nowhere when I would come across a sheep – miles from anyone and anything – and totally unconcerned. I would look up on a cliff and there was a sheep out on a lethal ledge.
Other times, when fishing miles from anywhere, I would come across ditches and bogs with the decaying remains of a wandering sheep, and I’d think, ‘How did that get out here?’”
• “Sheep are foolish.
“I don’t know what sheep would score in an animal IQ, but I think they would be close to the bottom of the scale. They seem to only know how to do one thing well – eat grass (and produce more grass-eating sheep).
“It’s possible to know little, yet not be foolish; but not if you are a sheep. They are so irrational. You watch them as they pause in front of a stream. They know they can’t jump it or swim it. So what do they do? They jump in anyway!”
In Luke 15, Jesus told three stories, but really they’re just one story. It’s the story of Heaven’s reaction when the lost are found. The first story is the story about a lost sheep. The second story is about a lost coin. And the third story is about a lost son. All three follow the same pattern: lost, sought, found, restored and celebrated.
Luke 15:1-7 The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: ”What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Now, there weren’t a lot of rules about shepherding, but there was one very dominant rule and that is, you don’t lose sheep. And if one goes away, you find it and you bring it back alive or dead or you bring back a piece of it snatched from a predator’s mouth. But you don’t come back without a sheep.
This parable gives a clear description of Jesus Christ’s mission on earth. The author Luke described it this way in Luke 19:10, “... the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
If you have strayed from God and now feel foolish, you can be assured that God is eager for your return to Him; in fact, He throws a huge party in heaven when one who was lost has been found.