Monday, February 19, 2007

Of sheep and goats....

I believe one of the most amazing things that happens when you live the agrarian life is that the Scriptures take on a new many of the Lord’s parables and stories related to agrarian things.  Reaping and sowing become a part of your seasonal work when you live the agaraian life.  Many of the stories involving animals become crystal clear once you have worked with those animals. The scriptures seem to have a deeper meaning or perhaps we have a deeper understanding because we have become a part of these things.  Perhaps that is what God intended from the beginning....that if we were living the agrarian life, we would have a better understanding of His word.  

For myself, it is amazing  how much closer I feel to God, how much more of His creative nature I see and how much more I am drawn to His words since beginning this life.  I can not imagine ever living another way. Today I want to look at His word and the pictures He paints of  sheep and goats.  Let’s just review a few of them and then I will explain what happened here on the farm last week that brought these pictures to mind so clearly!  Let's start with sheep....

First of all He refers to His people as sheep and reminds us that we should know the voice of our shepherd:

Eze 34:31  You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God, says the Lord GOD.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

He warns us that wolves will come to destroy us but that they will be clothed as sheep, because we tend to trust other sheep :

Mt 7:15   Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

He points out that we will sin, that we are like sheep who have left their shepherd and gone astray: 

Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Mt 9:36  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

And, lastly, He promises that he will seek us out and lay down his life for us:

Eze 34:11 For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out."

1 Peter 2:25  For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

John 10:11  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

I do not own sheep but I have friends who raise sheep.  They tell me that sheep need constant attention from their shepherd.  That, if properly cared for and if they spend a lot of time with their shepherd then they do learn the voice of their shepherd and will follow their shepherd trustingly wherever he takes them. That if left to their own devices they usually get into trouble - but that they usually do so in groups.

Wow!  How well does this describe His followers!  That the more time we spend with Him, the better we hear his voice and the easier it is to trust and  follow Him as our shepherd no matter how deep and dark the valley!!  And most importantly that if we neglect time with our shepherd we will get into trouble or if we turn to each other all of the time, instead of to Him, we can get into trouble in numbers!

Now, we see that there is a difference between sheep and  goats:

Mt 25:32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

Mt 25:33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

My understanding is that He has laid His life down for the sheep so that they may be saved but that the goats are headed in another direction!

I do raise goats and I can tell you that they are stubborn, are always getting into trouble, usually by themselves but the others watch and are quick to copy bad behaviour.  And that even when I, as the “shepherdess” (ok, I know that technically I am a goatherd but bear with me while I make the point :)), am trying to save them from trouble they fight me ALL the way.  If they weren’t so intelligent I would think that they were really stupid!

All of these thoughts came pouring into my mind last week when Baby Girl got out of her field.  Baby Girl is an Alpine goat, a little on the small side and a real stinker - she loves to untie shoes...even if you double knot them she can accomplish this quickly with her mouth!  She is the first to find a weak spot in the fence and the first to butt the other goats to get them to do what she wants.  Last week she sailed right over a high fence, pregnant belly and all.  She then wandered back into the barn and for some unknown reason jumped into the goats feeding trough. Now this is a long, narrow trough high off the ground to keep them from walking in it.  The back of it is wooden - part of the wall of one of the stalls in the barn.  The rest of it has been lined with a cattle panel that has been bent to fit the trough with the purpose of keeping goats out of the trough.  She was way to heavy to lift up 4 feet and over a the panel.  We were at a loss.  

The boys tried to build her a stairway up to the hayloft 6 feet above the trough.  Baby girl was having none of that!  Watching a goat be stubborn can be down right funny - she had all four legs spread out as flat as possible.  The message was clear - I am not going that way.  The boys thought about building her a stair to the top of the cattle panel but the drop to the floor of the barn was so far that I was worried we could loose the babies and perhaps her also so I nixed that idea.

Finally, after struggling with her for about 45 minutes, while constantly telling her we were trying to help, we decided to build a stairway with hay bales and try to send her back out the way she jumped in....let’s just say she wasn’t much interested.  Now, as her “shepherds”, we knew this was going to be hard, but it was for her good - it was the only way to get her out of the trouble she had gotten herself in.....and yet she fought us all the way. 

It took three bales to reach the top of the cattle panel - staggered like a stairway.  We tried tempting her with a little bit of grain placed on the other side. Jeremy and Josiah had to lift her, push her and guide her - still she fought them until their will to save her broke her will to stay where she was.  Once she saw that life might be better on the side with the grain bucket and room to turn around, she made the decision to cooperate.  She sailed over the cattle panel and landed on all four feet - it was then easy to lead her back to where she belonged.

Now, this got me often do we act like goats when we should be acting like His sheep?  How often do we get ourselves in trouble and then grumble when our Saviour has to apply some unpleasant discipline to get us back to the place we belong?  Why does it take so long for us to decide that where He is trying to take us is where we want to be?  Why is it so hard to follow him, as sheep should do, through that valley no matter how hard, how dark and how deep.... we ought to know that He is bringing us to lush pasutres and green hills filled with mountain top experiences on the other side of the valley....why do we so often act like goats when in truth we are sheep that belong to the Shepherd?


  1. Cheri,
    Thank you for your wise words. What a blessing to have the LORD for our shepherd! He restores my soul!

    I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now (I can't remember how I came across it - sorry) and enjoy and appreciate your perspective.

    A few similarities- my name is Cheri(yep, spelled the same way!). I am the mother of 3 (all grown) sons. I have homeschooled for the past 18 years and am so thankful for that opporunity.

    We are seeking the LORD's will on the possibility of moving to TN. We love the Northwoods of WI, but my mother in TN was recently diagnosed with Alzheimers. We are willing to move down to help my parent's should the LORD so lead.

    We desire to live a simple life. Living in thick woods has limited our gardening and we have not raised any animals, but would like to do so if we had more land and open space.

    Anyway - thank you so much for your writings - for glorifying the LORD and pointing others to a life more reliant on Him.

  2. Cheri,
    Thank you for the kind words and what a neat thing to meet someone who shares not only my name but so many similarities!


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