(differences in behavior)
As you can see in the images above, the goat appears a little naughtier – with its tongue sticking out – than the sheep. It apparently, is biting its tongue, which is something we sheep need to do at times.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the characteristic differences between actual goats and sheep, and apply those things to us as a people.
We have a shepherd’s hook on the wall at the Assembly, which is one of the tools of a shepherd. A shep-herd will use it to pull a sheep back from harm or to discipline one that is wandering from the flock. It is also used for guiding the flock. In Scripture, we, as a people, are equated with sheep.
My people have become lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside on the mountains; they have gone along from mountain to hill and have forgotten their resting place, Jeremiah 50:6 (New American Standard Bible, used throughout, unless otherwise noted). This is end time prophecy.
Israel in Prophecy
“In those days and at that time,” declares Yahweh, “the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be Yahweh their Elohim they will seek. They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come that they may join themselves to Yahweh in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten,” Jeremiah 50:4–5.
This is similar to what we read in Ezekiel, chapter 34. It’s an allusion or reference to the remnant of Israel in the last days, with Yahshua ruling over them in the coming Kingdom and judging the peoples.
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left, Matthew 25:31–33.
We want to make sure we’re on His right hand. Discerning the characteristic differences between Goats and Sheep can help us.
Not all attributes of goats are identifiable with mankind, however. Goats fall down when startled by a loud noise. People don’t normally do that. Nevertheless, some goat attributes are clearly relatable to people.
Goats Eat Weeds
A PBS special entitled, Goats Eat Weeds, presented some interesting facts about goats. Goats are used for land management. There are actual goat grazing projects in which they systematically clear out overgrown brush, weeds and thistles from an area.
When contrasting goat eating behavior from sheep behavior, goats are browsers. Their heads and their tails up and often look around, intrigued, distracted and led by their senses of sight, smell, and taste and liking to wander farther into areas other livestock won’t typically go. Their four-chambered stomachs produce enzymes which aid in digesting hard materials like brush, wormwood, thistle and thorny types of weeds, broken off branches, tree bark, and lower-lying tree leaves. Goats’ digestive tolerances adapt to eating poisonous hemlock and other invasive plants. They chew and grind up everything in their mouths, so that not even evacuated seeds can germinate. This is one reason goats are favored, natural weed eaters.
Nevertheless, since goats are willing to eat anything, they can get what is called “bloat” – overeating to the point of death within a day’s time. We could consider Adam and Eve, who in one day died a spiritual death when they ate forbidden fruit.
Significantly, the Word of Yahweh identifies what constitutes the diet of goat-people. That is, works of the flesh:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of Elohim, Galatians 5:19–21.
Sheep, on the other hand, are grazers and keep their heads and tails down and tend not to look around, pasturing on clean grasses exclusively. They abstain from grasses tainted with fecal matter. This closely represents, in their ingestions, the clean foods prescribed in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 14 for Yahweh’s people.
Their diet consists of the fruit of the Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23).
What are Weeds?
The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life may be thought as weeds, and as those things that can be related to false doctrines and even worldly distractions. Things which can draw us away from doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
From Scripture, weeds are represented as “tares.” Tares can be very toxic, mixed with the wheat and having the ability to choke out the good grain.
The Apostle Paul, who was also a shepherd under the cover of the Chief Shepherd, wrote to Timothy, saying, Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you, 1 Timothy 4:16.
Continuing this theme, the Apostle also exhorted the Assembly at Ephesus, saying, Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of Elohim which He purchased with His own blood, Acts 20:28.
The next verse speaks of savage wolves – in sheep’s clothing, no doubt – coming in, not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29). Their doctrine by nature is unclean, poisonous and deadly. It’s fitting to make this symbolic connection to noxious weeds.
An Australian feral (wild) goat herder once said, “You have to lead the goats where they want to go.” His observation confirms the fact that goats travel where they want to go, because that’s their nature and so also, is it the nature of fallen mankind. Their hearts are more deceitful than all else and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9). They choose to abide outside Yahweh’s will and commandments.
But goats are not smarter because they wander off and get into various things. Hence, the need for electric fences to manage them. And neither are people who wander off and get into various things. In fact, that is what makes symbolic goats (people) unacceptable and why there will be a future separation made by Yahshua the Messiah Who has been given authority to make that judgment (Matt. 25:31–33).
Scripturally speaking, Yahweh’s children are sheep, no longer “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).
Most people, however, behave like goats. They look around and are intrigued and distracted. This, just as we were formerly, when “we also were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” (Tit. 3:3).
The Apostle John further corroborates this, writing, For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of Yahweh lives forever, 1 John 2:16-17.
Get in the Sheep Line!
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of Yahweh is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans12:2.
Sheep are ambassadors for the Kingdom of Yahweh, looking toward the promise of the life that shall be (1 Tim. 4:8) and striving to live that Kingdom life now, by overcoming this world. Sheep look forward to Yahweh’s Government and to inheriting Its Good and Perfect Promises. Promises reserved for the sheep, and not for the goats.
