"Sheep are basically timid animals who tend to graze in flocks and are almost totally lacking in protection from predators." ('Sheep', Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2003)
Here is a politically correct statement made by the Encyclopaedia Britannica concerning the Ovine genus. Perhaps the writer feared accusations of being a 'speciesist' by the good professor Peter Singer or others of his ilk. Nevertheless, the meaning is still clear-- sheep are stupid and helpless.
"When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36, NIV)
Jesus has struck a serious blow to the self-esteem movement. Yet His statements are not said with malice, but as an assertion of fact. Within the sphere of the created universe, seen as well as unseen, Mankind's wisdom and abilities are far from topping the All-Star list. Furthermore, in comparison to the omniscience and omnipotence of God, sheep are an apt description, if not an overestimation of man's power and ability. In this knowledge, Israel's King David referred to himself both as a worm and a dead dog.
"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:17)
A little child, like the sheep, is weak and dependent. Again, there is no place here for heightened self-esteem. Such esteem is properly reserved for God and His purposes.
To exacerbate matters, since Adam's sin, the sheep naturally flee from the protective shepherd, and the little child fights his introduction to Jesus in a way resembling the expectation of a vaccination or a session beneath the dentist's high pitched drill. They have not gotten any more intelligent nor have they the experience or strength to better thrive in the world, but somehow they 'know' better. It paints the picture of a bratty child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store or a 13 year old projecting his superior wisdom in rebellion against his parents and their rules while, at the same time, having his entire lifestyle subsidized by them.
In effect, Man is that pouty, red-faced, akimbo adolescent standing in rebellion before the Creator of the universe exclaiming, "My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts!" Of course, at the same time, every atom of his being as well as his 'breath of life' is dependent upon God's sustaining power. This is the unadulterated wisdom of a sheep. “God, you must change to suit me. You must follow the flock, become relevant, be hip, be cool.”
The impudent, acne-laden adolescent is having much of his way in our society. His tantrums, immature assertions, and post-modern ‘logical’ blather have been received with overly respectful reverence. Much of the ill-prepared church has succumbed to the modern allure of the odd amalgam of relativism, evolutionary naturalism, misdefined diversity, and selective tolerance.
As the unchanging, but supposedly prescientific Word of God is supplanted by modern philosophical and psychological ideas and methods in the daily life of the church, the Bible’s authority is usurped by a faddish ‘spirit of the age’. The sheep stray.
There are but two shepherds. Matthew and Luke render accounts of the display of the differences between their essences:
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" `He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' " (Matthew 4:1-10, NIV)
The Devil creates modern physical, philosophical, and psychological suppositions of needs and desires while warping the Scripture to attract and drive his flock for his purposes.
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NIV)
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, NIV)
The Good Shepherd, Jesus, on the other hand, accurately handles the Scripture (as well as fulfilling it) and attracts and leads his flock for his purposes.
“Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28, NIV)
Bob Dylan sang, “You’ve got to serve somebody. It may be the Devil or it may be the Lord...” Being fleeced by Satan may ‘feel’ good for a time, you inexorably are driven to a barbecue
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13, NIV)
I am on the narrow road, not by my own discovery, wisdom, or strength. I do not deserve to be there. Jesus came and found me, took me through the narrow gate, and continually carries me along the narrow road.
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23, NIV)