Is it not significant that Abel, the second generation from creation, was a ‘keeper of sheep’? From the beginning these animals needed someone to care for them. If they had evolved before shepherds did, we would only know of them in the fossil record! In this and many other ways, sheep were designed, I am confident, to teach us about ourselves.
What Does ‘Being Cast’ Mean?
A ewe is old enough to reproduce by 10 months and usually gives birth to twins. The gestation is about 145 days but this could be a dangerous time for her, even with the shepherd around. Unlike other animals, a sheep that rolls on its back cannot right itself. It is called being ‘cast.’
This is especially a problem with a top-heavy ewe near birth. The baby inside her can put pressure on her rumen (first stomach compartment) and this can build up gases and cut off blood circulation to the legs. She and the baby could be dead in a few hours. When she is cast down, her only hope is to be set upright by the shepherd. This takes effort on his part for she could weigh as much as 300 pounds! David said, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” (Psalms 42:5; see also v. 6, 11)
Do Sheep Know Their Way Home?
Sheep have no sense of direction. They can pass over a hill, lose sight of the flock or shepherd, and wander aimlessly in the wrong direction trying to find their way home. This is the picture of the lost sheep in Luke 15. Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” (Isaiah 53:6) Peter says, “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25)
You Can’t Fool a Sheep!
Did you know that sheep have perfect pitch? You can’t fool a sheep by trying to imitate the call of its shepherd. Sheep do not need to be branded because, once they learn who their shepherd is and know his voice, they are bonded for life. Several flocks of sheep mingled together will not require massive sorting. One shepherd needs only stand to one side and call his sheep. Only his will come as he leads them away. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life.” (John 10:27-28) Do you know the Good Shepherd’s voice? (John 10:11)
It is no compliment to say we are like sheep. Sheep are not on the top ten list of smartest animals! But since we are, it is wonderful to know we can have such a loving and caring Shepherd! (Ps. 23:1)