Do you ever wonder why God compares us to sheep in the Bible? Is it that we are cute and cuddly like them, or is there more to the comparison? There has to be a reason why Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepard and us, His sheep.
After much research, I found out why we are like sheep in the Bible. Some of these reasons are funny and heartwarming. And some are just downright shocking that we are so alike.
In fact, it may make you think twice about your life when you read these spiritual lessons from sheep.
Why Does the Bible Compare Us to Sheep?
You may wonder how we are like sheep in the Bible and why God chose to use sheep and goats as symbols for how we act. These nine characteristics of sheep in the Bible will give you pause and maybe even make you giggle.
1. Sheep have no sense of direction
Many people say sheep are stupid. Let’s just say they have no sense of direction–at all. In fact, they will follow whoever is leading them. Even if it leads them off a cliff. Remember the question, “If your friend jumps off a cliff, would you do it too?” Well, they actually would…
This is a real news story I found online. In Eastern Turkey, about 1500 unattended sheep fell off a cliff while the shepherds were eating breakfast far away from the flock.
The first 400 fell to their death in a ravine, but the remaining 1100 were saved because the first 400 broke the fall. The first 400 sheep were a big, fluffy cushion for the other sheep. It sounds like a good commercial for toilet paper, huh?
Apparently, this is what happened: The sheep in the back couldn’t see past the sheep in front, so they were unaware of what was ahead. The sheep in front couldn’t stop because the sheep in the back were pushing them forward.
Kinda remind you of your teen years? The proverbial blind leading the blind.
I read another funny story about sheep:
One farmer said that if you have a bunch of sheep in a barn, stretch a rope across the door before you let them out.
When the sheep come out of the barn, the first few will jump over the rope. If you cut the rope, the remaining sheep will still jump over the “invisible rope” because it’s what the rest of the flock did.
I’m trying not to laugh. I mean, that is pretty stupid. But, oh my goodness, I can see why God compares us to sheep.
How many times do we follow someone who is leading us in the wrong direction or acts foolishly? We see our friends fall off the cliff, and we go right along with them into the ravine.
Or we imitate them because we think it is cool when they are really just doing something stupid. And now, we are doing it too…I can think of a few weird hairstyles in that category.
Can you see why God compares us to sheep in the Bible?
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).
2. Sheep are defenseless
One of the most interesting characteristics of sheep in the Bible is that they can not defend themselves very well.
Have you ever seen sheep growl or show their teeth? Or maybe bark, bite, run fast, shoot quills, or pull out their claws? Perhaps they could spray you with their…uh, fur. Ha!
They do have two things in their arsenal:
- When sheep are frightened by noise such as running water, they will run away together (hopefully in the right direction). They have some kind of protection as a whole group whereas, individually, they are defenseless.
- Sheep kick. A ewe is especially prone to kicking if she is protecting her young.
Other than these two defense mechanisms, sheep are a Snicker’s bar just waiting to be eaten by a wolf, if they don’t stick together.
We are much the same way. We can kick a little and run but, mostly, we are defenseless. God compares us to sheep in the Bible because we need His protection. We need to stick together as fellow Christians.
What does Jesus say about sheep? Check out this verse: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36 ESV).
Get your FREE SHEEP COLORING PAGE PDF for your kids while you read this devotional to them. You can color one too after you read!
3. Sheep can’t get up without help
Again, trying not to laugh… Sometimes sheep turn over on their back (like a cockroach or turtle) with their legs flailing in the air. There is an old English shepherd’s term for this. It is called “cast down.”
A “cast” sheep is actually a pitiful sight. If the shepherd does not lift up the sheep and put it back on its feet, it will die. It is completely helpless to the prey around it when in this position. Furthermore, it could get left behind when the flock moves on.
How many times have we been “cast down” or flailing on our backs?
I can think of a few times when I would have been in serious trouble without intervention from the Good Shepherd.
Thank goodness He loves us enough to help us get right-sided. I know God compares us to sheep in the Bible for good reason. We are a mess without Him.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11 ESV).
4. Sheep are emotional and recognize the Shepherd’s voice
This is where stupidity ends for shepherds and sheep in the Bible. Sheep have a remarkable instinct for knowing the voice of their shepherd. Because they are emotional animals, they can detect strangers. Amazingly, they will fear a stranger’s voice and flee.
Since they are emotional, they also have the ability to build friendships with other sheep and stick up for each other when in a fight. They can also get anxious or distressed very easily. And they feel sad when their sheep friends are gone (dead).
We can learn a lot from these animals.
What they lack in direction, they make up for in loyalty, friendship, and voice recognition for the shepherd.
I think there is a breakdown here when God compares us to sheep in the Bible. We aren’t so loyal, we don’t stick up for friends always, and we struggle to recognize the Shepherd’s voice.
Perhaps we don’t know His voice because we aren’t communing with Him all day and all night like sheep do with their shepherd. However, we do have the ability to hear the Shepherd’s voice if we will stop and listen. But that is hard for some sheep (us), I think.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27 ).
