Lessons From the Flock – #5
If you were walking across our paddocks, you would discover bare trails that wind through the pastures. These are created as the sheep walk along – following one another and wearing away the tracks. We will often see a small group of sheep walking along the trails they’ve created, and sometimes over 100 walking in a long line – one after the other.
Obviously, these trails are created with one sheep beginning to walk somewhere, and then others in the flock deciding to follow the leader. Because YHWH ‘s people are likened to sheep, is there something we can learn from this activity?
I think our consideration of this “follow the leader” example needs to begin with: Is it a good or a bad thing? And I think the answer to this question is found when we ask a second question: Where do these trails lead? Are they never-ending tracks leading nowhere, or do they have a purpose?
Well, I can inform you that the trails generally lead to water. They will begin within various sections of the pasture or from the sheltered areas the sheep use, and lead to the paddock’s water source. It is during the summer time, when we are more likely to see the sheep following one another down the trails towards their water.
We could say a lot about water, but of particularly note is our Messiah’s teaching of Him being the source of living water:
“Yeshua answered and said to [the Samaritan woman at the well], “Whosoever drinks of this water will have thirst again; but whosoever drinks of the waters that I will give him will not thirst in eternity; but the waters that I give him will become a spring, overflowing into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14)
Water is absolutely necessary for life. YHWH created things that way, and sheep instinctively know it. Their paddock trails lead them to the source of life, and if it’s dark or dusty or foggy, they will find the water by following the leader along the trail. Isn’t it best for us to do the same!? Beyond the physical need for water, we truly have an even greater need for the eternal, living waters that Yeshua spoke of. Once we know the trails, we can find the source of water whenever we need to, but before that time we need to “follow the leader”, do we not?
I believe the most important and influential point of leadership is that of a child being led by their parents. A Godly parent will lead their children to the source of living water and show them the path that they must follow. The family unit is in serious trouble in our modern, western world and suffering is becoming increasingly evident in the younger generations. This lack of parental leadership in general, and Godly parental leadership in particular, is having eternal consequences, I believe – not just with the negative effects we are increasingly witnessing in our society.
There is another form of leader we can, and should, follow. In the farm setting, we see this in action when we move sheep into a fresh paddock. The sheep love munching away on the lush feed, but after a while they will need water. Generally, there are tracks through the paddock that they can discover and then follow the path to water. Other sheep, before now, have created those trails which benefit others. Now those same trails can be trodden down again, ready for the next time a flock enters the paddock. What a great lesson this is for us!
Once again, consider YHWH’s plan for families. They were always intended to be multigenerational – building upon the faithful obedience of the parents and guiding future generations along the path YHWH has for His people. So often we focus on the failure of this happening, but we need to put more effort into making those paths to the living water clearer for the generations to come. We are all called to do our bit, and our lack of obedience never affects only ourselves! There are many examples where the direction of someone’s life is impacted by their Grandparents, or even Great Grandparents, who have left the legacy of a trail leading to living water.
We also have other leaders that have gone before us. We could possibly look to the “church fathers” (as many Christian institutions do), but I would prefer to point us to the Scriptures and the writers and prophets we see there. This is truly the path set before us that will guide us to the source of life, eternal. The sad fact is that many people throughout history have not had the parents that led them along the path of life. But, praise YHWH, He has provided the words of Godly men in the Scriptures that have led countless people to the truth from all walks, and all stages, of life.
Sometimes a leader can lead the other sheep astray. Occasionally, we’ll find fresh tracks leading to a fence, and discover a hole or a fallen branch. The sheep have found an escape into an area they were not meant to be. It could be into a muddy creek where they could get stuck, onto a roadside where they could be hit by passing cars or simply wander so far they never return. These are things the farmer certainly doesn’t want, but also are not generally in the best interests of the sheep – even if it thinks otherwise.
This example is also important for us to consider. Yes, there are paths that lead us to YHWH, but there will always be competing ones that lead astray. Wisdom must be used in which leaders, and which paths, we choose to follow. I think this highlights that there is a genuine shortfall with our fellow-human leaders. Even the people that we consider the “best” or most trustworthy examples can let us down at times and, at worst, can actually deceptively lead us astray. This should never happen, and yet Yeshua saw it first hand, and said, “… for they are blind leaders of blind ones. And the blind who leads another blind, both of them will fall into the grave.” (Matt 15:14)
I do believe, though, that YHWH desires strong and faithful leaders. He has demonstrated this through His Word, and we read of people like Moses and Joshua, of Judges and Kings and the roles of leadership in the family and communities. Paul even said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Messiah.” (1 Cor 11:1)
It’s interesting where this ultimately leads us. The one and only human who is totally dependable and totally trustworthy is The Messiah – Yeshua. He is the one person we must follow above all others. This doesn’t necessarily mean that following others is wrong because, as I’ve explained, YHWH has created an order where there are other leaders in all stages of life. These leaders should be leading towards the same goal and, ultimately, Yeshua and the Scriptures are the litmus test for us to discern between the true and the false.
I believe the example we have of sheep following the leader is another important lesson for us. We should be willing to follow leaders, but never blindly. YHWH gives each one of us all the information we need for life’s decisions and direction, but it’s not necessarily directly given to us individually. He uses others to give direction through teaching, preaching, conversations and through the example of lives lived out before us. He has created a body that needs each part to function the way He planned.
When one sheep follows another, it then becomes a leader to the sheep behind it. This brings with it some responsibility. If we’re part of the Kingdom, then each one of us are leaders, whether we want to be or not. Where are you leading others? Are you truly following the right path yourself? If not, you’ll be leading others astray! Be careful to follow the leader … and to lead the followers!