“We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;” Isaiah54:6
Last summer my family and I visited a Celtic Festival. It was an afternoon filled with great bagpipe music, River-dances, cooking lessons (haggis!), jousting, games, and sheep-herding.
Of all the events, the sheep-herding demo was the most impressive. One shepherd and one border collie v.s. a flock of ornery, strong-willed, cantankerous sheep. As the shepherd signaled the dog with whistles, hand motions and calls, the little collie rounded up the band of sheep and deposited them safely in their pen. The sheep tried everything they could to outwit the dog, breaking formation and running in the opposite direction of where they were intended to go, but eventually were secured within their safety zone.
Sheep are obstinate, stubborn animals and are determined to do what they want to do. They lack discernment and will happily eat poisonous plants, and will nibble the grass down to the root if the shepherd does not move the herd to prevent over-grazing. When one sheep decides to run off a cliff, the rest of the herd will devotedly follow the leader. The shepherd and his dog must be on constant guard for danger and take immediate action to protect the herd.
Interestingly, the Bible often calls US sheep, and there are definitely similarities that we share with these creatures.
For example, we know that some things are just not good for us, but we insist on trying them anyway. We reason, “I won’t EAT it, I just want a LICK! One little lick won’t hurt.” And before we know it, the carton of ice cream is empty!
We are obstinate and strong-willed. These can become the great traits of determination and single-focused mindset if they are used to accomplish great things for God’s Kingdom, but too often they are used to satisfy our own fleshly desires and prevent us from achieving God’s best.
Despite God’s great love and plans for our life, we rarely cooperate on our own own, forcing Him to “herd” us by means of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever been “herded” by God?
I used to attend a little country church in Pennsylvania. The small congregation felt like a family, with everyone concerned about one another and involved in each other’s lives. When one person stubbed their toe, the rest of the congregation said, “Ouch!” I loved that little church family and was deeply grieved when my husband’s job relocated our family to the metropolis of Hampton Roads, VA.
We found a much larger church (4,400 members) and fled after a few weeks in desperate search of discovering a little country church in the big city. Although we visited many smaller churches, we always felt a strong “NO” in our spirits until we surrendered and returned to the larger church we had originally found. Transitioning from the little country church to that big city church was a culture shock. It was much like moving from a one-room schoolhouse to a university. But it was there that the Lord moved us into ministry and taught me how to lead small groups and teach. He had good things in store for me, but I had to be “herded” there to find them.
One would think that a sheep would reason, “Every where that dog herds me, I find a soft bed, good drinking water, great food and safety. I think I’ll just cooperate with him.” But, the sheep is always looking over its shoulder, wondering what it is missing. Every time God “herds” us, He has good things in store for us, too. But how often do we surrender and cooperate with the Holy Spirit? Whether out of a lack of trust, or out of our own self-centered desires, we often act like those Celtic Festival sheep. We race around, expending unnecessary energy, trying to avoid the very things that our shepherd has designed for our good.
Our God gives good things to His children. He has a wonderful plan and future for us if we will only cooperate with Him. Remember that God always has your best interest at heart and is completely trustworthy. Cooperate with the leading of the Holy Spirit and don’t act like an ornery, cantankerous sheep.