5. Sheep are not meant to carry burdens
You will never see sheep carrying a pack on their back. Other animals are good for carrying things, but not sheep. They were not meant to carry a heavy load. In fact, they would be crushed under such a weighty burden.
This is why God compares us to sheep in the Bible.
We were not meant to carry our burdens. In fact, we are to give Him our heavy load so He can carry it for us.
“Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
6. Sheep will settle for less
When sheep are thirsty, they will stop at a dirty puddle right in front of them instead of going for the clean, still waters twenty feet ahead of them.
Sadly, they are content with filth, so long as it satisfies them at the moment. Furthermore, they will stink and never even know it. Truthfully, they lack discernment and judgment and, frankly, don’t know what is good for them.
I find we are not much different.
Many times we see a dirty puddle (sin) in front of us and go straight for it because we think that is all there is in life. We think we are satiated when, in reality, we are poisoned and stink.
Perhaps it (sin) even looks enticing at the time because, after all, it is “water.” Many times we KNOW it will harm us, yet we still do it because we are stubborn, blinded from the truth, or simply lack judgment.
God compares us to sheep in the Bible because we don’t always know what is good for us.
The Lord is my Shepherd. I want for nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters (Psalms 23:1-2).
7. Sheep are valuable
The significance of sheep in the Bible is probably more than you ever realized. Sheep were treated as a prized possession in Jesus’ day. You were counted as a wealthy man if you owned large flocks because they provided meat, milk, and wool. And they produced offspring.
Shepherds made many sacrifices to make sure their flocks were protected. They knew it was their livelihood at stake.
How much more precious are we than smelly sheep?
Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us because He loved us so much. He died on a cross so we would live with Him forever.
Now can you see the significance of sheep in the Bible? It is because God views us as priceless.
When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he shouted, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
8. Sheep can not care for themselves when wounded
When sheep get a wound or a bite, they can’t care for themselves. Other animals lick a wound until it heals, but not sheep. They need a shepherd to tend to their injuries.
Many times there would be a salve that needed to be put on their leg and possibly binding of the wounds. A good shepherd would look after the wound constantly until it was healed completely.
Oh, how He wants to look after our wounds and treat it with salve and bind it up. Often we are brokenhearted and need His healing, but we won’t let Him touch us. This is why God compares us to sheep in the Bible.
“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds” (Psalms 147:3).
9. Sheep are innocent
In Christianity, sheep symbolize gentleness, purity, and innocence. It was the lamb that was sacrificed at Passover because it represented the Lamb of God–flawless, pure, and holy. It wasn’t a goat or any other animal.
Interestingly, goats are known for being independent, opinionated, and curious at best—or vulgar, dangerous, and destructive at worst. If you know anything about Satanism, you know they use a goat for their symbol as it is the opposite of a lamb.
We are to be innocent as lambs. Pure and righteous. Not goats who are independent, strong-willed, and destructive. That’s the difference between sheep and goats in the Bible.
And He’ll “separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32).
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Breaking the Leg of a Lamb
Perhaps you have heard the story about how a shepherd would break the leg of a stubborn lamb to keep it from continuing to wander. After the leg was broken, he would bind the wound and carry the animal around his neck until the leg was mended. In turn, the lamb would learn his lesson and not wander off any longer.
Let me assure you this is not true.
I heard an interview from an actual shepherd, Daryl Stoltz (Prince Edward’s Island), who was a special guest at Jennie Allen’s IF Conference 2023. He said that a shepherd would NEVER break the leg of one of his sheep. The job of the shepherd is to “only restore his animals and have a healthy flock.”
Second, breaking the leg of a lamb would leave it more vulnerable to predators. It would not be able to keep up with the flock as they move, therefore, leaving it even more isolated and vulnerable than before. In essence, it would be counterproductive, if not cruel. (Would you break your child’s leg to keep him from running in the street?)
We can trust, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to behave in the same way as Daryl, the shepherd on Price Edward Island. Jesus came to heal the sick, love those who were broken, and bring hope to those who were hopeless. He laid down His life for His sheep, not break them. We need to follow suit. Breaking people will not heal them. Love and sacrifice are our guides to retraining, coupled with natural consequences for sin.
RELATED: Sheep 101:Break a Leg?
Spiritual Lessons From Sheep
Jesus said this about sheep, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them…I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11-15 ESV). This is one of the most important verses about sheep in the Bible and one of the most famous lessons Jesus speaks about sheep.
Just like sheep, we have no direction without Him, we lack protection on every side, and we were never meant to carry a heavy load. We can not make it alone without Him.
On the other hand, I find it heartwarming that as senseless as sheep are, God made them valuable. You would never think they had any redeeming qualities because they are such wanderers. But they do. In fact, they are a symbol of great blessing and prosperity.
Oh, that we would take a lesson from sheep and run to the Good Shepherd who will lead us to the spring of living waters and take care of us forever. Furthermore, that we would truly know our value as one who is priceless to the Shepherd.
“For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).
Do you have stories that show how God compares us to sheep in the Bible? Comment below.
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