Colin Macnicol - Sheep

I would like to tell you some of my own experiences, before going into the Lord's work, when I was caring for and working with sheep in the high and rugged part of New Zealand.


Since my early childhood, I cared for sheep. The lessons I learned are very much like the lessons God teaches His sheep. The Lord speaks of His people, in Jeremiah 13:20, as a Beautiful Flock. Often God referred to His 'chosen' as sheep. This is how they appear to Him, a beautiful flock. We can count ourselves a privileged people if we are one of His sheep. We have the right Shepherd caring for our soul. He would like us to be worthy to be called a beautiful flock.


The Lord is particular about His name, and anxious that His name will be upheld and the standard of righteousness maintained. The man I worked for was very particular about his name, because he sent his sheep to many parts of the country. He wanted the standard upheld and maintained. He was very interested in seeing the lambs come up to his standard. The Lord wants the standard upheld in His flock, too. David, in speaking of the Lord as his shepherd, in Psalm 23:3, said, "He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake." We can be sure that the paths the Lord may lead us in are for His own Names' sake. God would like us to maintain this standard. A good shepherd is anxious to see the lambs come up to the standard.

The Lord's care and interest in His flock begins with the lambs. The thing of greatest importance when a lamb is born is to see that it gets a supply of milk. That first drink of milk enables it to stand against some of the cold blasts that come. Milk is the substance of life; it needs milk so it can grow. I have seen one little lamb in the midst of 40 or 50 sheep, so surrounded by them, it couldn't find its mother. A shepherd often has to separate the sheep so that a lamb can be with its mother and get the needed milk. It needs to know where that milk comes from. God's lambs, too, need to know where the sincere milk of the word comes from. We can do much for them, but it is all-important that they get in touch with Christ and the sincere milk of His word.


When the sheep are resting, you will notice them chewing the cud. This marks the sheep as a clean animal. If the sheep do not do this, it means they are sick sheep. Chewing our cud will keep us healthy. We need to have the right meditations in our heart to keep healthy in the things of God.


One great thing, in that country, was the shepherd's care for his sheep. No matter how healthy the sheep, they needed the care of the shepherd. . . . .and God's people have the same need. A person can easily tell if a shepherd cares for his sheep. Real shepherds go through many hardships in order to help their sheep. Their lives are lived for their flocks. There was one shepherd I didn't think so much of as a man, but one thing I must say, he had a shepherd's heart. He went up in my estimation when I saw him walk twenty miles, climbing 8,000 feet, to rescue some sheep. He had a shepherd's heart. In another instances, a sheep rolled down a steep cliff and in a dangerous place. One man said, "Leave it; no one will ever know it is there." But another man and I could not do that, we had to go after him. When we got to where he was, and got all the snow off of him, we packed him back up the mountain to safety. Often the shepherd would endanger his life to rescue a sheep. The shepherd's care and interest in the souls of others will tell and make manifest their genuine love. The heart interest we have, even in little things, will tell.


Sometimes we would find sheep that were down and not able to get up. All they needed was help to get back on their feet. The Lord's sheep may be healthy, and still get down, but if one with a shepherd's heart will give them a little help, it will put them on their feet again. If left, they will die.

Often, sea gulls were waiting for sheep to get down, and then would come and peck their eyes out. Satan, our enemy, likes to catch us when we are down. If he can blot out our vision of the Lord, or mar our vision of days ahead, he has gained his objective.


The sheep sometimes feed among briars which get tangled up in their fleece, and, before they know it, are all tangled up. They have to be freed or they will die. It is easy for the Lord's people to get so entangled that it would mean destruction. They need the shepherd to free them from that which is holding them captive.


Sometimes sheep would get on ledges of rock, dangerous places, and the shepherd would have to let himself down over hundreds of feet to rescue them. Sometimes we would have to let them down further to safety, instead of bringing them up. Sometimes when we would get near to a lamb, it would give a jump and go on to its death. Sometimes, too, when we draw near to help the people of the world, they put themselves into a place where it is impossible to help them.


Another thing we had to watch out for was that the sheep did not get wool-blind. The wool would grow over their eyes so that they couldn't see where they were going. The tendency of sheep is to follow the leader. On one occasion, a sheep was wool-blind and slipped on a rock and went over, and seven or eight followed him to his destruction before we could get there. When some of God's people lose their vision of the pathway, they say, "I can do things and go places that seem right to me." What a terrible influence this has on others. Others will follow us and we need to watch our walk, and keep a clear vision of the right way. If I take myself to a lost eternity, others will likely follow.


Perhaps I will mention just a little about the feeding of sheep. The things the sheep feed on are so very important. Some things are dangerous for them to eat. When I cared for sheep, in New Zealand, there was on dangerous plant called "Tute" and it meant quick death. Another plant called "St. John's Wart" worked in a slow way, but it also meant sure death. I have thought many times of God's sheep and how abundant their pasture and feed is. The lot of every child of God is to be "abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy House." There is that something within the human breast, though, to want to feed on other things that could mean sure death. If God's children would only remember to feed on the things of God, things that will preserve their testimony, Satan then cannot have any power over them. Feeding on the things of this world means slowly losing our lives.


I remember one experience when we were bring the sheep down from the high country. Some were sick because of the winter experience and had to lie down, so we held back the leader until the sick one had a rest and could go on. I have seen many sheep reach the end of the journey only because we stopped the leader a while and let them rest. Sometimes, a lamb could not go on and had to be carried. When a sheep would be lying there, the shepherd would encourage it to go on. This would cause it to realize it still was one of the flock and had not been left alone. I realize the great help God's people can be one to another. We can be of help to the weak. Even though some are weak, they are still part of the flock and are not to be left alone or forgotten.


