Matthew 10:16 has been on repeat in my mind, not really understanding why.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Everywhere I looked I saw references to sheep and wolves.
As I thought about this verse the Lord began to speak a deeper truth than the surface meaning of the passage. I believe this these sweet insights He shared are SO timely for this unprecedented time in history.
Ok. Sheep among wolves. What are wolves like? My research found some very interesting things. With each fact it was like the Lord was expanding on His love...(thoughts God put on my heart included in CAPS)
-Fights over territory are among the principal causes of wolf mortality. (WHEN YOU WEAR YOURSELF OUT FIGHTING FOR YOUR TERRITORY, THAT’S WOLF THINKING. I PROVIDE YOU PASTURE, MY LOVE.)
-Cortisol levels in wolves rise significantly when a pack member dies, indicating the presence of stress. (WORRY IS WOLF THINKING. SEEING AN ATTACK AND HAVING FEAR EVOKE THE STRESS OF “WHAT IF ____ HAPPENS TO ME?!” IS WOLF THINKING. YOU MAY BE AMONG WOLVES, BUT EVEN IF EVERYONE ELSE IS REACTING OUT OF FEAR, YOU ARE A SHEEP AMONG WOLVES.)
-wolves are relatively few, live away from people, and have developed a fear of humans because of their experiences. (FEAR OF EMOTIONAL INTIMACY WITH HUMANS IS WOLF THINKING. I MADE YOU FOR COMMUNITY AND COMMUNICATION. EVEN IN QUARANTINE, COMMUNITY IS POSSIBLE. YOU ARE NOT A LONE WOLF. YOU ARE A PART OF MY FOLD.)
-Wolf packs rarely adopt other wolves into their fold and typically kill them. (WOLVES ARE EXCLUSIVE. I SEND YOU OUT AS SHEEP TO INCLUDE AND INVITE AS MANY AS POSSIBLE INTO MY LOVE! YOUR MISSION IS TO MAKE OTHERS FEEL AS LOVED AS POSSIBLE....NOT TO MAKE PEOPLE PAY OR TO WOUND OR TO JUDGE OR TO REJECT.)
-Wolves are territorial and generally establish territories far larger than they require to survive. (WOLVES TAKE MORE THAN THEY REQUIRE. YOU DON’T NEED TO! YOU CAN KNOW THAT I WILL ALWAYS PROVIDE WHAT YOU NEED FOR EACH DAY.)
-The majority of losses (of sheep) occur during the summer grazing period, untended livestock in remote pastures being the most vulnerable to predation. (I NEVER LEAVE YOU UNTENDED. BEING A SHEEP MEANS KNOWING YOUR SHEPHERD IS ABLE TO FIGHT OFF WHATEVER WOULD COME AFTER YOU. YOU ARE NOT LEFT TO FEND FOR YOURSELF.)
-When hunting large gregarious prey, wolves will try to isolate an individual from its group. Although people often believe that wolves can easily overcome any of their prey, their success rate in hunting hoofed prey is usually low. If the targeted animal stands its ground, wolves either ignore it, or try to intimidate it into running. Wolves, or even a wolf on its own, will attempt to frighten a herd into panicking and dispersing. (YOU ARE SAFEST IN MY FLOCK. STAND YOUR GROUND ON MY WORDS. THE ENEMY MAY TRY TO INTIMIDATE, BUT HE’S ALL BARK AND NO BITE!)
Being sent out as a wolf...This is what it looks like when you don’t TRUST the Lord’s goodness, sovereignty, or judgment. This is a season where God is building DEEP trust. CONFIDENT trust. The trust of a sheep.
My research then turned to sheep, and the Holy Spirit continued to highlight pieces.
-Sheep have good hearing, and are sensitive to noise when being handled. (SHEEP HAVE EARS TO HEAR...AND HEAR THE RIGHT THINGS.)
John 10:26-28 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,
John 10:3-4 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.
Ezekiel 34:30-31 In this way, they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them. And they will know that they, the people of Israel, are my people, says the Sovereign LORD. You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people, and I am your God. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!”
