Warrior Sheep?

Lessons From the Flock – #4

In modern Christian teaching, it is often taught that we need to see ourselves as warriors and conquerors for the faith. It’s supposedly us who are the aggressors and who take the attack to Satan’s forces. We need to let him know who’s really boss! But, is this actually correct? At the very least, let me give you another possible way of looking at this.

Remember that YHWH compares us to sheep in the Scriptures. For example, Psalm 95:7 tells us that “we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand“. I believe that we can learn a lot about ourselves by understanding different attributes of sheep. So let’s now consider the weapons of attack and defence that sheep have.

Sheep clearly don’t have claws or sharp, pointy teeth. They don’t have venom or stings and they have no form of armour for protection. Clearly, they have not been designed as a predator, and so we see right from the beginning of history that sheep have been an ideal animal for domestic purposes. 

If a sheep ever does attack, the only method it uses is a direct, front-on headbutt. There are no cleverly devised plans or tactical traps. Rather, the attack is deliberate and obvious. But, in my experience, it is uncommon for a sheep to attack. The first reaction to any stress would be to flee, and a sheep is able to run for quite a distance at considerable speed. This is why, on a farm like ours, we use dogs to chase our sheep to the places we want them. It is using their natural inclination to flee, rather than fight.

As we consider our so-called fight against Satan, what we’ve just discussed should help us recall times of people righteously fleeing. A classic example is the story of Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife in the face of temptation to sin, and we all know that Eve’s failure to do the same in Eden has produced devastating effects on the entire creation. Paul states in his letters to flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18), flee from idolatry (1 Cor 10:14), flee youthful lusts (2 Tim 2:22) and calls for the “man of God” to flee from the temptations and lusts that come from money (1 Tim 6:11). The simple fact is – the things we are told to flee from, make up the vast majority of the spiritual warfare in our day to day lives. 

One of our problems is that we are so often not the sheep we are called to be! An actual sheep may be quick to flee a dangerous situation, but we humans are regularly not willing to do the same. We are either enticed into a situation without recognising the danger we’re in, or we foolishly think we are stronger than we really are. We need to humble ourselves and learn from the sheep. In our own strength, we are neither wise enough nor strong enough to fight anything.

At this point, it’s worth remembering the opening words of David’s famous Psalm 23, where he writes, “YHWH is my shepherd“. David was a shepherd in his youth, and he knew exactly what he was saying in this statement. In fact, we know that an important part of a shepherd’s role was to protect his sheep and fight on their behalf, and David once explained to King Saul how he had killed a lion and a bear that came for his sheep (1 Sam 17:35). David was a good shepherd in the physical sense, but he tells us that YHWH is his shepherd – and it follows that He is ours also.

The passage I’ve just mentioned is important in our understanding of spiritual warfare. After David talks to King Saul, he then goes out to fight the Philistine giant, Goliath. It is certainly noteworthy to see that David credits YHWH as the One who would deliver him out of the hand of the giant (1 Sam 17:37). We must not forget this as we consider the story. You see, modern teaching tells us that we are David and we must fight the “giants” in our lives and have victory over them. Sure, there can be some truth in this, but I would propose that we are not David. Instead, we are the Israelite army, cowering and waiting for the hero, or saviour, to come and gain the victory. David is, in fact, the Messiah we all need! David is the Good Shepherd who fights for His vulnerable sheep and gains victory over the enemy for them. And we are just the sheep!

So, when we consider spiritual warfare, I think a reality check and a solid dose of humility would be an important starting point for us. Again, we are simply not as wise and powerful as we like to believe. It is imperative that we rely on the strength that YHWH gives us – just as David understood. Once we accept these basics, there clearly are times where we are called to fight.

As I mentioned earlier, there are times a sheep will stand its ground, facing its enemy, and even charge with a powerful impact. But, even at this stage, the attack is not without reason. The offensive action would usually be a result of being cornered without any way of retreat, or as a direct reply to being attacked itself. A sheep’s attack will not continue on and on until the enemy is dead, but only until it is able to escape the situation. This is in stark contrast to a predator instinct.

Even before a direct attack, a sheep will stand, facing the enemy. This is just what our action needs to be at times too. We are often called to flee from sin and temptation, but then there will be times to stand firm in the face of opposition. We are told to stand firm (or stand still) many times in Scripture. This is because the enemy will often attempt to bluff us with accusations, fear or deceptive words. We are told in 1 Cor 16:13 to “be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong“. Note that we can only stand firm “in the faith”! Once again, relying on our own strength just isn’t going to work. The foundations upon which we stand must be upon the rock of YHWH, His word and the work of Messiah.

Ephesians 6 contains a much used, and important, passage when spiritual warfare is discussed. Verses 10-18 lists the “whole armour of God“, with the various pieces relating to our spiritual life. It is when we put on the armour that we’re able to stand against the schemes of the devil (v11), are capable of standing firm (v13), and then we’re actually commanded to stand (v14). Don’t underestimate the importance of this action of standing firm against the enemy! This action really highlights the foundation we are standing upon, rather than focusing on ourselves. The attention rightly centres on our all-powerful Good Shepherd.

The Ephesians list contains only one offensive weapon – “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (v17). Praying is mentioned too, which could also be partly an offensive weapon we have available. The point I want to make here is that the straight-out offensive attack is probably a very small part of our spiritual warfare. Just as the sheep reserves the charge and full-forced headbutt as a last resort, so we would be wise to follow. Yes, there is a time to use the weapon, but not before it’s actually required. Even at this point, it’s still not to be done in our strength. It is the Word of Elohim. 

Remember that we are sheep under the protection of the Good Shepherd. Everything is done through Him and in His strength. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, however, that this makes us just like robots in the field. We are still called to be warriors, but perhaps not in the sense that our flesh desires us to be. There are still clear actions that we are called to perform. Often, we must flee to avoid sin and temptation. Other times, we need to boldly and confidently stand firm against the forces that come against us. And occasionally, there will be times where we must wield the sword of the Spirit in a direct attack. We purposely put our head down and charge with all of YHWH’s strength directly towards the enemy.

We are sent forth “as sheep in the midst of wolves” – just like a warrior sheep in plain sight of the enemy!

To see all posts in the “Lessons From the Flock” series, click here.

One thought on “Warrior Sheep?

  1. Nebraska Reply

    Amen!! Very well said and definitely a good reminder for us all. Thankyou for sharing

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