Sheep in the Bible, Part 1
The shepherd and his flock of sheep is one of the most prominent and important symbols in the Bible. Sheep are mentioned more often than any other animal. This is not surprising since sheep were a central and vital part of Israel’s economy ever since the time of the patriarchs…and even back to the beginning because remember, Abel was a shepherd. In the gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11, Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd…” We have all seen popular paintings which depict Jesus as the good shepherd. Even in only nominally Christian homes, we see prints of this famous painting of Jesus with His shepherd’s staff and leading His flock of sheep…or that other famous painting of Jesus with the one lost sheep draped around His neck, carrying it back to the fold.
Such a common theme in Christianity! Such a common scene in so many Christian homes today! Moreover, who could count how many thousands of sermons have been preached around this theme? Yet if one were to ask the average Christian what the sheep symbolize, the answers are typically: “The sheep stand for sinners” or ” for Christians” or “the church” or “God’s people” (implying the same as the next answer:) “all God’s children—red and yellow, black and white…” But is that true? What does the Bible actually teach about this?
One of the keys to understanding any literary work, whether a novel or a history book, is to be able to properly identify the players. That most Christians fail to properly identify who the sheep are is evidence that ministers have failed miserably in laying even this most critical of all foundational Bible truths. This monograph will establish this simple and fundamental truth. (Even most so-called “fundamentalists” are ignorant of this fact.)
While the Bible is both literature and history, it is of course much more than that. It is wholly the inspired Word of Almighty God. It is His “Manufacturer’s Manual” for the earth and its inhabitants. But a study of this Manufacturer’s Manual reveals that His Divine Plan is not yet fully realized on the earth. (Cf. Hebrews 2:8) It is still a work-in-progress. To accomplish His goal of having the earth and all its inhabitants eventually operate perfectly in accord with His Word, Yahweh-God instituted a long-range Plan, a Plan which even incorporates evil, sin, disease, decay and the death of all living things!
Then, to demonstrate His great love for His creation, He promised He would send a redeemer to release us from the bondage of corruption and death. (Romans 8:20, 21) Furthermore, to demonstrate to the rest of the world how to follow the Manufacturer’s Manual, God
chose the descendants of one lineage of people. They are known as the Israelites (not to be confused with the term “Jews,” which distinction will be shown in later writings). These Chosen People, the Israelites, were to be God’s witnesses, to demonstrate to the world how to do it. True to Plan, however, God decided to first have His Chosen People, the Israelites, demonstrate to the rest of the world how not to do it. (To be continued.)