Sheep. They are the animals which our Lord used as the primary illustration of our relationship with Him.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36 ESV
Shepherding sheep is something that was understood and seen throughout Israel and the Middle East countries: indeed, it still is. Thousands of years ago, when King David wrote Psalm 23, he presented a beautiful picture of the Good Shepherd.
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3 ESV
The shepherd provides all that the sheep need. The shepherd leads the flock to green pastures, to fresh grass, to comfortable resting places, things that are sometimes difficult to find along the barren hillside. The shepherd takes the flock to still waters. Why still water? Because the shepherd knows that if the water is rushing past, it could kill the sheep if the animal slips and its fleece becomes soaked with water, thereby drowning the poor animal . Calm water, though, provides welcome refreshment to the flock without danger.
Flocks can be very large as the shepherds combine flocks and they then all take care of the sheep combined together. But, the shepherd can call his sheep and they will come to him, even if they are part of a large combined flock. Jesus references this in John chapter 10:
To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. …
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. …
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:3-4, 14-16,27 ESV
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep and when He calls them by name, they come to Him and He leads them out of the fold. He is the Good Shepherd and His flock is one united flock, even though it is comprised of sheep from various sheepfolds. The sheep Jesus saw before Him were the Israelites in the area; but His sheep come, not only from Israel, but from the Gentile nations of the world. That is what Jesus is talking about when He said “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.”
So, are you one of the sheep in Jesus’ flock? There is a song that is sometimes sung around the campfire by children and youth, but it expresses the desire to know Jesus and to be one of His sheep.
I just want to be a sheep, I just want to be a sheep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep, I just want to be a sheep.
Are you a sheep in His fold?
Lord, thank You for being the Good Shepherd, and I praise Your Name for lovingly bringing me into the fold. I thank You that You know my name, and I pray that I would respond and come to You when You call.