I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. ~Psalm 119:176
Sheep dogs have a purpose in this life and they take it very seriously. We were fascinated to watch these incredible animals at work with their handlers (shepherds), at the National Sheep Dog Trials.
For the sheep dogs, what we witnessed was the easy stuff. Take four sheep, bring them down (about ½ mile) to the handler, turn them around and get through gate one (about 100 yards). Then, take them through gate two, back to the handler and into a pen, all orchestrated by the whistle of the handlers.
The dogs moved left, right, wide circle around, stopped dead in their tracks, or went back and forth behind the sheep based on the whistled instructions of their handler. It was very impressive to watch.
The fourth trial we watched took an interesting turn. The four sheep obediently followed the dog to the trainer and then to the first gate. But, one renegade sheep decided he was interested in wandering as he would choose, and not go where the dog was directing him. When he had been rerouted a couple of times he literally turned on the dog and swatted a front hoof at him.
The handler was watching closely, whistling for the dog to sit back and he did. The sheep was not as cooperative and continued to goad the dog for a few more seconds. The dog fought back one more time. His trainer whistled again and before I knew it he was at his handler’s side, leaving the field.
Talking to some experienced spectators taught us that what I had always believed about sheep was wrong. They do not all mindlessly follow the Shepherd. And, this was just a messenger of the Shepherd, so that dog had even less chance of getting that sheep to obey him, once he had decided he did not want to be a part of the little flock.
Apparently, if the fight had continued and the dog had nipped the sheep, he would have been disqualified from the trials for the rest of the weekend.
How like this are we? We know that the Shepherd (Psalm 23:1) can see the big picture. We know that He has our best interest in mind when He instructs us. Yet, we fight back. We want to go our own way, wander from the fold, and create our own adventures.
In the end, I don’t think that the sheep got what he was hoping for: freedom from the direction of someone with the ability to protect and care for him. A man on a horse came and took all four back into a closed pen. No freedom there (Galatians 5:1). No place to wander.
The other similarity is that his sheep struck at the messenger. The Shepherd/handler was the one calling the shots. The sheep took a shot at the dog without considering that he was obeying the commands of his Shepherd.
Christ is our Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20). The sheep dog was obeying the commands of his shepherd.