Keller reminds us that though the image of God’s people as sheep is common in the Bible, it is not completely complementary. From all accounts, sheep are helpless animals of limited intelligence. They are timid and can be startled by the slightest sound; but at other times they are so stubborn that nothing moves them. Pastor John MacArthur observes that “sheep are the most helpless, defenseless, straying, and dirty of animals. They require constant oversight, leading, rescue, and cleaning or they will die. Being a shepherd was good training for leading people.”
In spite of the negative connotations, however, God identifies us “sheep” and himself the “shepherd.” Calling us “sheep” might not feel like a great complement; but being the “good shepherd” greatly exalts God’s care and compassion. The Good Shepherd leads us to the green pastures and cool waters of heaven.