So begins perhaps one of the most famous passages in the Bible, and certainly the most famous and beloved psalm. Many have memorized it, claim it and love it. But how many read it with the realization that if they claim the Lord as their shepherd, they are identifying themselves as sheep? And if they do realize that... do they really understand what that identification implies?
Our Arizona Bible conference last weekend dealt with this latter question. And the identification does not imply that sheep are cute and fluffy creatures who love following their shepherd, and we are therefore the same. I wonder how many people are aware of the very frequent and consistent reference God's word makes to us humans as sheep. Of all the animals it's sheep that God chose as the ones we most remind Him of.
So what are sheep really like?
What follows are some tidbits on sheep from the conference, courtesy of a former sheep farmer who was in attendance. Consider how much like sheep are we as people (spiritually/soulishly):
Sheep are dumb. Dumber than goats; dumber even than cows. They are so dumb they have to be led into the barn at night because they can't find their way on their own -- this is the same barn they might sleep in every night!
When sheep fall over they need assistance getting up.
When they do fall, their wool gets filthy and they need to be brushed and cleaned by the shepherd,or eventually they will develop all sorts of ailments.
Because of a sheep's makeup, it is impossible for them to lie down and rest. They must have a definite and complete sense of freedom from fear, tension, aggravation and hunger before they will rest.
Sheep require continuous attention and tremendous care from the shepherd.
When sheep are frightened, their first instinct is to run away. And sheep are easily frightened.
They also display a tendency toward mob behavior, particularly with respect to fear. For example, a herd can be grazing peacefully across a quiet hillside when suddenly a jackrabbit jumps out of a bush and startles one. In moments the one's fear (of nothing) has spread throughout the entire herd and they all run panicked in every direction.
Keep in mind that God is well aware of all these qualities and chose the comparison VERY deliberately!
If you'd like to hear these lessons for yourself, you can find them at http://www.gbible.org/ under "Featured classes": AZ conference 2008 (in four parts)