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Previous: 11. Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral Up: The Language of Parable Next: 13. Oxen

12. Sheep and Goats

Let the children tell all they can about sheep. If any have had lambs as pets let them describe not only their physical characteristics, but especially their disposition. All know that sheep and lambs are useful; they give us food, and wool for clothing. They are harmless and very gentle, never quarrelling among themselves. They are fond of one another, feeding together in a flock, their noses almost touching as they nibble the grass, and lying close together in the shade. Besides being fond of one another, sheep become strongly attached to their shepherd, or to one who takes care of them. In the East, shepherds live with their flocks in the fields, leading them about from pasture to pasture, as the season grows dry finding for them the streams and springs where there still is water and greenness, and at night protecting them from harm. The shepherd goes before, and the sheep follow, knowing his voice and often answering to their names. (john x. 4.)

We have said that a man is sometimes called a "lion," or a "fox," or a "bear"; have we ever seen a person who seemed like a lamb? (H. H. 110.) All will agree that we find lambs most often among little children, when they are good and gentle. They are innocent and love one another; they love their parents and depend on them for everything, as lambs upon their shepherd.

And may we ever see similar innocence and trustfulness in older people? Who is their shepherd? We know that the truest innocence is given when we are born again and become as little children of our Heavenly Father. The innocent affection of little children and of those who become spiritually little children is pictured to us in the innocent lambs. (A. E. 314; A. C. 10132, 2179, 294.) It is easy to see that there is a difference between lambs and sheep, similar to that between very little babies and older children (Chapter x.); the innocence of the lambs and of babies having in it more of utter dependence, and the innocence of sheep and of older children having more of affection for one another. (A. E. 314.)

How many times in the Bible, sheep and their shepherds are spoken of, so plainly meaning men and their relation to the Lord! "Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey. . . . And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord god." (Ezek. xxxiv. 22, 31; A. E. 280; A. C. 4287.) "The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." (Ps. xxiii. 1, 2; A. E. 375; A. C. 3696.) Read the first sixteen verses of the tenth chapter of John: "He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out." "This parable spake Jesus unto them," it is said, "but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them." (john x. 6.) Can we, by the help of the Lord's own explanation "I am the good shepherd" in a small degree understand the parable, and learn from it a Chapter of the Lord's care for innocent hearts, and of their duty to love and trust Him? (D. P. 230; A. C. 9310; A. E. 864.) "We are his people and the sheep of his pasture." (Ps. c. 3.) All the innocent affections we have, depend on the Lord to be sustained and instructed. (A. C. 6078, 5201.) "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." (Isa. xl. 11.) The Lord's tender love for innocent human affections is described, and His power defending them. (A. C. 10132, 10087; see Chapter viii.)

In all these passages the Lord's church is called a flock. In other places it is called a vineyard. (isa. v. 7.) In general, what is the difference? What aspect of the church is made prominent in one case, and what in the other?

The following passages picture the helplessness and panic of a trustful heart, when it is without the sense of Divine support. "I am gone astray like a lost sheep." (Ps. cxix. 176.) "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." (isa. liii. 6.) The Lord saw the multitudes "scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." (matt. ix. 36; A. E. 1154.)

There are so many familiar passages in the Bible where sheep and lambs are mentioned, that the class will enjoy recalling them and seeing that they tell us of the spiritual flock of innocent, gentle affections, of love for the Lord and for one another. For example: "Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even." (Exod. xxix. 38, 39.) It means that in the beginning and end of each day, and of each state and each new undertaking, we should come to the Lord with innocent trustfulness. (A. C. 3994, 10132; A. E. 314.) In thinking of the use of lambs in the Jewish worship, remember especially the lamb of the passover. "They shall take to them every man a lamb ... a lamb for an house [or for two little households] . . . your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep or from the goats.

. . . And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. ... And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you." (Exod. xii. 3-13.) The passover lamb which was eaten on the eve of deliverance from Egypt, and each year in memory of that event, is a type of innocent affection received from the Lord, as we turn away from bondage to evil, and of the continual reception of innocence which makes the deliverance permanent. What can be meant by the blood of the lamb upon the door, which kept away the plague? The blood of the lamb is the current of innocent thought which flows from innocent affection. When such thoughts stand guard at the door of the mind, evil is powerless to enter. (A. E. 329; A. C. 3519, 10132.)

"And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? ... I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." (luke xv. 3-7.) The Lord intrusted to our keeping the sheep of gentle, innocent affections when we were little children; but have none of them been lost? The parable tells of our duty to search out and restore these innocent affections in our lives, and that the Lord and the angels rejoice in such repentance. (A. C. 9836, 5992.)

A beautiful prophecy of the Lord's coming says, "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." (isa. xi. 6.) The gentle animals mean the gentle, innocent affections which the Lord's coming brought to men. And what are the fierce animals? But the Lord defends from them, and innocence is safe from all harm. (A. E. 314; A. C. 3519, 3994, 10132.) When the Lord sent out His apostles, He said, " Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves." (luke x. 3; A. E. 314; A. C. 10132.)

