A Closer Look at Sheep

 In Preaching & Teaching

Inquiring minds want to know.  What do they want to know? It doesn’t matter, what ever the topic, you can google it and find an answer. After the five fun facts about chickens, my mind wanted to know if there were fun facts about other animals.  I knew there were fun facts about my dogs – I have a mental list that’s been compiled over the years about their funny interactions with me – and sometimes with others. But my dogs have been special. They were highly intelligent, exceptionally empathetic, and humorous to a fault. So, putting my “special” dogs aside, my question remained, do other barnyard animals have fun facts about them out there in Google land someplace, just waiting for some one to search for them?

And why not ask the question?  Animals clearly are important to God. Did you realize they are included in one of the covenants God made, one we still live under? It’s true – the covenant made with Noah, let’s look at it: Genesis chapter nine, beginning at verse 9.

“I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.

Five times He repeated the phrase “all living creatures of every kind.”  Now, to make sure we are clear, while I do believe animals, specifically our animals will be in heaven with us, I’m not saying that animals are covered in the New Testament covenant of forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. That covenant is between Jesus and humanity. However, I am saying that animals are a part of God’s creation, and He cares about them and recognized them in the covenant with Noah.  So, the next time you see a rainbow, and thank God for His covenantal promise, remember His promise extended to the animals as well.

Having established that animals are important to our Father, God, what kind of fun facts did I discover in my google search and what can we learn from them? First, I googled sheep. “Why,” you ask, would I google sheep?  Because sheep are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible – more than any other animal.  So, what are some of the fun facts that Google had to share concerning sheep?

Well did you know….

  1. Sheep have rectangular pupils. Those rectangular pupils give them a field of vision that extends to 320 degrees. That means they can see everything around them – except for what is directly behind them without having to turn their heads!
  2. Sheep have an excellent sense of smell. “Sheep have scent glands in front of their eyes and between the digits of their hooves that produce smelly secretions used to communicate with one another. I am not sure what sort of message they are sending to one another as they walk along secreting smells that are mixed with the floor of the barn. If you have ever walked through a typical old farm barn you know what I am talking about.
  3. Sheep do not have top front teeth. This isn’t because of poor dental care. It’s the odd way they were made. Instead, they have a hard upper palate.  Who knew?
  4. Sheep are highly social animals. A group of sheep is called a flock. They stay together, not because they are fearful, rather because they form strong bonds with one another. They know and share emotional expressions, so they can understand how one another is feeling, thus having an emphatic side.
  5. Ewes (female sheep) recognize their lamb’s bleat. Bleating is the verbal communication they use. Momma sheep can recognize which lamb is hers just by the sound of baby’s cry.

I had no idea that sheep were such complex animals.  I had mistakenly thought of them as dumb animals. But they are not. I can remember the older pastors (my grandfather’s generation) referring to the congregation as their flock. I never thought much about it. I understood the imagery but didn’t go beyond the simple words. However, Isaiah 40:11 states “He (God) tends His flock (children) like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young.”

And all of us can finish this sentence from Psalm 23; “The Lord is my……….”

There is a special bond that develops between the shepherd and sheep. It’s not a bond of necessity because the sheep are so dumb, they can’t think on their own. The bond is based on sharing the journey together of truly knowing one another. True, there would be the protection of the shepherd, when necessary, but the bond goes beyond that. The bond is there because of the sheep’s ability to share life with the shepherd. Which makes Jesus’ teaching in John 10 even more important.

Starting at verse 3b, “the sheep listen to his (the shepherd’s) voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice…….“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Just as sheep have the ability to know one another, we also can know and be known by our King Jesus. In order to know and be known, we must pay attention so that we learn what His voice sounds like, what His heart beats like and the ways that He thinks so that we can follow faithfully. May we be the sheep who know Him and follow Him into those green pastures, into places of life and blessing!


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