Psalm 23:1: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
Sheep are mentioned in the Bible more than 500 times -- more than any other animal.
The prominence of sheep in the Bible grows out of two realities.
Sheep were important to the nomads and agricultural life of the Hebrews and similar peoples.
Secondly, sheep are used throughout the Bible to symbolically refer to God's people.
Sheep are commonly used throughout the Bible to symbolically refer to God's people.
We see this in Psalm 95:7:
"For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."
This Psalm is about ownership.
If the Lord is my Shepherd, then I ought to recognize his rights over me,
and that I am not my own -- I have been bought with a price.
The Eastern shepherd was usually the owner of his sheep.
He may sell it, or kill it, or do what he likes with it; and no one can dispute his
right to do so.
And a genuine Christian knows that Christ has an absolute right in him.
Whether he is to live or to die, to sorrow or to rejoice, should be no matter of choice
to a Christian; he should feel that, whatever is his Master's will is also his will.
If the Lord is our shepherd, that means that we are His sheep.
We remember that "It is God who has made us and not we ourselves."
We need to recognize some of the characteristics of one who can say,
"The Lord is my Shepherd."
If I am the Lord's sheep, I shall have something of the sheep's disposition.
I shall perceive that his Spirit has wrought in me some divine gentleness.
I know some professors who seem to be more like wolves than sheep.
They snap their jaws like wolves do, and their very speech seems, to be like a wolf's howl.
They dislike this, and they hate that, and they cannot endure the other;
in fact, nothing pleases them.
A sheep has its likes and its dislikes, but it does not snarl, and snap, and howl, and growl.
It is the wolf that does that, but the sheep is of a gentler disposition.
A man, who cannot bear an insult, is surely not acting like a Christian.
A man, who always has to revenge an injury done to him, is not acting like a Christian;
that is, one who is like Christ, "who, when he was reviled, reviled not again;
when he suffered, he threatened not."
The giving up of what is our right, the giving up of what we may fairly claim as our own,
is a distinct mark of Christ's sheep.
Sheep are gentle, quiet, innocent animals.
They do not give their shepherds many of problems.
If you are having problems with your "sheep," you may find out that you are really looking at a "goat."
Sheep are not aggressive.
They are very docile animals.
The word "docile" means that they are easily managed or handled,
and are easily trained and taught.
Even though sheep are easily managed, this does not eliminate the need of care
and supervision provided by the shepherd, as we will see from the following scriptures:
Numbers 27:17: "Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them,
and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in;
that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd."
Matthew 10:16: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves:
be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."
Sheep are not only defenseless, but this scripture would also indicate that sheep
are vulnerable to danger, which indicates their need of a shepherd.
Sheep love to follow their shepherd.
They are at ease when they are with their shepherd.
Unfortunately, though, sheep will follow the shepherd even if they are irresponsible
as outlined in Ezekiel 34.
This is because sheep are very trusting animals, and are easily led.
However, when sheep are not shepherded properly, they become vulnerable to attack.
The attack can come from either outside the fold or from within the flock,
since sheep and goats can be found in the same fold.
Sheep are grazers, unlike the goat which likes to browse.
The sheep enjoy eating in lush green pastures.
Sheep are not very smart.
Have you ever thought: "How could I have been so stupid?"
We must admit that our intelligence and our wisdom is limited.
We only do what makes sense to us, or that we know we can do in our own power.
Sheep need to be taken to food and water.
They will eat anything so they must be protected from poisonous plants.
Have you ever seen trained sheep?
Even Jesus' disciples, who had been with Him for 3 years, did some remarkably, stupid things.
Are we any different?
I don't think so.
In this age when we're supposed to be self confident and assertive, it does not come easy
to recognise the truth about ourselves.
Sheep are defenseless.
Their arsenal to protect themselves is very limited.
They have no fangs, stingers,or claws, and they cannot run fast, fly or swim.
Have you noticed that not even one professional sport team is called 'sheep'.
Sheep are not used for protection.
They are not "guard" sheep.
