Partly, I’m sure, its something to do with the suburban life that I live. My encounters with sheep are limited, brief, and mostly from a distance. Apart from the very occasional visit to the Easter show, sheep for me are basically white blobs which dot the hillside – and my encounters with shepherds are rare still. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a conversation with a shepherd, not sure I’ve even met one.
Of course it made sense for David, and Jesus, to talk about shepherds and sheep. That was the world they knew, the world they experienced. It’s not mine. Not, I’m guessing, yours. Not likely to be Nathan’s, when he grows up.
But that’s not my main problem with the sheep stories. We know that the Bible presents us with problems of context, of making sense, in our modern age, of stories told in an ancient world. It’s part of the struggle of reading scripture – and it is testament to the incredible power of the Biblical narrative that despite all the changes in the world since the words were first written, they still ring true for us today.
No, my problem with the stories of God as shepherd and us as sheep is basically this: sheep are stupid. I mean, maybe I’m wrong, as I said, I don’t know a lot of sheep, but as far as I can see, the main thing you can say about sheep is that they are not the brightest animals in the field. Continue reading