Christian Churches of God
Lambs of God
(Edition 2.0 19940521-20000617)
This paper examines the lessons relating to sheep husbandry with the biblical message from creation and shows the role of the sheep and shepherd.
Christian Churches of God
PO Box 369, WODEN ACT 2606, AUSTRALIA
(Copyright ã 1994, 2000 Storm Cox)
(Summary by Ron Proposch, Ed. by Wade Cox)
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Lambs of God
On the sixth day of creation God willed that the land was to produce living creatures (Gen. 1:24-26).
All cattle, sheep and goats are related biologically as they are all members of the bovidae family. The characteristics of this family are:
Cloven hoofs, and,
They all have hollow horns.
Each meets the biblical requirements of (spiritual) cleanliness as outlined in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, and thus can be eaten.
As we read in Genesis 1:26, man was commissioned by God from the creation to rule over the animals. It is our responsibility to do so in a correct manner. Thus, the occupation of the shepherd was predestined from the beginning of time.
So we can see from the Bible the position of the shepherd in managing the clean animals that God has given man to eat. Clean animals are God’s gift to us as food, so that we may dwell on his earth within the system that He organised for our wellbeing.
In biblical times, the chief role of sheep was to provide wool (Lev. 13:47-48; Job 31:20), meat (1Sam. 14:32), hides (Ex. 25:5; Heb. 11:37), milk (Deut. 32:14; Isa. 7:21-22), and other products such as horns for containers and musical instruments (1Sam. 16:1 and Josh. 6:4). So it is also today.
In the days of old, wool was a precious commodity and thus a significant means of trade. Sheep were also attributed to a man's wealth.
From the Bible we can gain an understanding of the nature of sheep. From 2Samuel 12:3 they were understood to be affectionate. From Isaiah 53:7, Jeremiah 11:19 and John 10:34, sheep are non-aggressive. From Micah 5: 8 and Matthew 10:16 sheep are relatively defenceless and, most importantly, from Numbers 27:17, Ezekiel 34:5 and Matthew 9:36; 26:31, they were in need of constant care and supervision.
In the Old Testament, when a shepherd and his flock were discussed, it was usually in the literal sense. In the New Testament, however, it was nearly always in the figurative.
Much to the surprise of most people, sheep are actually quite intelligent animals. Sheep act erratically at times due to the vulnerability of the animal.
In the days of old, management took a much different form. The shepherd led the sheep from the front. The sheep would hear his voice and follow, secure in his presence. When sheep are secure they will graze in what seems like a daydream and can easily wander off oblivious to what is happening around them.
Sheep see, hear, think and learn as all animals do. Each animal has a different level of intelligence, in much the same way as humans. Not all of the animals can pick up the behaviour expected of them. Some sheep take longer periods of time to develop; some react quickly. Often it depends on previous experiences with humans and the experiences within their training environment.
Often the bigger the appetite, the more committed the animal would be to learn and thus receive its reward of sweet feed. Hence, blessed is he who hungers and thirsts after righteousness.
It is also interesting to note that a trained sheep when put back into a flock situation, due to its development, will become a leader in the flock and the rest will follow it. Hence, we become fishers of men.
From this we can conclude that sheep are sensitive, observant and watchful. They have an under-estimated capacity for memory and a more adept sheep can learn many tasks.
Sheep are herbivores and thus do not prey on other animals. They are content in a safe environment, harmless and unobtrusive. Their demands are simple and they only make a noise when they are hungry or they fear danger.
The Bible talks of sheep that listen and hear the shepherd's voice (Jn. 10:3) and the shepherds can call their sheep by name (see the paper He Calls Them by Name: A Study of Psalm 23 (No. 18)).
Understanding the nature of the sheep allows us to appreciate the function and importance of the task of the shepherd even more.
The Hebrew culture of sheep herding was detested by the Egyptian mind-set. The Egyptian way of thinking was understood from the Bible, as being an anti-God thought process. The Egyptians were a rich trading nation. They were capitalists who sought wealth and prosperity in the form of physical things. This mentality brought them to enslave Israel.
From the Bible we know that Jesus Christ is our Shepherd and we are his flock. However, we too are destined to be shepherds as Christ is a shepherd also. This is outlined in Romans 8:17. From this we can conclude that it is our responsibility now to learn to be a shepherd as Jesus is a shepherd.
In real terms, the basic functions of a farm manager in terms of caring for his livestock lie in two main categories; feed and water; protect and heal. This was, and still is, the function of the shepherds. The feeding of the sheep is the paramount responsibility of the shepherd.
The Bible is clear about the shepherd’s role. The shepherd must find pasture and water for his flock (Ps. 23:3; Ezek 34:2,9,13).
Christ’s chief function is to feed his sheep. We know this from John 21:15-17. Christ was emphatic about having his flock fed. It was here that the ministry was commissioned to spread the word of truth as outlined in the Bible. As good shepherds were required to nourish the flock, so too the ministry is required to spread the truth as nourishment for the flock. If we do not teach the truth as God would have us, we become as thieves (Jn 10:1; 10:10).
The thief is there to deceive us and to steal our crown that we may not join Christ in the first resurrection and we thus forfeit our position as part of the elect.
The greatest task of the shepherd is the protection of the flock. Today, we have the benefit of technologies such as fencing materials, guns to cull the wild animals, spotlights to check the animals at night and a more populated world with known boundaries in a more organised system.
In biblical times, each night the shepherds lead the sheep into what were called sheepfolds (Gen. 31:39; 1Sam. 17:34). Caves were also used as sheepfolds (Isa. 24:3). The opening to the caves was normally guarded by the shepherd himself (Jn. 10:7,9).
The clear direction we have is to take care of the sheep of God’s hand. We are judged by how we take care of each other, both as shepherds and as sheep. Each one of us is both shepherd and sheep. Let us love one another as our shepherd loved us.