Since my early childhood, my has family raised a handful of sheep each year. I have fond memories as a girl, wandering to our back pasture to feed the sheep leaves from our apple tree. I loved to watch them peacefully chew their cud, to pet their soft ears and to run my fingers through their thick wool.
In growing out of these childhood days and into my Faith, I am drawn to the biblical metaphor that I am a sheep belonging to the Lord’s flock. This beautiful biblical imagery of sheep found throughout Scripture is humbling and profoundly insightful into humanity’s need for an intimate relationship with God.
Imagery of Sheep in Scripture
Scripture is layered with images of sheep. From Isaiah 40:11 to Psalm 100:3 to John 10:1-18, sheep are portrayed as slightly defenseless. They need constant care and love from their shepherd. These verses tell us that a good shepherd will do anything for his sheep to ensure that they are protected from harm.
I am so touched when I ponder these verses. Even as a meek and needy sheep, the Lord gave His life to show me His ceaseless care, love, mercy and compassion.
We are often foolish. We act rashly and sometimes stray away from God in moments of fear and distress. But we are also deeply complex, loving, nurturing, and playful. We desire to feel deeply loved. Likewise, sheep are often clumsy. But they are also calm and peaceful, gentle and nurturing.
Sheep, like children, are curious, active, and social. They bound about and play with one another. They are communal and they thrive on being surrounded by their own kin. A sheep who is left alone becomes greatly troubled and distressed. In isolation, our own hearts, too, become troubled and afraid.
God shows us in these parallels between sheep and humans that even in our mistakes and shortcomings He recognizes our strengths, our beauty, our longing hearts. He sees our need for community and desires to lovingly shepherd us as His flock.
Discovering a Relationship of Reliance
Many Scripture passages depict sheep as vulnerable and fragile. They require constant protection and guidance from a trustworthy shepherd. Mark 6:34 reminds us:
“When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
Though a sheep’s need for constant shepherding is perhaps a weakness, it is also an opportunity for a relationship of reliance to grow between a sheep and his shepherd.
Likewise, recognizing our own fragility and need for direction as humans allows us to respond fervently to the Lord’s invitation to rely on Him. We weren’t made to endure life’s trials on our own. In our weakness, as we look to the Good Shepherd for guidance, comfort, and safety, we are made stronger and holier.
Discovering this relationship of reliance can be humbling but also extremely comforting. The Lord tells us through this metaphor that He feels our pain. We don’t need to feel lost because He is there to lovingly comfort and instruct us.
Freedom in Relationship
John 10:27 tells us that:
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
The imagery in this verse demonstrates a relationship of freedom and companionship between a sheep and his shepherd. A shepherd does not put a halter on his sheep and drag them from pasture to pasture. Rather, he wisely guides them, and the sheep trustingly follow him.
We, too, have freedom in our relationship with God. When we stop listening to all the other noises in our lives and allow ourselves to respond to God’s voice, we follow Him because we know in our hearts that He is the ultimate Source of everything good.
The Lost Sheep
Luke 15, the Parable of the Lost Sheep, narrates a shepherd’s joy in finding his one lost sheep. A good shepherd cares for his sheep. He becomes greatly troubled when one goes astray. He desires to protect them. A shepherd seeks to lead them to verdant pastures, rushing streams, and cool shade, away from predators.
This parable isn’t just poetic. It is real and intensely symbolic of our relationship with the Lord. The Lord becomes concerned for us when we stray away from Him. He seeks to draw us back into relationship. Like the lost sheep, the Lord treasures every moment we commit to returning our lives to Him. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He knows our hearts. He wants to guide us and console us during our daily struggles, to shelter us from life’s perils.
The Lord is My Shepherd
Psalm 23 encapsulates the essence of the human experience. We sheep sometimes walk in darkness. We need sustenance, comfort, and safety. There is a need for restoration in our souls. Only the Lord, our Good Shepherd, with His limitless love and light, can offer us this life of abundance.
Be Like Sheep in His Flock
Instead of seeing our relationship with God as abstract, internalizing this biblical imagery brings our connection to God to an earthly level. This poetic metaphor of sheep found throughout Scripture is an opportunity for us to tangibly understand the Lord’s tenderness and His desire to be in an intimate, loving, and protecting relationship with us.
When I return home to visit my parents, I still love to wander out to the pasture and feed the sheep apple leaves and watch them graze. When I close my eyes and imagine myself resting by still waters, like a sheep in green pastures by a stream, I feel overwhelmed by the Lord’s incomprehensible grace and mercy. I am a sheep and I belong to His flock. What more could I need?Belonging to His Flock #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Mercedes Shirts lives in Idaho, land of the potatoes, with her husband, bulldog, and cat. When not indulging in a good read and black coffee, she enjoys eating street tacos, running, and listening to Texas country music. You can find out more about her here.