Sheep Have Problems
I love sheep and grew up with them in New Zealand. My father was a world champion sheep shearer and designed the way shearing is performed across the world. I love sheep because out of all the animals in the world God calls us His sheep and His lambs.
Years ago, I read an article about a New Zealand sheep farmer who diversified to also raising goats. He noticed that the goats leave their little kids for hours while they go off to forage for food, whereas the ewes never go any further than earshot from their little lambs. I thought of all the mothers who leave their little ones to go off for hours to their jobs and careers. This is goat mothering. I would rather be a sheep mother and belong to God's company, wouldn't you?
God always calls those who belong to him His sheep and lambs, but refers to those who don't belong to Him as the goats. I am challenged with the words of Jesus, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on the right hand, but the goats on the left ... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment" (Matthew 25:31-33, 46).
I no longer call children "kids." Words have power. The character of the goat is independent and proud. They love to stand on the highest point, whereas the sheep are a humble and submissive animal. When the shearer grabs the sheep, drags it over the shearing board, and then begins to shear off all its wool with a very sharp comb and cutter, it doesn't fight, struggle, or even cry out. It sits between the shearer's knees and submits to the shearer. Jesus Himself is likened to a sheep as He submitted Himself to the cross to die for our sins (Isaiah 53:7).
However, although sheep are such lovely animals, they do have problems!
1. Sheep Go Astray Easily
If a sheep gets lost, it has no way of finding its way back home. It is completely bewildered. A dog, cat, or most other animals have a homing instinct. Often they can be lost for days but eventually turn up again. Not the sheep! It's lost until the shepherd finds it. That's why they need a shepherd.
Our children (our sheep and lambs) also cannot survive on their own. They need a shepherd mother to watch over them. God created mothers to care for children just as He ordained shepherds to watch over sheep. It is interesting that the two greatest leaders God raised up, Moses and King David, were shepherds (Exodus 3:1; 1 Chronicles 17:7 and Psalm 78:70-72).
Motherhood is the greatest vocation God has given to women. Rather, it is who we are. It is who God divinely created us to be, innately and physically. God proclaimed the status of motherhood before there was ever a mother in the world. It was already in His heart and plan (Genesis 2:24 and 3:20).
Dear mother, do not be lured away by the humanistic voices all around you, in the church and in the world. Listen to God's voice. Listen to your heart. You are needed for your children. No one else will ever love and care for your children like you do. No one else will ever be sensitive to their physical needs and especially their innermost needs as you will. Someone else can always replace you in your career, but no one can adequately replace you as the mother of the children God has given you. You were born for this mission. It is your destiny. You are in the perfect will of God.
Zechariah 11:17 tells us that the shepherd who leaves his flock is a worthless shepherd.
2. Sheep Cannot Protect Themselves
Sheep are defenseless. That's why New Zealand is such a big sheep farming country. There are no predators in the whole of the country--no coyotes, cougars, mountain lions, or bears. Not even a snake! The Middle Eastern shepherd watches over his flock all through the day and guards his sheep fold at night.
Mother, you also are the guardian of your little flock. In fact, you have a greater task than the shepherd of the sheep. He guards their lives, but you must guard your children's spirit, soul, and body. It's a 24/7 job! You can't watch over them too much. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us we must "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." He wants to devour your children. He wants to get hold of their minds and infiltrate them with subtle deceptions against God and His truth. He wants to mar their spirits and take away their purity. He wants to destroy their souls.
This is why Satan hates mothers being in the home. They stand in his way. He wants them out of the way so he can do his work. He wants their children in day cares and the public education system that is becoming more and more foreign to everything that is biblical. King David cried out that if we want our sons to be like plants grown up in their youth (mature and steadfast) and our daughters to be strong and beautiful like the pillars in a palace we have to get rid of all that is foreign to God and His Word (Psalm 144:11-13).
Paul's prayer for the Thessalonian believers is a great vision for your children. Pray and make it your passion that their "whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Mother, you have to be both tender and courageous. We lovingly nurture our children, but if an enemy comes to attack them, we will fight tooth and nail to save them. This was the heart of David as he shepherded his flock. If a lion or bear tried to steal one of his lambs, he'd bravely go after it with a club and rescue it from its very jaws, and yet he was tender towards the flock he loved (1 Samuel 17:34-37). We need this same kind of spirit.
