Throughout Jesus’ ministry He taught us a great deal about the kingdom of heaven. Yet, are we really listening or are we simply hearing what He said. Take for instance the parable of the sheep and the goats. On the surface, we know that on the day of final judgement Jesus, the King, will separate mankind into two groups - the sheep and the goats. Naturally, we all want to consider ourselves as sheep as none of us want to think the unthinkable that we could possibly be a goat. However, the Lord said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus is telling us, if we will listen, only a few will be counted as sheep and many will be counted as goats. Thus, I decided to do a little research on the attributes and differences between the sheep and the goat to see how it might apply to mankind from God’s perspective.
Sheep are meek animals that are usually very quiet and gentle, holding themselves separate from the world. In a herd, all the sheep tend to listen to their leaders and show esteem to them. Because of their obedient character, sheep are among the most popular animals and beloved by mankind. On the other hand, the goat represents strong-mindedness, singleness of purpose, and a desire to take the lead rather than follow. For the most part, goats appear to be more intelligent, independent and smarter than sheep. Shepherds protect sheep from their environment, whereas goatherds protect the environment from their goats. Therefore, for us to be God’s sheep, we must depend on Him to defend us. If we push, take, destroy and bully, we are demonstrating that we are nothing more than goats. Sheep follow the voice of their shepherd and trust him to lead them to food, water and safety. If they wander, which some do, the shepherd will go out and rescue them and bring them back to the safety of the flock. Sheep separated from their shepherd and flock are nervous and vulnerable because they have no defensive or offensive survival abilities.
A goat, however, does not follow anyone. A herd of goats goes wherever it wishes, and the goatherd follows behind. Instead of grazing, goats probe their environment seeking for whatever pleases them. Thus, if we are allowing ourselves to be led, being sensitive to the pull of God’s Spirit, and following the path of our Shepherd, we are acting as sheep. If we are headstrong, going our own way, and pulling back against God’s Spirit, we are acting as goats. Therefore, the thing that God sees in His sheep is a gentle and yielded spirit. They trust their Shepherd. They follow His voice. On the other hand, the goats have a spirit of defiance, self-will, or independence from God’s involvement in their lives. This can be witnessed in the lives of many throughout the world. The desire to be first, take what we want, to be intellectually superior, go where we want, do what we want (or feel is right), etc. is the way of the world! The true Christian however realizes that as children of God we need a shepherd to watch over and rescue us from the plights of this world. The goat is the one that boldly makes proclamations about their lives such as how they do not need to worry about anything because they have it all figured out. This may seem true for a time, but once faced with circumstances too great to overcome the true goat will emerge. These are the times that the goat will blame God for all their problems. However, faced with those same circumstances the sheep will humbly seek the refuge of the Shepherd fully understanding that they are helpless without Him.
Listen to the parable of the sheep and goats: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. 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 foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ And they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then the King will answer, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46).
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