A Guest Post by Emily Louis I used to try…
This photo is not faked. It shows a real shepherd in rural, modern-day Israel.
It’s the parable of sheep and goats brought to life!
Can you imagine a more perfect depiction of the difference between sheep and goats as they follow a shepherd? (Pinch-to-zoom or click the photo for a closer look.)
Jesus often relied on the sheep metaphor to describe his flock of true believers.
But notice the goats—above and below the lines of sheep. The goats wander this way and that, not really following the shepherd.
Yet, the sheep follow Him precisely, nose to tail, nose to tail, walking in His way.
What a contrast!
Stop a minute and allow the Holy Spirit to teach you as you look at this image, pondering how this represents the people of the church and the world.
How It Applies to Me
Sheep follow their Shepherd. Goats do whatever they want.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)
True believers in Jesus trust enough to follow Him closely. They honor, worship, and obey Him. They love their Shepherd first and with all their heart.
Others prefer to trust themselves or the wisdom of the world around them more than God. The ideas of repentance and submission are inconvenient and irritating.
Each of us would be wise to ask ourselves:
“Am I more like the sheep or the goats when it comes to following Jesus and being a true disciple?
“Do I sometimes criticize people who are ‘too obedient’ or ‘led by the nose’ with Bible teachings because they don’t ‘think for themselves?'”
Jesus Knows and Loves Best
God truly is all-wise and all-powerful. We are like ants in comparison. No, even less—amoeba!
With gusto, I’ll get in line behind our Good Shepherd because I want to follow Someone like that.
For a wonderful devotional experience, look at this photo again as you read all of Psalm 23. Try to read as though experiencing it for the first time in your life. Imagine David’s fervor and humility as he began writing these treasured words. Imagine the profound safety he must have felt in the Lord’s care—this delicate, personalized care that was His.
So it begins . . .
The Lord is my shepherd,
I will not be in need.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; (Read on at Psalm 23, NASB)
In the end, because of the Good Shepherd’s capable nurturing, the sheep are saved in the kingdom of God but the goats are cast out. Clearly, true discipleship matters to God—which we demonstrate by loving and serving those in need. (Read the full parable of sheep and goats further below.)
Did you know?
Goats . . .
- eat anything and everything, even things that are not good for them.
- are incredibly curious, getting into things they shouldn’t.
- are often destructive.
Sheep . . .
- eat nourishing foods because of where the shepherd leads them.
- come when called by a shepherd they know.
- are defenseless alone but safe with their shepherd.
Historically, sheep and goats were hard to tell apart by looking at them. Consider the spiritual meaning this adds to the parable!
“In North America, sheep and goats are easily distinguishable, due to specialization through breeding. Sheep are fluffy and wooly; goats are not. However, throughout history, and still today in parts of Asia and Africa, sheep and goats are almost identical, and no one but a shepherd can easily tell the difference. So the application here for the parable would be that outward conformity (being part of the herd) isn’t all that’s required of us. There is something that only our Shepherd can see in us, and that unseen thing tells God whether we are sheep or goats. It determines whether God sorts us to the left or to the right.” (Heather D, What Is the Difference Between Sheep and Goats?)
The Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
- My heart is warmed and humbled when I remember that Jesus wants me to live as one of His sheep, eyes fixed on Him, meekly walking after Him.
- It’s okay that I’m far less intelligent and powerful than Him. I am what I am.
- He created me and designed the circumstances of my life and the gifts I have or have not received. But I trust that He will make the most of my life, whatever it is intended to be.
- And with King David of old, I too am led by still waters, fed, and kept safe from spiritual harms of every kind.
- Praise and honor forever to Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed Son of God!
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