Monday, March 9, 2009

Shepherd and Sheep Series-Sheep and Survival

Sheep belong to the class of animals called ruminants, because they chew and rechew their food through a process of reingestion. We as God's sheep are to ruminate on the Scriptures. "Meditate upon these things; give yourself wholly to them; that your profiting may appear to all" (1 Timothy 4:15). Analogies between sheep and Christians abound in Scripture. Those who minister to Christians are compared to shepherds: “Feed the flock of God which is among you…” (1 Peter 5:2). Christ is pictured as the Chief Shepherd: “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear…” (1 Peter 5:4). Christians are the sheep of God’s flock: “...We are the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). Important aspects of the Christian life are also illustrated by the ways of sheep. Christians are to follow the Lord as sheep follow their shepherd. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Christians wander from truth the same way that sheep go astray. “All we like sheep have gone astray…” (Isaiah 53:6). Sheep do not have the ability to survive on their own. Most people assume that sheep can take care of themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sheep are such creatures of habit that, if left to themselves, they become the victims of their own destruction. They will wander in the same paths and “graze” in the same areas until the pasture is destroyed. Sheep will then pollute the barren ground until it breeds dangerous parasites. When thirsty, untended sheep will drink whatever water is available, even from contaminated sources such as shallow, muddy pools. What are sheep notoriously noted for? They go astray. They get lost easily; sheep are totally dependant on the Shepherd, on Jesus Christ. Of interest are the sheep of the Highlands of Scotland, especially how they are rescued when they wander off and become stranded? The vegetation on those high places is pretty sparse. And yet, down on a narrow cliff about ten or twelve feet below is a little ledge that is grassy. It hasn't been eaten because sheep can't walk down there. But some of them will smell that lush grass and they will go down on that ledge, jumping ten, maybe twelve feet, landing on all fours like a cat and they will eat that lush grass. Well, there's no way to get back up by themselves. Soon their bleating is heard as they try unsuccessfully to return to higher ground. The shepherd does not rush over to rescue him. He lets that sheep stay down there on the ledge for a reason. Why? There's no way he can save him until all the grass is eaten and until the sheep begins to get hungry and thirsty. In time the sheep realizes the food is gone and there is no water down there. Finally the sheep gets so weak that he can't even stand up. It’s at that point, when he's at the bottom of the barrel, when he has run out of his own energy, then the shepherd will lower himself down over the ledge and rescue the sheep. Because the wise Shepherd knows if he comes any sooner, that stupid sheep, will jump over the ledge to its death. This should help us understand why God often waits until we are at the bottom of the barrel. You may be saying I wish He wouldn't wait so long. Maybe you ought to pray that the grass will run out a little sooner. Fear, tension, and aggravation will keep sheep from properly digesting their food. Then, too, the ever-present danger of predators will bring further destruction to sheep who try to make it on their own. No wonder Jesus made the observation of sheep that had no shepherd, “…they fainted, and were scattered abroad…” (Matthew 9:36). This characteristic of sheep explains why most Christians do not meditate on the Word of God. They assume they can do it on their own, but the clear fact of the matter is that they cannot. Their intentions may be sincere, and their motivation may be high. They may even begin a program of memorization, but in a short while they become too busy for it and soon forget about it. If this describes your condition, there is only one remedy—accountability! In order to experience meditation on any kind of consistent basis, you must affirm the following truth and commitment. “Having failed in my own efforts to meditate on a consistent basis, I now purpose to become accountable to another person in order to maintain this vital spiritual discipline." Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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