The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice. (John 10:3-5)
Read: Psalm 136, 146-150
Relate: It is not a very flattering comparison to be called sheep. They stink. Back in the day, the bus I used to take on my way to high school actually drove by a sheep farm. It doesn’t matter what you did to cover or protect your nose. That stink was bound to infiltrate everywhere more thoroughly than a skunk’s spray and there was just no getting used to it. It was disgusting.
Not only do sheep stink. They’re stupid. It is a proven fact that sheep have no long term memory. That means they can’t be trained. They don’t remember where home is or where a food bin might have been placed if they haven’t been to it in the very recent past. Beyond that, they have poor vision and a very poor sense of direction. Combine these two and it is easy to see why they tend to wander off and get lost so easily.
There are some other reasons why I wouldn’t want to be likened to a sheep. They can’t carry heavy loads. They have no defense mechanism or instinct beyond flocking together. Best (or rather, worst) of all, a sheep cannot right itself. If the thing falls on to its back, it is completely and totally unable on its own to get back on its feet. It needs help. Sheep are dumb, defenseless and very smelly animals. When it comes to our spiritual life… we are sheep.
React: There is one thing that sheep do very well. They hear. Because of the placement of their ears, a sheep can tell the distance and direction of a sound coming from them. They also have a built in instinct that allows them to recognize sound that supersedes their normal lack of long term memory. In other words, they recognize voices. This is probably the only reason sheep have managed to survive into the twenty-first century. Their great tasting mutton, wool that makes for great clothing, and their absolute dependence on a shepherd make them the perfect herding animal. All the shepherd has to do is to continue speaking or singing over them and they will follow him anywhere.
The fact is, spiritually, we are all like sheep. The question is, are we God’s sheep? That depends. When we hear His voice, are we following Him?
God, I am completely and totally dependent on You. Like a sheep I am dumb. I continually forget the lessons You have taught me over and over. Remind me. I stink. The filth and the dirt of this world tends to gather and stick to me like an unpleasant surprise on the bottom of my shoe. Wash me. I am blind. I am unable to see where I am going and what my future holds. Guide me. I am weak, unable to carry even my own burdens, let alone the burdens and needs of others for whom I care deeply. Carry me. I am helpless. When I have fallen, I am completely and totally unable to stand on my own. Forgive me. Most of all, I am prone to wander. There are so many noises and distractions in my life that I am sometimes able to hear You. Cut through those distractions and speak to me… that I might follow You.