The sheep were both ear marked and branded in order for their master to claim them. Each year when the sheep were brought in for shearing, we used to go to other flocks and get our sheep back that had strayed. One time, I claimed a sheep with no ear marks. Its ears were gone but there was our own brand on that sheep and I could claim it. If only God's people would remember the necessity of having the right marks....of preserving their testimony! They would be able to show, those they were and whom they serve. Satan then would have no claim on them. "God's people are to be known in the streets" among the multitudes of men. There should be sufficient evidence about us, about our attire, about our spirit, about our walk to show that we are the Lord's, that we are known of Him and chosen of Him.


Through experiences, some sheep have come in from the field with little or no fleece. They had become entangled with briars, etc. They were noticed among the others. Maybe, some of us are like that at times. We feel we have such a little testimony. At the annual shearing time, the sheep with little or no fleece came in with the others. They were counted in. Then a clear brand was put on them and they went out into the following year with as good an opportunity as the others of growing fleece. We may not have had as clear a testimony as others but the Lord still wants to put His mark on us and claim us among his people, and He gives us the chance of going into the new year to put on new fleece. Sometimes, sheep come in with two or three years of fleece on them and they are so heavily burdened down they can hardly walk. After this fleece is taken off, they can hardly keep their balance because the burden taken off was so great. We, too, can feel like that. Sometimes, the cares of life have us so burdened down that we can hardly get around but when the burden is relieved by the Lord, there is a great difference. We can be like the man who was found leaping and praising God.


We read of the shepherd's care in Psalm 23. I have been asked if the Good Shepherd had any dogs. Well, if He had, I would like the chance of naming them. Their names would be "Goodness" and "Mercy." David said, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." The Lord found us through His goodness and mercy. We can truly say that the Lord has had goodness and mercy in His dealings with us all along the way. If one of God's sheep needed to be hunted up, He would send "Goodness" after it. If any got out of touch or out of reach, He would send "Mercy" after it. It would be like the "leading" dog to draw them unto Himself. May we be those that the Lord can cherish and count in as one of His beautiful flock.




Sometimes, sheep would get snowed in up in the high ranges for weeks at a time before the shepherd could find them. If there was no feed, a sheep would then find a burr in the fleece of another sheep and pick it out. In doing so, it would get a taste of the wool and would proceed to eat a big patch of wool off the other sheep. It was hard on that other sheep because it would feel the cold more, but it was actually harder on the sheep that did the eating as it could not properly digest the wool and it would take longer to get well than the other sheep. Sometimes, we would like to pick at something wrong in someone else's testimony but we would only harm ourselves rather than helping them.


When there was no feed at a time like that, the wool would stop growing. Then when the sheep would again get to pasture, it would start growing again, but there would be a "break" in the fleece, a weakness that would cause the fleece to peel off. This would indicate that the sheep had some hard experiences. However, after the shearing, the sheep would go out growing new wool and would again appear like all the rest. Ticks are no problem if the sheep are healthy, but if for any reason the sheep got sick, the ticks seem to take over. Sometimes we came upon a sheep that looked more dead than alive and, after we picked it up, we found it covered with ticks. When it was impossible to save the sheep's life, we cut its throat and hardly any blood would come out. The ticks had it all. This warns us of the danger of allowing wrong things to remain in our lives. No matter how small they are......they can easily multiply and rob us of our very source of life.


Because of the presence of ticks, there is a law in New Zealand that all sheep are dipped in sheep-dip once a year. This is done after the shearing. You could see a noticeable gain in the strength of the sheep each day after the ticks were removed. The dipping killed all the ticks, but the eggs still remained. These hatched out in a couple weeks. However, the dip was such that, when it rained and the sheep got wet again, the dip was reactivated and this killed those new ticks. This is like when we leave convention or other similar meetings. Sometimes things appear that were not evident before, but we can recall the things that we have heard and it helps us to deal with those fresh problems. It is that something, that is brought into effect again with each fresh "watering."


One time when they were shearing, it was nearing supper time and the shepherds found it increasingly difficult to get the sheep into the shearing shed. They finally had to carry them in one by one. After they had stopped for supper, and had gone back out, it was dark, so one of them took a lantern along and hung it in the shed. The next thing they all knew, all the sheep were in and round him. They realized the reason the sheep did not want to come in before was that it was darker inside than outside. You could carry a sheep back into the darkest corner but as soon as it was set down, it would hurry back to where the light was. Sheep always prefer light. The contrast between the sheep nature and the goat nature is that the goats, if subjected to a similar experience, would want to be back in the dark corner. They prefer the dark. The Lord's sheep are attracted to His fold because of the light it offers and are content to dwell there.


Some mornings, you could look out and see goats coming down from the mountains, leaping and bleating, and we knew that it meant a storm was coming. The sheep would be going higher and higher into the mountains and would be snowed in, if the shepherds did not get them down in time. This helps us to understand Luke 16:8, "The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of Light." This is one of the reasons why sheep need a shepherd and the goats do not.


If you want two goats to graze, without wandering off too far, all you need to do is tie them to a short length of rope. The will pull in opposite directions and consequently stay in the near vicinity. This would never work with sheep because one would follow the other and would wander over hill and dale together. In this lies an interesting thought......Two servants of God going together as a living witness that God is working in their lives. If they did not have the right nature, they would not work together and go forth as Jesus sent the twelve and the seventy.

We often hear people mention the "black sheep." There is one thing that makes all sheep alike......when they are sacrificed. When the skin is removed, there is no difference between the black sheep and the white sheep. It costs one just as much as the other. It is only when the Lord's people are placed upon the altar of service that we all become alike. May we always be willing to yield our bodies as a living sacrifice as Paul mentioned in Romans 12:1.