-Sheep have horizontal slit-shaped pupils, with excellent peripheral vision; with visual fields of about 270° to 320°, sheep can see behind themselves without turning their heads. (I GIVE YOU MORE COMPREHENSIVE VISION OF WHAT I AM DOING AND WHAT I HAVE DONE WHEN YOU LIVE LIKE A SHEEP AND NOT LIKE A WOLF. I GIVE YOU EYES TO SEE! ASK ME FOR SHEEP VISION!)
-Sheep are flock animals and strongly gregarious
(I MADE YOU FOR TOGETHER. IT IS NOT GOOD FOR MAN TO BE ALONE. HOW ARE YOU BEING A FLOCK EVEN NOW FROM THE CONFINES OF THIS NEW SEASON?)
John 21:16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
-Their natural inclination to follow a leader to new pastures were the pivotal factors in sheep being one of the first domesticated livestock species
(SHEEP ARE WILLING TO FOLLOW ME TO NEW PASTURES. IT’S NATURAL TO THEM. THERE IS NO DOUBTING OR QUESTIONING OR REASONING IF MY WAY IS BEST. THERE IS ONLY CONFIDENT TRUST. YOU MAY NOT KNOW THE WAY...WILL YOU FOLLOW STILL?)
Psalm 77:20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Psalm 78:52-53 But he led his own people like a flock of sheep, guiding them safely through the wilderness. He kept them safe so they were not afraid; but the sea covered their enemies.
Psalm 23:1-3 A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
-sheep do not defend territories although they do form home ranges. (MY SHEEP KNOW I FIGHT FOR THEM. THEY OCCUPY THE LAND, BUT THEY KNOW I ALONE SECURE THEIR TERRITORY.)
-Flock behaviour in sheep is generally only exhibited in groups of four or more sheep; fewer sheep may not react as expected when alone or with few other sheep. (APART FROM THE BODY YOU CAN LOSE YOUR WAY. HOW ARE YOU REACTING RIGHT NOW? HAVE YOUR REACTIONS CHANGED IN SEPARATION? LET MY LOVE COME PURSUE YOU. LET ME BRING YOU BACK ON TRACK.)
Luke 15:2-7 And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” So He told them this parable “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep! I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.
-Sheep can recognize individual human and ovine faces and remember them for years. (YOU KNOW ME. I INTIMATELY KNOW YOU. AND AS YOU REMEMBER TO SEEK MY FACE YOU WILL NOT GET LOST. BUT EVEN IF YOU DO I WILL KEEP PATIENTLY AND LOVINGLY TEACHING YOU. I WILL NOT REJECT YOU.)
John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,”
Mark 6:34 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
I AM SENDING YOU OUT AS SHEEP AMONG WOLVES. The verse continues. “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Cambridge Dictionary defines shrewd as “able to judge a situation accurately and turn it to your advantage.” This is a time of realigning our perception with the judgement and discernment of God. He is turning all things for our advantage like Romans 8:28 promises!
We are also called to be innocent as doves. Cambridge defines innocent as “having no knowledge of the evil or unpleasant things in life.” Before the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we truly were innocent. But God invites us back into this innocence by asking us to focus on the pure, the life-giving, the HOPE just AS IF we had no knowledge of evil or unpleasant things.
Only when we combine the two- discernment and hope- do we get the perfect “sheep” mentality.
The context of this “sheep and wolves” verse in Matthew 10 could not be more perfect. Just as He told His disciples then, I hear Him telling us some of those same sending remarks now:
You have authority over impure spirits and authority to heal EVERY disease and sickness. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, drive out demons.
GO then to the lost sheep (reach out how you can!)
As you go, proclaim His words!
Freely GIVE as you have freely received.
Don’t worry about what you’ll need down the road. Don’t gather “extra”. Trust Him to provide daily manna.
Don’t be afraid.
Know how LOVED you are and your worth to Him. If you press into this love, you can’t possibly avoid sheep living.
Serve and love others. Even in the little things. What you do for the least of these you do for Him.
Matthew 10 excerpts:
“1-Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
6- Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7-As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8-heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9-“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10-no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.
16- I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
28-Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29-Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30-And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31-So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 42-And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”