We like sheep

I got ahead of myself. Yesterday, the verse for the day were two out of Isaiah 53 and becuase it’s such an awesome chapter, I went ahead and posted the whole thing. So . . . guess what the verses for today are?


Isaiah 53:5-6

 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
      crushed for our sins.
   He was beaten so we could be whole.
      He was whipped so we could be healed.
 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
      We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
   Yet the Lord laid on him
      the sins of us all.

I always found it interesting how this verse refers to people as sheep. That won’t mean anything to anyone unless you’ve raised sheep.

Sheep are the dumbest animals alive. I’m telling you, they’re on the level of turkeys who look up during a rainstorm and drown. We had sheep grazing on our property for a number of years, and for two years I raised market lambs for 4-H. So I have a little bit of experience with them, and what experience I have has taught me a lot about why the Bible calls us sheep.

And it’s not a compliment.

Yes, lambs are cute and cuddly, but like most other farm-type critters, they grow up and they’re not cute and cuddly anymore and they’re just a headache.

For example, if we knew we were going to be out of town for a day or two, we had to get our neighbor to help us feed them because if you put extra food in their stall to sustain them while you were gone, they wouldn’t stop eating it. It’s like they have no “I’m full” switch in their brain. So they’ll gorge themselves, literally eat themselves to death.

My sheep actually almost did that too at the fair one year. We had set their feed bag too close to their stall, and they’d chewed into it and eaten most of what was in there.

Similarly, you have to mix salt in with their food instead of giving them a salt lick because they’ll gnaw holes in their teeth.

And it doesn’t matter what the situation is, if you have six sheep and a tiny little door they will all try to run through the door at the same time.

I’ve seen them stampede each other for no apparent reason. I’ve seen them freak over something that was going to help them and cause damage in their panic.

So . . . . how much of this sounds like us?

How many of us are so undisciplined that we gorge ourselves? And not necessarily on food. There are other things we shouldn’t have too much of . . . even if they’re good for us. How many of us do things we know we’re not supposed to do? How many of us do things that hurt us even though we know it will hurt us? How many times have we caved to the herd mentality and followed someone even though that person didn’t have a clue what he/she was doing and usually ended up making decisions that damaged everyone?

I know I’ve been there.

The Bible calls us sheep. There are other instances in the New Testment where Jesus also compares us to sheep. I can’t remember the reference, but it’s spoken in a good way. About His sheep knowing His voice. That’s the difference between shepherding in the Eastern World and in the Western World. In the U.S., we herd sheep and demand that they follow us; in the Middle East, the sheep follow their shepherds.

But in this context in Isaiah, being a sheep isn’t a good thing. It’s the epitome of rebellion by stupidity. All sheep have a shepherd, and the shepherd takes care of His sheep. That’s what shepherds do. But sheep are stupid and they want to do things their own way, even though any thinking sheep could see (if sheep could think) that following the shepherd makes sense. So what happens? Sheep wander off. They stray. They take off down a path that they think is the best option for them, and they end up in trouble.

Jesus tells a story about how the shepherd goes and gets the sheep that’s wandered off and brings it back to the fold. But this statement in Isaiah is different. It’s not about the shepherd and his work to rescue a sheep. It’s about the punishment that the shepherd endures because his flock is stupid.

All of us are like sheep. Not one of us has actually stayed on God’s path, and for that reason, Jesus accepted punishment. We’re the ones who made the mistake, but He was the One who paid for it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be like a sheep. I’ve worked with them enough to have little respect for them. Cute and cuddly will only get you so far when you’re dumber than a post.

So the next time I’m tempted to go off on my own — to do something I know God has said is wrong or not good for me — I’m going to think about those sheep all trying to cram through one tiny little door. Finding sheep who act stupid is easy. Finding a sheep that actually keeps following his shepherd when it has the opportunity to run away? That’s unusual.