To the sheep, the instruction is clear. Get in the Sheep Line. “Seek His Kingdom … for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:31, 32). So, it’s important to be distinguished from goats, and particularly known by that upon which they are feeding.
And we can know we are sheep, by renouncing what we were and acknowledging what we are now become. We have heard and follow the True Shepherd’s voice Who always did/does His Father’s will (John 8:29).
Goats want, and will do that which is right in their own eyes (Judg. 17:6) and are not easily led. This is what differentiates goats from sheep.
Obeying His Voice
Sheep know their master’s voice and will come at His summons. But if a stranger comes and calls them, they will pull away or ignore that one altogether. Yahshua, the Chief Shepherd and Overseer (1 Pet. 2:25) affirmed: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me …And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers, John 10:27, 5.
How do we know the True Shepherd’s voice? Isn’t it because of the Word He speaks? It’s not of His own, but of His Father!
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love, John 15:10. In which is also a confirmation of what we read in Deuteronomy 5:10, Showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
These two parallel verses show that Yahshua did our Father’s will and abode in His love because of doing His Father’s will. He never sinned. He never transgressed His Father’s commandments.
Do we want to abide in Yahshua’s love, just as He abides in Yahweh’s love? Of course, we do. The point is, we are sheep who hear His voice and obey It. We are different from goats in our behavior. We prove ourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude ourselves (James 1:22).
This Way (Acts 9:2) as we already know, is a lightly traveled road. But it’s the Correct Way. It’s Yahweh’s Way, “A stronghold to the upright, but ruin to the workers of iniquity” (Prov. 10:29).
What does this word, “iniquity,” mean? Well, it’s also translated as “evil” and “wickedness” in other translations. Yahshua defined “iniquity” this way: And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness,” Matthew 7:23.
Those who are lawless tend not to maintain their focus on the Word of Yahweh. Hence, they go to the left or to the right and don’t remain steadfast in Spirit and in Truth.
But as sheep in Yahweh’s pasture, we are not be distracted. Sheep in Yahweh’s pasture embrace the wisdom of Proverbs 4:25–27:
Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not run to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.
Stubborn and Unpredictable
As animals go, goats can be likened to donkeys. They are known for their stubbornness and unpredictability. They will butt heads with an opponent and won’t stop fighting, because they like playing “king of the hill.” And don’t try to take away what they’re eating.
There are, what are called “he-goats” … likened to the Alpha Male within a wolf pack. Other goats tend to follow a “he-goat” within a particular herd. But “he-goats” are also likened to false prophets, of whom the Master warns:
But beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? Matthew 7:15–16.
Another goat-trait is found in Proverbs 29:1:
A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.
Neither this character trait – hardening the neck after much reproof – nor its outcome, characterizes sheep. Sheep, who, if they are truly walking by the Spirit in Messiah, have the following attributes, with love first and foremost.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, 1 Corinthians 13:4–7.
“Endures all things,” reminds us of sheep. If pasturing in the rain, they will endure. Goats, on the other hand, because of their nature, become irritated and will seek cover. Symbolically, perhaps, the sheep are created specifically to receive spiritually, the early and latter rains, the Spirit of Yahweh, the cleansing of living waters, etc.
Sheep, docile and humble, stay the course. The Apostle wrote,
Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others, Philippians 2:2–4.
Paul’s Epistles – It’s Feeding Time
In establishing the Assemblies in the first century, Paul’s Epistles establish “the decrees for to keep” (Acts 16:4 KJV). These are to be kept pure and fed to Yahweh’s flock, that is, the doctrines from Yahweh’s Word – Scripture, in other words. It tells us what to do and what not to do.
Here are some highlights, from those letters by the hand of the Apostle Paul:
• 1 Timothy 1:3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.
• 1 Timothy 4:6 In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Messiah Yahshua, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.
• 1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
• 1 Timothy 5:20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.
• 2 Timothy 1:3a I thank Elohim, Whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did … (see Gen. 26:5).
• 2 Tim. 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to Elohim as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of Truth
• 2 Timothy 3:16–17 All Scripture is inspired by Elohim and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of Elohim may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
• 2 Timothy 4:2–3 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.
• Titus 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
• Titus 2:1 As for you, speak the thing which are fitting for sound doctrine.
• Titus 2:14 Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
• Titus 1:3 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.
The separation of the goats and the sheep will be easy. By our deeds, we are judged with the very Word of Yahweh.
As sheep, our very nature – renewed and transformed – will be repulsive to the goats. But as Yahweh’s sheep, He makes [us] to lie down in green pastures; He leads [us] beside quiet waters, Psalm 23:1–2.
-Elder David Brett
2963 County Road 233, Kingdom City, Missouri 65262
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