Sheep Worrying is a term not used much in Canada, but in places like the UK or New Zealand where there are a lot of sheep it is a well known term. It is when dogs are not leashed while hiking through sheep country and they end up chasing sheep causing the sheep to panic. Sheep are defenseless. Without sharp claws, sharp teeth or a resounding roar they are easy prey. Sheep can’t jump, swim, climb trees or run fast. When they sense danger sheep tend to panic. A sheep’s best defense is to stay close with the shepherd and remain with the flock. But they tend to wander, and that is when sheep worrying takes place. Sheep worrying can cause death to sheep, it can cause pregnant ewes to miscarry and lambs to die from starvation if they get separated from their mothers.
A year ago a series of photos went viral and was shared over 6500 times on Facebook after a loose dog had 2 sheep pinned to the edge of a cliff in Seven Sisters Country Park in Seaford, East Sussex. It was only after a lot of screaming from the owner to distract the dog that the 2nd sheep survived. The photos were originally shared to bring awareness of the problem of sheep worrying.
Of any animal written about in the Bible, sheep are talked about the most (no less than 220 times). Jesus has compassion on the people and saw how vulnerable they were (and we are today) when he mentioned “They were like sheep without a shepherd”.
There are so many references in the Bible that we are regarded as sheep. Why not something powerful like a horse, or majestic like an eagle? Sheep are directionless. They get lost easy and for many reasons, just like people. Isaiah 53:6 reads “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way”.
And the most tragic sense of lostness is when people have no clue they are lost.
And in our main passage of Luke 15, just like a sheep is very valuable to a shepherd, we as human being are very valuable to God.
So much so, that when there was a flock of 100 sheep and one was lost, the shepherd did not cut his losses and get on with caring for the other 99. He left it on the line, left the 99, and persistently searched for that one which was lost.
A sheep’s best defense is to stay close with the shepherd and remain with the flock. And what a comfort and encouragement to read in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand”. “Come, let us worship and bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our maker; for He is our god and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under his care”. Psalm 95:6-7