Animal Metaphors for the Christian Life
Stories and examples of lambs, sheep, and shepherding are woven through the Bible from start to finish. Already in the occupation and the worship of Abel in Genesis 4, there is a bookend in Scripture that focuses our attention on the righteous sacrifice of a lamb and the murder of a shepherd. It is a sad introduction to the realities of sin, but it also hints at the difficulties to come for sheep and shepherds. The patriarchs’ identity as shepherds made them an abomination to the Egyptians (Gen. 46:24). The greatest national leaders of the Old Testament, Moses and David, both spent hard time as actual shepherds before they served as prophet and king of Israel. They saw their people, and even themselves, as like sheep in need of a shepherd (Num. 27:17; Ps. 23). From the time of the exodus onward, the Passover feast focused believers even more clearly on the need for the lamb to take their place in the face of judgment. Throughout their history, the Israelites survived by keeping sheep, eating sheep, and sacrificing sheep, and through this they were taught to think of themselves as like sheep.