The phrase “sheeples” has become the dirty word of 2020. Used when people have opposing views, it is a derogatory way of saying one group is vapid enough to believe things that the other group finds offensive, false, or ridiculous. In this mindset, if you are “so stupid” that you hold a particular opinion, you might be called a sheeple by someone who holds the opposite opinion.
The underlying thought behind this put-down is that sheep are supposedly simple-minded. Come on now! Y’all are giving sheep a bad name. Sheep may be dumb, but they would never be mean enough to engage in name-calling. I’m here to stand up for the sheep!
In all seriousness, there is beautiful language in scripture that uses images of sheep-like behavior in a very positive ways. If you look closely, these scriptures usually end up being more about the shepherd than the sheep. When people are compared to a flock that is ready to follow the care and concern of a Shepherd, it is a comforting image and a humbling lesson.
Most Bible readers are familiar with the Good Shepherd imagery that Jesus used in John 11:
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
But today’s lectionary takes us back to Ezekiel, well before Jesus arrived. This was written during the time of Israel’s exile in Babylon, when the people were scattered all over the place. Note the connections between the prophet’s writings and Jesus’ own words:
Ezekiel 34 (Common English Bible)
11 The Lord God proclaims: I myself will search for my flock and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out the flock when some in the flock have been scattered, so will I seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered during the time of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will gather and lead them out from the countries and peoples, and I will bring them to their own fertile land. I will feed them on Israel’s highlands, along the riverbeds, and in all the inhabited places.
Call me a sheeple, but this is exactly where I want to be. I want to be in the care of a gentle leader. I want to be sought out when I stray. I want to be rescued and led into the fertile land.
I want to be fed.
14 I will feed them in good pasture, and their sheepfold will be there, on Israel’s lofty highlands. On Israel’s highlands, they will lie down in a secure fold and feed on green pastures. 15 I myself will feed my flock and make them lie down. This is what the Lord God says.
16 I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak. But the fat and the strong I will destroy, because I will tend my sheep with justice.
Your Shepherd is calling you, too. He himself is ready to feed you and provide you with rest.
Is the Lord seeking you? Are you lost? Wounded? Weak?
All you have to do is follow. God tends his sheep with love, mercy, kindness, and justice.
I don’t know about you, but I just wanna be a sheep.
So we as sheep need a shepherd. What’s so demeaning about that? If a spiritual man like David could acknowledge “The Lord is my shepherd,” I’m honored to be in his company.
Me as well. Thank God we have a Good Shepherd to follow! No place I’d rather be than in his flock.