After two years of living in ag-lovin’ West Texas, I finally had my first brush with a rodeo. My son tried out for an event called “Mutton Bustin.'” If you’ve never heard of this little rite of passage, I’ll sum it up for you: young kids get plopped on the back of a sheep and try to hold on for dear life. Being a city kid, I had visualized fluffy sheep trotting lightly around the arena with their small riders.
Needless to say, I got educated.
I found the sheep themselves to be rather entertaining. Sometimes they would turn and go the wrong way. Other times, they would burst through the gate only to halt suddenly and roll over the rider. More than once, a sheep—lacking any sense of direction—would dart through the gate, turn sharply, see people in it’s path and run the other way. A few sheep—finally freed of their riders—attempted to avoid the sheep pen altogether, turning back into the arena.
After our Mutton Bustin’ adventure, we dropped by our neighbor’s house to pick up a package she had rescued for us from the rain. Apparently, she used to “show” sheep when she lived in the country. She chuckled over their lack of intelligence and remarked, “Sheep are born looking for a place to die.”
I had never heard that expression before, but it makes abundant sense.Like sheep, we are always looking for a place to die. We indulge in what is harmful, pursue pleasures that make us sick, and wander far from the Good Shepherd. We look for ways to die even as our souls hunger for life.
Unlike sheep, we aren’t mere animals—we have an eternal soul that can choose to seek life or wander our way towards death.
We Aren’t As Smart As We Think
Throughout the scriptures, we are frequently compared to sheep because we are like them in more ways than we care to admit. I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence here, but compared to the Omniscient Creator of Heaven and Earth, our intelligence is pretty sheepish.
Take some time to read Job chapters 38 through 42. The Lord reminds Job that He is God; His wisdom cannot be duplicated by the most erudite men or women. The works and wisdom of God make all our efforts childish by comparison. Even with all our scientific prowess, we can do no more than invent weak imitations of God’s creation. We just aren’t as smart as we think we are.
If you don’t believe me, browse the news or scroll through a Facebook. It only takes a few minutes to recognize that even common sense is far more rare than it is common. We just aren’t as smart as we think we are.
Once we are humble enough to recognize our limitations, we are well on our way to following the Good Shepherd. The moment we lean on our own understanding, we wander away from Him, looking for a place to die.
Sheep Wander or Follow
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.
~ Isaiah 53.6, ESV
We all follow someone or something. Some pursue happiness; others chase after knowledge, trotting jauntily after their favorite scholars. Many surrender themselves to their various passions. Even if we convince ourselves that we are revolutionary thinkers, it just means we are wanderers in a dangerous wilderness.
No matter what we pursue, it comes down to following one of two leaders: the Good Shepherd (Jesus) or the Cunning Wolf (Satan).
Choose to Follow the Good Shepherd
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.He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
~ John 10.11-15, ESV
Intellectualism appeals to our pride.
Passion appeals to our instinct.
Jesus appeals to our eternal soul.
Each of us has an innate craving, deep within our soul, for life. In more ways than one, we are surrounded by the walking dead—people who merely exist, trying to the get the most from the world before their bodies expire.
Following Jesus brings us an abundant life we cannot really understand apart from Him. He brings us inner peace even as the world brings conflict. He strengthens us with joy even in the midst of sorrow. He sustains us with hope for eternal life even as the world despairs. He teaches us to love in a way that changes eternal destinies.
Jesus gave His life to give us abundant life. Following Him may not make for easier circumstances, but it will bring peace that passes understanding. He leads us to an eternal life that is far better than this one.
Don’t look for a place to die, follow the Shepherd and truly live.
“[Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.“
~ 1 Peter 2.24-25, ESV