3. Sheep Cannot Find Proper Food
Sheep spend most of their day eating, but they'll eat anything they see, even poisonous weeds. This is why they need a shepherd to lead them to safe, green pastures. The Middle Eastern shepherd not only "feeds his flock," but "waters his flock." Sheep can't find water for themselves, either. If a well dries up, the sheep will stand and stare at the dry mud until they die! They must have a shepherd to lead them to quiet springs of water.
It is the same with mothers. Our children will eat all the junk food they can get if we don't provide nutritious and wholesome food for them. They'll also eat poisonous weeds of lies and deception if we are not constantly on guard.
One of the biggest tasks of a shepherd is to provide good, green, and healthy pasture for his flock. This is also one of our biggest mothering tasks. Each new day we have to plan, prepare, and provide wholesome food for children's bodies. It is a negligent mother who does not care what her children eat. It is an ignorant mother who thinks that endlessly cooking and preparing nutritious meals is wasting her time. It is a powerful part of her mothering.
It is just as important to plan and prepare food for their souls and minds. It is a careless mother who lets them have unlimited electronic access and does not lead them to food that nourishes and stimulates their minds.
However, most important of all, she must plan, prepare, and provide fresh food each day for their spirits. We are responsible to feed our children three nourishing meals each day, but what about their spirits? Are we faithful to nourish them as well? Or, are our children growing tall in body, but with tiny starving spirits? Making Family Devotions happen each day in your home will provide opportunity to nourish their spirits. Did you notice I said, "Making it happen"? Yes, it doesn't just happen. You as the mother of the home have to make it happen. You prepare the way for your husband to read God's Word to your children.
Ezekiel 34:2 says, "Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?"
4. Sheep Cannot Keep Themselves Clean
Cats, dogs, and most other animals keep themselves clean. Not the poor sheep. They haven't got a clue. Sheep have to be docked (their tails taken off to help them keep clean), dipped to prevent insects and ticks which negatively affect their health, and crutched (shearing the wool from around their tails to save them from becoming flyblown).
Would your children bother to clean their teeth if you weren't around? We not only have the responsibility to keep their bodies clean, but their minds and spirits, too. Once again, we need to daily wash them in God's Word. Ephesians 5:26 tells us that "He cleanses us with the washing of water by the word."
5. Sheep Do Not Function Independently
Sheep have a flocking instinct. A sheep on its own is sad and cranky. If a sheep gets separated from the rest of the flock, it becomes distressed. It will run up and down the fence bleating or agitatedly walk around and around in circles (and if a ewe is separated from her lamb, she becomes VERY distressed, and vice versa). When the shepherd finds the sheep and brings it back to the flock, it becomes happy, secure, and contented again.
We also are not born for independence. God planned for children to be raised in families. Just as a flock loves to be together, so He wants us to live our lives together in peace and harmony.
Ask a child what they would like? They may want a toy they have seen advertised on TV, but what they really want is another baby brother or sister--a friend for life. Another sibling to add more joy and strength to the flock. Have you ever seen a 1.8 flock of sheep? Or even two or three? We need a few more to make a flock, don't we?
Psalm 103:41-43 says, "Yet he sets the poor on high, far from affliction, and makes their families like a flock. The righteous see it and rejoice, and all iniquity stops its mouth. Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord." When the righteous see God blessing and increasing a family, they rejoice. They are wise enough to know it is the lovingkindness of the Lord.
The Bible says that God...
Feeds His people like a flock (Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 23:4 and Ezekiel 34:15).
Gathers His people like a flock (Jeremiah 23:3 and 31:10).
Guards His people like a flock (Jeremiah 31:10).
Guides His people like a flock (Psalm 78:52).
Holds us responsible for our flock (Proverbs 27:23 and Ezekiel 34:10).
Increases His people like a flock (Ezekiel 36:37).
Leads His people like a flock (Psalm 77:20 and 80:1).
Makes families like a flock (Psalm 107:41-43; Ezekiel 34:31 and 36:38).
Makes His flocks to lie down in safety (Isaiah 17:2 and Jeremiah 33:12).
Saves His people like a flock (Ezekiel 34:22; and Zechariah 9:16).
Seeks out His people like a flock (Jeremiah 34:12).
May we be faithful shepherd mothers to the little flocks God has given to us.