The Lord is my shepherd, and I am his sheep, and I need a Guide.
This is difficult for many of us to admit.
When we are lost, we will probably not stop and ask for directions.
We just don't do it.
So, we stumble along, and get confused.
Sheep, by nature, tend to wander, and will get off the path.
They need a Shepherd to lead them, and so do we.
We tend to wander.
Isa. 53:6 "Everyone of us have strayed away like sheep!
We have left God's paths to follow our own."
This is the real problem that explains why we don't know God's will.
The fact is that most of the time we don't want to follow God or anybody else.
We want to go our own way.
We don't like to admit that we need direction or a guide.
Sheep also have poor vision.
They can't see very far.
We could say that "He's as blind as a sheep;" instead of saying "He's as blind as a bat."
A sheep cannot see very far ahead.
That's why they don't know if the path they are on is going to lead to a cliff,
or lead them into other dangerous situations.
They need a shepherd to guide them.
We are sheep, and like them, we need a guide.
We can't see into the future.
We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.
We don't know what going to happen during the next year.
We certainly don't know what will happen ten years from now.
We don't even know what's going to happen this afternoon.
We can't see into the future, no matter how much we try.
Even with all the gimmicks to predict the future, and those who claim they can, have no clue
to what's going to happen.
Sometimes people ask, "Why did God do this or allow that?"
The answer is -- so that we would depend on Him.
The answer is -- so we will look to Him to be our guide.
Sheep don't see very well into the future, and neither do we, so we need our great Shepherd
to guide us along the way.
Proverbs 14:12: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."
We've all made a decision which at the time seemed right, but turned out to be wrong.
Some paths lead to detours and dead ends.
Just like sheep who tend to wander and can't see into the future, neither can we,
and we can stumble and fall.
So, the first step is to admit, "God, I need help."
Some people probably don't think they need a guide.
Psalm 25 "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way."
Humble means that I admit that I need a guide.
Though a sheep needs a shepherd, it can be stubborn enough to still try to go on its own.
A sheep follows his nose or his stomach to whatever source of food and comfort he finds.
And in the process, he can get into trouble.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote "All we like sheep have gone astray each after his own way." (Isaiah 53:6)
God declares through Jeremiah: "My people have become lost sheep." (Jeremiah 50:6)
And as the hymn says: "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love."
That speaks about me.
It's about you, too.
Many would have to admit that they are constantly seeking fulfillment by wandering here and there,
trying this and that -- all the time wandering further from the only real source of authentic, life.
Sheep are also vulnerable.
Because sheep needs a shepherd and because sheep are prone to wander.
Sheep also become vulnerable to wolves and false shepherds.
And because sheep desires happiness, the sheep easily follows any shepherd
who will promise that happiness.
No matter how intelligent we are, we are sheep.
We are vulnerable to anything that promises to meet the profound, longings of the heart.
We only need to look at the phenomenal success of any fad to establish this fact
-- the fad of drugs, marijuana, booze, automobiles, new age religious cults; or whatever is current.
The advertising industry is built on this insight.
So, when the scriptures refer to us as sheep, it's not because we are cute and cuddly.
It's because, like sheep, we are dependent beings, wandering beings and vulnerable beings
-- especially when we have declared our independence from the shepherd.
Do others know we are Christians?
Would they recognize that we are sheep following our great Shepherd?
Do others see us as sheep who are easy to manage because we are submissive in nature.
and rarely give the shepherd (our leaders) problems.
Sheep also enjoy still waters.
They do not like to drink from agitated waters.
This means that they are not happy to be where strife, arguing, dissension, or turmoil is present.
Such problems make the sheep skittish, and they will not join in that kind of discord.
Sheep love to graze.
They are very particular in their feeding. A wolf can eat what the sheep would not touch, for the sheep will eat nothing
but that which is sweet and clean to feed upon.
God's sheep love to graze, that is they love to feed upon the Word of God.
They love to be in the presence of God.
They will rarely miss a feeding (or shall we say a church gathering).
They are hungry, and love to graze in the green pastures.
