Thursday, January 12, 2023

Why I Observe Sheep

After my Bible time and gym workout this morning, I spent some time in the pasture with the sheep. I enjoy the fellowship, plus I was observing them. 

Part of our flock. 

What can I learn from them and their patterns of behavior? 

I hope that doesn't strike you as odd. Sir Francis Bacon, the 17th century philosopher, once said that God has not written one book but two. He said that the first is the book of his work, which we call nature. And the second is the book of his word, which we call Scripture. Thus God has given us in nature and Scripture a double revelation of himself -- a revelation of his glory ("the heavens declare the glory of God") and a revelation of his grace ("by grace are you saved"). You won't find the way of salvation in nature. As I said, nature is a revelation of God's glory. Scripture is a revelation of his grace. And God intends for us to study both of his revelations, so that nature study and Bible study go hand in hand. God has hidden his thoughts, as it were, in both nature and Scripture, and as we read and study both we are able to "think God's thoughts after him" (Johannes Kempler). Did not Jesus say, "Consider the birds of the air"? As for sheep, Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd and taught us in John 10 just how a New Testament shepherd/pastor can and should function. 

Luther, in preaching on the Sermon on the Mount, said "Let the little birds be your theologians." He was right. I once wrote an essay called My Horses, My Teachers. The fact is, we have as many teachers and preachers as we have birds and horses and sheep and cattle and dogs and cats. I've been trying to learn some lessons from our sheep, not least that we can trust God for the supply of all our needs. That in itself is a wonderful lesson. Jesus said that even sparrows have intrinsic worth. And if sparrows do, how much more do human beings? If the great God of heaven concerns himself with ragtag sparrows -- the scruffiest of all birds -- he most certainly will care for us. This is what scholars call an a fortiori argument -- a "how much more" argument. If God cares for the less, he also cares for the greater. If he cares for insignificant sparrows, how much more will he care for us? God created sparrows. That's why they have worth. And God created human beings in his own image and likeness. That's why we have much more worth than sparrows. 

I needn't go on. I think you get the point. Let me close with another passage from the Gospels. In Matt. 12:11-12, Jesus says, "What if one of you has a sheep and it falls into a deep hole on the Sabbath? Will he not take hold of it and lift it out? A man is worth much more than a sheep! So then, our Law does allow us to help someone on the Sabbath." Yes, God draws lessons from sheep. He also cares for them. So do I. And everytime I see them, I am grateful to their Creator.