At the Lord's coming, " there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night." (luke ii. 8.) There were a few people in that time of darkness who still cared for innocence. These are the ones to whom angels can draw near, and lead them to see the Divine innocence of the Lord.

After the Lord's resurrection, as He stood with some of the disciples by the sea of Galilee, three times He gave to Peter a solemn charge: "Feed my lambs"; "Feed my sheep"; "Feed my sheep." (John xxi. 15-17.) Plainly it shows the duty of disciples of the Lord to keep alive and strengthen innocence in human hearts. (A. C. 10087, 4169.)

Why is the Lord Himself many times called the Lamb? At other times He is called the Lion, to tell us of His Divine courage. What Divine quality is especially suggested when He is called the Lamb? The Divine innocence of His human life, the gentleness, the patience. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." (john i. 29.) It means that the Lord is innocence itself and that all innocence comes from Him. (A. E. 314; A. C. 10132; T. C. R. 144; H. H. 282.) "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." (isa. liii. 7.) The Lord's innocence, and the patience and silence with which He bore temptations, are set before us in this picture. (A. C. 10132, 9937.) "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." (rev. v. 13.) He that sitteth upon the throne is the Lord; and by the Lamb is meant His Divine human nature, with special reference to its Divine innocence. (A. E. 314, 343.)

Give a thought to the wool which is the sheep's clothing, and which is so useful in making warm clothing for us. What does the Lord mean by the warning, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves"? (matt. vii. 15.) He describes selfish, cruel, deceitful persons, or such motives in ourselves, hiding behind the kindly words and ways which belong to an innocent heart. (A. E. 195; L. J. 59.) Pure, gentle, affectionate words and manners are the proper clothing of innocent, lamblike affections; they are the wool of the spiritual sheep. And they make good clothing for us all.

The whiteness of the wool is an important characteristic, and suggests the purity of the acts and words which spring from an innocent heart. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (ISA. i. 18.) It means that through repentance, by the Lord's help, evil ways may be overcome and the life be made pure and innocent. (A. E. 1042; A. C.4922.) When the Lord was seen by John in the Revelation, "his head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow." (Rev. i. 14.) Plainly the hairs are emblems of the external things of life its little acts and words. Here they are emblems of the acts of the Lord's perfect life, and of His words in their simple, literal meaning. They are compared to wool to suggest their perfect innocence and goodness, and to snow to suggest their rightness. (A. E. 67; A. R. 47; A. C. 9470.)

We see that the whiteness of wool suggests the purity of thoughts and ways which spring from innocence. Why is it that some sheep are black? Common speech has used "black sheep" as types of evil persons among the good. But the Bible gives them a better meaning. They are types not of what is really evil, but of the sense that nothing good is one's own, but that all is from the Lord, which is characteristic of the deepest and truest innocence. Remember how Jacob when tending flocks for Laban, chose for his own "every black one among the sheep." (Gen. xxx. 32, Revised Version; A. C. 3994.)

Goats in many ways are like sheep. They feed in flocks; the little kids are innocent and gentle, indeed they were accepted as offerings like the lambs. "Your lamb shall be without blemish. ... Ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats." (Exod. xii. 5.) But those who have kept goats know that they are more active than sheep, rougher in their ways, and content with coarser food. They are very inquisitive, nibbling whatever comes within their reach. The goat's coat is less soft than the sheep's, the short wool being hidden by long hairs.

Sheep and goats are so much alike that we may presume that they both correspond to innocence, but with a difference. We read of little children in heaven: "Those who are of a celestial genius are well distinguished from those who are of a spiritual genius. The former think, speak, and act very softly, so that scarcely anything appears but what flows from the good of love to the Lord and toward other little children; but the latter not so softly, but in everything with them there appears a sort of vibration, as of wings. The difference is also evident from their indignation, and from other things." (H. H. 339.) Is not the difference here described, like that between the sheep and goats? The sheep represent the innocence of those who are of a celestial character, that is, who have the most tender affections who love most deeply the goodness of the Lord. The goats represent the innocence of those who are of a spiritual character, and who love the Lord and their teachers for their wisdom more than for their goodness. (A. C. 4169; A. E. 314.) The Lord loves innocent dependence upon His truth for guidance, as well as dependence upon His goodness. He accepts both lambs and kids in worship. He protects both in His kingdom. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid." (isa. xi. 6; A. E. 314.)

But turn to the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, and read from the twenty-first verse to the end. "The Son of man shall come in his glory . . . and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divid-eth his sheep from the goats. . . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." (matt. xxv. 31-46.) Reading carefully we see that the sheep are those who do good works and love to do them, while the goats are those who learn what is right but do not do it and have no love for it. Charity is contrasted with "faith alone." The one prepares for heaven, the other does not. (A. C. 4169, 4809; A. E. 212; see Chapter viii.)


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12. Sheep & Goats

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