They are not in a hurry to move on, and will stay as long as the shepherd allows.
God's sheep are known by how they love the brethren. They love to be with others in the flocks.
1 John 3:14: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."
A genuine love for the children of God is a, sure sign that we are Christ's sheep,
just as the fact that the sheep flock together proves that they are sheep.
May we have more of this love to all our brothers and sisters in Christ;
not merely a love to some saints because they happen to be our own relations,
or because they belong to our denomination, or because they agree precisely with us
but a love to all the saints, for Christ's sake.
We must love even the bad-tempered ones, the irritating ones, the unsaintlike "saints."
It is very difficult to love some of these "saints."
Yet, we must love them for Christ's sake; for, if we do not love them,
then we should examine ourselves to see if we really a sheep belonging to Christ.
We can examine if we are Christ's sheep by a text which Christ himself has given us.
Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice..." (John 10:27)
Did you ever hear Christ's voice?
I did not ask whether you ever heard your minister's voice; but have you ever heard Christ's voice.
Did Christ ever speak to you so that you recognized that it was Christ's voice that you heard?
Beside that hearing of their Savior's voice, Christ's sheep have a wonderful discriminating
power by which they recognize Him.
I read of a man who had traveled in the East saying that he thought the sheep must know
their shepherd because of the clothes which he wore, so he put on a shepherd's clothes,
and went up to some sheep, but not one of the sheep mistook him for their shepherd.
Then, he called one of the sheep by its name, but it didn't respond to him,
and that reminded him of the words of Jesus that said, "A stranger will they not follow,
but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." (John 10:5)
The sheep have such a keen ear that they can detect the tones of their own shepherd's voice,
and can distinguish it from all others.
So is it with Christ's sheep; they are not deceived by the voice of strangers,
though others are deceived.
Following the words of Jesus above, He added, "and they follow me..." (John 10:27)
As God's sheep, we love our Shepherd.
Dr. Thomson, in his "The Land and the Book," tells us that, in the East, there is often
an intimate affection between the shepherd and his sheep.
There are some sheep which will keep at a distance from the shepherd.
If he sits down at one end of a field, they will probably sit at the other end.
But there are others which stay closer to him, and there are some which are so fond
of the shepherd that you never see him without also seeing them close by his side.
If he stops, they stop; if he moves, they move.
They love the pasture, but they love the shepherd even more.
In his book, Dr. Thomson tells us that these sheep are generally the fattest of the flock
because the shepherd is sure to see that they have the best food.
They love him, and he loves them.
He loves all the sheep, but he loves these with a very special kind of love;
and, if we loved Christ more, we would have more true happiness and more real,
I am concerned that some of us, who do love our Lord, are like Peter
when he followed Christ, afar off.
We would be much happier if we could take John's position, and lean our heads
upon Christ's bosom.
Christ had many disciples, but out of them, He chose twelve men to be his apostles;
out of those twelve apostles, He chose three -- Peter, James, and John,
and out of that three, He called one "that disciple whom Jesus loved."
All were the sheep of the good Shepherd, and all of us who believe in Jesus
are God's children, but there are some who seem to be more obedient,
and more dedicated than others.
These are they who walk in greater commitment and closer communion with their Lord,
and these enjoy the best of the Christian life, and have the very best of spiritual enjoyment.
I hope that you and I, who call Christ our Shepherd, love Him completely,
and feel that the love of Christ constrains us to yield to him our heart's deepest love. Now I ask everyone if you have heard the voice of Christ?
Have you passed from death unto life?
Have you been changed from a goat into a sheep?
Have, you been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son?
If so, relying upon the Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious blood has redeemed every one,
of his chosen flock, can say: "The Lord is my Shepherd, and I am his sheep."
But if not, and you continue to follow your own paths, they will lead you to destruction.
I hope that this is not the condition of any one here.
If you are without Christ as your Saviour and as your great Shepherd,
I ask that you come with childlike confidence, and put your trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
I would pray that every one who in this service shall be able to say, with David,
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want."
Sermon adapted from many sources by Dr. Harold L. White