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The Spiritual Significance Of Sheep In Scripture

Introduction - 'Sheep' and 'Lamb' As Christ

As with every word of scripture, the word 'sheep' has a meaning behind it that has nothing at all to do with a four legged barnyard animal. What then does this word typify?

In answering this question we must remember that God's Word is completely, "Christ centric." That is a phrase that I suppose has been around for a long time, but it was Joe Beeler who introduced me to that phrase a couple of years ago when we were struggling with how the book of Revelation was to be understood. I was telling Joe that everything in that book and the entire Bible, was about Christ and His Christ, and Joe said to me, "What you are saying is that the whole Bible is Christ centric." When he used that word, it just stuck. We are told that the book of Revelation is "the Revelation of Jesus Christ." It is a completely Christ centric book. Now, since "the sum of Thy Word is Truth" (Psa. 119:160), and since "Christ is that Truth" (John 14:6), and "is the Word" (John 1:1), that makes the entirety of God's Word Christ centric.
Psa 119:160  The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.
Joh 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Since the sum of God's Word is Truth and since Christ says "I am the Truth," it adds not one Word to the Word of God to say that Christ is the sum of God's Word, and that the whole of the Bible is indeed 'Christ centric.'

What does all this have to do with the word 'sheep' in scripture? It tells us that this word 'sheep' is centered around Christ. If we can keep this in mind, we will much better understand what Christ means when we see the words, sheep, lamb, or ram in scripture. And If Christ is in us, then we too must identify with these words 'sheep,' and 'lamb.'

Who is "the lamb of God?

Joh 1:29  The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

Joh 1:32  And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
Joh 1:33  And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
Joh 1:34  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
Joh 1:35  Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
Joh 1:36  And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
So if Christ is a lamb, what does that make us?
1Jn 4:17  Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
In what way are we sheep?
Psa 100:3  Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Christ calls us His lambs and His sheep. He mentions the lambs first but only once. He mentions the sheep twice and last. Christ, through His elect 'sheep,' feeds both His lambs and His sheep.
Joh 21:15  So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
Joh 21:16  He saith to him again the second time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Joh 21:17  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
"Feed my sheep," not 'feed upon my sheep,' but "Feed my sheep. When we see the sheep being abused we take it to our Father:
Gen 37:2  These [are] the generations of Jacob. Joseph, [being] seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
Joseph was in Babylon when his eyes began to be opened to the fact that His brothers didn't really care for the welfare of their Father so much as themselves.
Joseph's brothers were so interested in their own welfare that they later sold Joseph for two pieces of silver each.

What are a sheep's natural enemies?

Many biblical animals prey upon sheep. Scripturally sheep are the natural prey for lions, leopards, bears, and wolves:
1Sa 17:33  And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.
1Sa 17:34  And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
1Sa 17:35  And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.
1Sa 17:36  Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
The true shepherd does not leave God's sheep to the lions, leopards, bears, or wolves. He fights for His flock and He slays the lion, the leopard, the bear and the wolf, and takes takes God's lambs "out of his mouth." David was a true shepherd, who had laid his life down for His father's sheep. It was that same spirit that led him to lay his life down for king Saul and to fight Goliath, the giant who defied God.

So David's service for His heavenly father, just like ours, also began in Babylon. Later David comes to see that God has a rejected anointed, who wants God's elect dead:

Psa 17:11  They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;
Psa 17:12  Like as a lion that is greedy [kasaph] of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.
Psa 17:13  Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:
All the beasts of the forest prey on God's backslidden flock:
Jer 5:6  Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased.

Eze 22:25  There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.
Eze 22:26  Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Eze 22:27  Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.
Zep 3:3  Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.
Our prophets, priests and princes,  like lions, bears and evening wolves, all destroy God's sheep.

Until the day that Christ delivers us from the lion, leopard, bear, and wolf

Joh 10:11  I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
Joh 10:12  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. [The 'wolf' comes in the hireling. The hireling is the wolf]

Mat 7:15  Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Mat 10:16  Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
We are all "dumb sheep," who "follow strangers and go astray" before we become "wise as serpents" to be are "sent among wolves."
Act 20:27  For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Act 20:28  Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 
Act 20:29  For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Act 20:30  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
"To draw away disciples" means that these false prophets are willing to leave off part of "the counsel of God" which may be a little too hard to maintain a good sized congregation.

Isa 30:10  Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
"It takes a congregation of at least 30 regular attendees to make it worth while." That is a quote from a minister friend of mine.
2Ti 4:14  Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:
2Ti 4:15  Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.
2Ti 4:16  At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: [I pray God] that it may not be laid to their charge.
2Ti 4:17  Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
But even when 'David delivers us out of the lions mouth, we are still "sheep sent forth among wolves."

The positive application of all of a sheep's enemies

Num 23:23  Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!
Num 23:24  Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.
Num 23:25  And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.
It is only through our destruction as foolish sheep that "our own sins... evil men [as] God's sword," judge us and crush us and humble us to be used of God.
Do you want to "be delivered out of the mouth of the lion?" The only way to do so is to go into the lion's den. We all die in the lion's den and in the fiery furnace. No, we are willing to die, we actually lay our lives down for God, and in so doing are delivered out of the fire and out of the mouth of the lion.

Conclusion -"My sheep know My Voice..."

It is a wonderful truth, God's true sheep know his voice:
Joh 10:1  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
Joh 10:2  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
Joh 10:3  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
Joh 10:4  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
Joh 10:5  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
Joh 10:6  This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Joh 10:7  Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

Joh 10:11  I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
Joh 10:12  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
Joh 10:13  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
Joh 10:14  I am the good shepherd, and know my [sheep], and am known of mine.
Joh 10:15  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Joh 10:16  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd.
But before we "know His voice," we "follow many strangers," and "go astray."

Psa 119:176  I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

Isa 53:6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jer 50:6  My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away [on] the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.

Eph 2:1  And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Eph 2:2  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Eph 2:3  Among whom also we all [Isa. 53:6]had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
The Old Testament made it clear who was that "lost sheep."
Mat 18:12  How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
If we can see that we are that lost sheep which has gone astray and been deceived by our own shepherds. then we just might be given ears to hear the voice of our true shepherd:

Joh 10:24  Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
Joh 10:25  Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.
Joh 10:26  But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
Joh 10:27  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
Joh 10:28  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Christ is the "good shepherd." But He is also the door to the sheepfold, and He tells us that "He that enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep."
Joh 10:2  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
So along with calling His elect "the light of the world," and "one bread." we are now also called "the shepherd of the sheep" if we enter the sheepfold through the door to the sheepfold. "As He is so are we in this world"
1Jn 4:17  Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
One more thing Christ is that we also are is a lamb and a sheep. As John the Baptist said of Christ,
Joh 1:36  And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
So should the world see Christ in us. We are the lambs of the Lamb. What our Savior calls saviors:
Joh 21:15  So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
Neh 9:27  Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest [them] from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.

Oba 1:21  And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD'S.
In Christ, you are that fire of the lake of fire.
Isa 33:14  The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
Isa 33:15  He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
In Christ, you are Christ's lambs who will also be "saviors on Mount Zion"

There can be no greater calling. Lay hold upon that calling:
1Ti 6:12  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

1Ti 6:19  Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Heb 6:18  That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
Heb 6:19  Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
Heb 6:20  Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
I will close by reminding you that in this world you are as Christ is and the world should be able to say of you:
Joh 1:36  And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!