How we’re like sheep

Published 5:25 pm Monday, July 23, 2018

Sheep? The Bible is filled with sheep and so we ought to know something about them. All I know about sheep is what I’ve seen in old western movies and television shows and it’s not good. The cattlemen didn’t like them. They smelled and they overgrazed the grass. But then I saw a PBS special on WFSU titled “Sweetgrass,” about the last folks taking sheep into the high country in Montana. There were 475,000 in 2009 and 210,000 in 2011.

Most of the sheep in America, more than a billion of them, are raised in Texas or California, and their flocks are declining too. Part of the decline can be explained by decreasing demands. Americans don’t really like lamb or mutton. Lamb comes from sheep under 14 months old and mutton comes from sheep older than 14 months. I’ve eaten mutton stew on the Navajo Reservation and I didn’t like it. Maybe it’s an acquired taste? But we still import more than 40 percent of our lamb and mutton from Australia and New Zealand, and there is still some demand for the wool.

There is some evidence of wool cloth as early as 10,000 B.C. and when the Romans invaded Britain in 55 B.C., British woolen clothing was prized for its softness. Later, in the 15th Century, it was Spain’s thriving woolen trade that financed Christopher Columbus’ (who was raised in a family of sheep traders) voyage to the New World. Maybe all of that explains why, in 2009, an eight month old Scottish ram named Deveronvale Perfection was sold for $380,000 to a Scottish sheep farmer for breeding. In any case, the Bible talks a lot about sheep and often compares God’s people to sheep.

“[6] All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way. But the Lord made the punishment fall on him, the punishment all of us deserved. [7] “He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly; he never said a word. Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, like a sheep about to be sheared, he never said a word. [8] He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about his fate. He was put to death for the sins of our people. [9] He was placed in a grave with those who are evil, he was buried with the rich, even though he had never committed a crime or ever told a lie (Isaiah 53).”

According to, there are five reasons we’re like sheep. Sheep can’t carry burdens like other animals. They can’t defend themselves; they run. They’re satisfied with whatever is available and easy; they’ll drink out of a dirty puddle rather than walk a few feet to a fresh stream nearby. They can’t find their way home if they’re lost, and they need a shepherd to protect them, to lead them to fresh water and green pastures, and to lead them home. My shepherd’s name is Jesus.