A sheep is defined as a domesticated ruminant animal with a thick woolly coat and (typically only in the male) curving horns. Sheep are kept in flocks for their wool or meat and is proverbial for its tendency to follow others in the flock.
Sheep are known to be raised on farms where they can be fenced in and protected from danger. They are unintelligent animals that are quite literally too dumb for their own good. They tend to wander off and follow the rest of the flock.
Farmers must keep them fenced in because entire flocks of sheep are likely to wander away from their food and water and into the face of danger. This species of animal is far from the top of the food chain. These defenseless prey are very vulnerable to predators; consequently, sheep have always been dependent on protection.
Even in the years of BC., sheep had to be protected by humans. Back then, those who watched over flocks of sheep were called shepherds. Shepherds would protect sheep from wolves and other dangers that sheep couldn’t protect themselves from. The traits that sheep exhibit inspired a figurative meaning of the word in English, Hebrew, and Greek languages that applied to humans themselves.
In Christianity, the word “sheep” is figuratively used many times in the Holy Bible, church sermons, and devotions to refer to God’s people and all sinners of the world. The Holy Bible shows that we humans exhibit the same traits sheep do. Like sheep, we wander from our needs, follow the flock, and depend on protection.
Sinners and Christians have the tendency to wander from their needs much like sheep do. God shows his people the ways to righteousness, but we often wander from the ways that will guide them there.
Oftentimes, we get caught up in worldly things and begin to wander from God’s will. Work becomes too overbearing, having fun becomes more important than daily devotion and prayer, schedules begin to pack too tight, and we then stray from our walk with God. It’s too easy for humans to stray away from their needs…just like sheep stray from theirs.
Figuratively, society is the flock in which people follow. Once some individuals begin to wander from God’s ways, the rest begin to follow. Society now accepts many things God does not. Lost in societal ways, we are brought up to believe that the things accepted by the rest of society are okay. Sexual immorality, swearing, and substance abuse are just a few of the many things that are now normalized by society despite God’s wishes. These accepted sins are practiced daily; even by those that declare themselves Christians.
Just like sheep, humans are in great need of protection. Fortunately, our God is the good shepherd. God gave each person the gift of the Holy Spirit and uses his scripture to guide and protect his people. Ezekiel 34:31 states “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
Being sheep in his pasture, God will find us and keep us from wandering when we get lost in societal ways. Luke 15:4-7 states “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent”.
Although people stray from God time and time again, he is a faithful shepherd. God will search for each one of us and grant us protection.
On the surface, sheep seem incomparable to humans. Their unintelligent tendencies and vulnerability make them seem far from the same as the humans who rule the Earth. Realistically, it’s those characteristics and tendencies that actually make us so comparable to sheep. While we like to believe that we can fend for ourselves and go peacefully through life without blindly walking into danger, it can’t be farther from the truth.
Humans need the protection of God the same way sheep need the protection of a shepherd. While humans and sheep seemingly have no similarities in instinct and physical characteristics, they couldn’t be more alike in a figurative sense.