The Preacher's Wife

Follow The Leader

I just read a peculiar report of an incident somewhere in Turkey. For some unknown reason a flock of 1500 sheep ran headlong over a cliff and 450 of them were killed . The shepherds had left them to graze while they ate their own breakfasts when suddenly the whole flock dashed over the cliff while the shepherds could only watch helplessly.

When I read about all those silly sheep committing mass suicide by playing Follow the Leader, I had this crazy picture of a long line of sheep, eyes closed,smiles on their faces, trotting one after the other and blithely leaping out into space. Sorta like cartoons of counting sheep to fall asleep at night. Then I had more sobering thoughts. First, as the article said, this was a community herd and the livelihood of many owners. Sheep are expensive in Turkey so when nearly 450 sheep leaped to their deaths it was a huge financial loss to a lot of people. Perhaps a tragic loss... perhaps some of the owners were left bankrupt and with no means of support for their families. Then I began wondering why so many sheep would do this strange, deadly thing.

The article didn't say..perhaps they had eaten some grass or herb that effected them in a bazaar manner. I don't know why. I do know from past readings about sheep that while they are cute, precious and adorable as little lambs, they grow up to be rather stupid. They tend to follow a leader of the flock, because they aren't high in "smarts". They will entangle themselves in briars, wire fences, rough footings...many things that are harmful to them, and they don't have the reasoning ability to think themselves out of trouble. That's why they need a wise shepherd who is trustworthy, who really cares about them and will take good care of them even if it means risking his own safety. The shepherds in this article thought their sheep were safe and left them to graze while they ate their breakfast before starting out with the herd for the day. Were these men at fault? Neglectful? Probably not. Probably what happened was a sudden alarm frightened the sheep and started the herd to rushing forward, something like an old western cattle stampede. They probably followed the leader or leaders of the herd as they normally would do, and when the leader(s) leaped over the cliff, the entire herd followed them blindly. Sad to say, but sheep aren't the only creatures that will follow any unproven leader who looks and sounds good and makes glowing promises. People are even more gullible and more to blame because we have the ability to think for ourselves, to weigh and judge a person by honest value rather than empty promises. In politics or business or personal lives, we must choose our leaders wisely before we give them our follow-ship. There is a supposedly true story, but which probably is not, about a man finding a worn old tombstone in a lonely, forgotten cemetery that bore the inscription;

"Pause here,stranger, as you pass by.
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you shall be.
Prepare for death and follow me.

Scrawled below this in some indelible ink or paint , obviously at a more recent time were these somewhat humorous words:

"To follow you I'm not content Until I know which way you went."

Back to the sheep that leaped to their death. Who was more to blame, the sheep who followed the leader without thought, or the leader who in destroying himself was responsible for the deaths of all the others who followed him? .

On a more human level, we all have a great responsibility.If God has given us leadership ability. we are obligated before Him to be a good, honest, qualified, trustworthy leader, whether it be to a large group or a few or even one person who looks up to us as an example to follow. If we are not leaders, but have chosen a worthy leader, then as followers, we also have an obligation to be informed, to be dependable, to thoughtfully follow the one we have chosen to be our leader.. The Bible says, "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way ." So we are like helpless sheep, desperately in need of a Shepherd we can trust to take care of us and lead us safely into His fold. Jesus said,"I AM the good Shepherd." Scripture says," We are His people and the sheep of His pasture." He will never lead us to destruction nor leave us alone to find our own way. He knows each one of us, His flock, even better than we know ourselves. And He knows us by name..God said in Isaiah 43:1..."I have called thee by name..thou art mine". This just makes my heart overflow, I am overwhelmed at the tender assurance that I belong to Him,that He loves me,His own little , sometimes stupid, stubborn little sheep and that He cares so much about me that He actually knows my name and when He speaks to me in my secret heart, He calls me by my name. This is just too wonderful for me to fully absorb.

So the sad story of all those poor sheep blindly rushing over a cliff to their death just magnified the beautiful picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd Who gave His life for His sheep and who will never forsake us nor lead us astray .

There is another story in the fifth chapter of Mark that tells of a demented wild man who lived among the tombs who was so strong he could not be bound with chains. He was a terror to the community., screaming and crying and cutting himself. But when Jesus stepped ashore from the fishing boat, this poor man saw Him, and ran toward him and fell at His feet and worshipped Him. Jesus cast the legion of demons out of the man and at their own request allowed them to enter a nearby herd of swine which drove the entire herd over a cliff to their death and brought down the displeasure of the entire town because of their financial loss. They were so upset over the death of a bunch of pigs, they ignored the once wild, possessed man, now sitting quietly at Jesus feet, clothed in some garments someone shared with him, and in his right mind. He begged to go with Jesus but instead was commissioned by the Lord to go back to his home and tell what had happened. Can't you imagine that homecoming?? Much later, through his witness this town came to follow Jesus. Somehow I see a connection in this story and the one of the sheep running over the cliff. One has nothing but death. The other an amazing transformation of a man who was spiritually dead, actually living among the dead, and tormented by demons, suddenly set free and given LIFE ETERNAL by the One Who is the Shepherd of our souls.

All rights reserved. Copyright 7/12/2005 ruthmartin.


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