Categories: Journey, Life Lessons, reflections, Sheep
As a person who is raising sheep, you often run into the similarities between Goats and Sheep. Those who raise these two breeds can easily converse regarding the nature and activities of these animals. It is not unusual for someone to use the word “goats” when referring to my sheep. These animals can so easily confuse someone because of their similarities. However, there are also so very big differences between the two.
The most common discussion one will find themselves in when discussing these two breeds is the knack for “getting out.” As a shepherd, I would have to admit I have rarely run into the case of any sheep leaving their pasture I have them in. And in the cases I know of, it was a set of sheep that were crossed with goats at some point to create a mixed breed. (needless to say, I no longer have any of those breed on our farm.) The other cases were a rare situation when a mother is gone off to lamb or it has been chased out by an over protective guard dog who can sense if a sheep is sick or getting very old. Every now and again I will catch a sheep sticking its head through a fence to try and gather grass from the other side, but only if it is penned up and the only grass available is on the other side of the fence. In other words, if the sheep feels it is starving, it will strive to reach grass not currently in its pen. Besides that, I really cannot remember my sheep leaving the field I put them in. They will even stay if it appears it is time to move on. They only go when and where I tell them to.
Now goats on the other hand are much different when it comes to this. Anyone who has raised goats will tell you of the troubles they have encountered keeping the goats in. Goats LOVE to find a hole in a fence or simply a way to get to the “other side.” If no way is there, many a goat will put there head through and fence to get to the nibble presenting itself on the other side only to get their head caught and need to be rescued. To a goat, the grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side.
So what does this have to do with us?
Well, Father has been speaking to me about this lately. Here is a passage that will set the tone. Matthew 25:31-46
31“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’37“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’41“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.43I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’44“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’45“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’46“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
So, although sheep and goats may look alike and even share the same pasture, there is a separation made between them. And how can one tell the difference between the two? One way is by seeing if the sheep is content in the pasture provided, or are they striving for the “greener grass” on the other side. Those who strive for the other side are either starving sheep or just plain old goats. Let me explain further….
You see, His sheep know Him and trust him. They know that their Shepherd will give them the pasture they need and they simply choose to remain there until he says move. They can relax in his presence and trust that He will only do what is best for them and provide them the green pastures and still water their souls require. Every so often He is required to put a sheep up in a enclosed area and that sheep only has limited food available to it. It can see grass just on the other side of the pen, yet all it has to eat is exactly the portions the Shepherd gives it. It can strive and wrestle and may even find a few blades of grass just on the other side of the fence, but, that is all they can reach and eventually, when all that is gone, they are left to solely rely on the provision of the Shepherd. I will have to admit, this pen the sheep finds itself in is not comfortable, especially if in the view are the other sheep and goats out grazing the pastures, however, the Shepherd has a plan, a reason, and the sheep MUST come to trust its Master or it will literally run itself in circles in the pen and can create numerous health problems, or even death, in the process. (usually it is penned up because it needs special attention and care and maybe some even stouter food sources because of parasite troubles or it just has not been taking very good care of itself. So the Shepherd will gather it in for some alone time and special care, but a sheep so desperately wants to be with the other sheep, therefore it struggles to accept its place alone with the Shepherd.)
Now a goat, that goat is might near impossible to keep in. The goat is ALWAYS looking and striving to find a way to get to the other side on its own. The shepherd may have plans to move that goat in the coming days to the other side of the fence, but that goat is not willing to wait. It is going to find a way to cross over on its own. It sees what the other side has to offer and the goat does not trust in the Shepherd to provide, and therefore goes out and tries to make its own provisions. The goat will even resort to getting its head stuck in a fence and possibly die if not rescued just to taste what is sees beyond the fence even though it has the same meal available to it now. No, that goat is not going to wait because that goat does not Trust the Shepherd to provide. Goats want to make their own way! They kind of have the “My way or the Highway” mentality and through that they think they have peace and can survive.
What a goat does not understand is that the Shepherd is carefully planning and timing the move from one field to the next. The Shepherd knows what is best and simply ask for his flocks to trust Him.
Here is another kicker though. If a sheep is not careful, it will soon find itself immersed in the ways of the goat. Goats and Sheep are so similar, a sheep can easily be drawn away by the ways of the goat and suddenly, that sheep is out looking for its own greener pastures alongside the goat and wondering why the Shepherd would try and hold it back from such wonderful foliage. That sheep when finally caught and brought back in the fold now has an extremely difficult time accepting the fields its Master has provided and always seems to dream of what is just on the “other side.”
What neither sheep nor goat realize is that the Shepherd knows of the dangers on the other side. Predators, poisons, and parasites. The while its flocks are enjoying what He has currently provided, the Shepherd often goes ahead of the flocks to check what is lying in wait. He is carefully examining to be certain there is nothing that will cause pain or even death to his precious flocks, both sheep and goats. He is constantly watching over not only the pasture they are in to protect from those who seek to enter, destroy, and devour, but also the pastures that lie ahead to be certain they are suitable for his flocks.
So why not just separate the sheep and goats and let the goats roam wild? Why not take away the temptation from the sheep of following a goat and being led astray?
I am not certain of His reasons, but I can tell you from my perspective. Two things. There are some things in a field that a sheep will not, and does not need to eat that a goat will devour and remove from the field for future use making it more suitable for the sheep and the lambs to follow. Also, a Shepherd longs to be trusted and for that trust to be nurtured. There is nothing more exciting to me as a shepherd than walking out through his shepp and them sitting there peaceably awaiting his words and leadership, or just sitting there hanging out.
As a sheep, it can be very difficult, because it appears the goats are getting the best of everything offered, However, it is the Shepherd who knows what is best and it is He who will one day separate the Sheep from the Goats, and well, you can read how that turns out.
From a sheep who has been eyeing the goats too much and struggling in its pen alone with his Shepherd….