Are you a goat or a sheep?
Posted by: Brittney Zellner
In Matt 25:31-34 it says:
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world
Jesus makes it very clear the differences between a goat and a sheep. In the verses that follow these, he specifies the difference between those on the right (“right” symbolizes faith to those who follow God and irrationality to those in the world) and those on the left (“left” symbolizes knowledge and logic but can also symbolize a lack of faith and trust in God). Based on their questions, it would seem that the sheep were not even aware of the depths what they were doing. This observation might reveal how sincere their hearts are and makes it clear that a sincere love of those in unfortunate circumstances is not just similar but is the same as a sincere love for Jesus and that he sees it as such.
Jesus points out a couple of differences between the goats and the sheep. These differences in this example parable are pretty straightforward about the action and inaction of each side of the scale. The sheep seem to act out their cares as an expression of their heart. The goats, however, may have even felt pity and sympathy for the individuals that were sick, poor or imprisoned and yet their lack of action showed the lack of sincerity in their hearts. Physical acts, which have been demonized as a way of “getting into” heaven and are therefore usually avoided in some Christian circles, are clearly an important aspect of our hearts and the sincerity of our expressions of love to the point of becoming the deciding factor of membership into the kingdom based on this passage.
In an effort to justify their lack of works, many Christians will read these passages and say that the goats are the people of the world who do not know Jesus or are not “saved”. However, the goats clearly refer to Jesus as “Lord”, which means they saw him as their master and “thought” they knew him. This passage and even the entire chapter is a teaching about and to the servants of Jesus only. Those people who claim to serve and represent the coming king are the ones being addressed… the good servants and the bad servants. Many of the Christians I know would say that they know they are “going to heaven” because Jesus is in their heart. They would refuse to use scriptures such as these to audit their behavior as a way of determining the truthfulness of their hearts. The decision to avoid applying this passage to their own personal lives is one that they may live to regret.
As further proof of the distinction of the kingdom being prepared only for the sheep and the actions thereof, I will use the symbolism of each animal to show the parallel of the goat with those who claim to serve a higher power but have actions that prove their hearts are insincere and of the sheep whose every action reflects their position in the kingdom as servants of Y’shua.
Firstly, I will speak about the goats. Their lack of care about others might seem consistent with our view of the actual behavior of a goat. However, here in the modern western world, most of us do not own goats or even see them about often or at all. This makes it difficult to parallel the goat’s behavior with a behavior we should avoid. Symbolically speaking, the goat represents persistence, relentlessness, stubbornness and an unwillingness to give up, even to the point of pain or danger. Once a goat sets it’s mind to something, getting it to stop is a literal pain in the butt. This might seem like a good quality to some extent. The ability to “not give up,” is highly sought after in a world of people who fear failure and lack of motivation. This attitude is however, detrimental and in contradiction to the role of servant to Y’shua.
The sheep by comparison are symbolic of obedient (action based) followers. Their behavior is unity driven with a slightly stronger characteristic that gives them the urge to follow the voice of their shepherd. These two characteristics combined make for a content and confident sheep that stays safe at all times and makes it to his goal which is to be happy and content with life. By comparison, our main goal as believers should be that of being driven to be in unity with our brethren by direction of our shepherd Y’shua and his instruction (torah). These characteristics need to be in that order with that balance. Too far in the unity direction and we will follow the herd wherever it goes out of fear and end up in a place of danger without the shepherd. Too far away from unity and the shepherd becomes frustrated with the sheep that stays away from the other sheep putting itself in danger out of pride. Those sheep may find that they always end up back with the herd after much difficulty and what feels like a firm strike in the rear. In other words, as a part of Israel you must put yourself in the middle of the balanced scale. Stay in unity with others, always being guided by the voice of the Good Shepherd. Do not follow blindly the others out of fear and do not claim to be the only one who hears the shepherd and forfeits going in the same direction of the others out of pride. Those that go at it alone will find they end up back with that same group over and over while enduring many trials and tribulations that have forced them back.
Another example of the goats, which can give us more examples about the ways we should and should not act, is found in the story of the exodus. There is a complete parallel of the actions of the Egyptian (Mitzraites) with goat behaviors and the Israelites with sheep behaviors. The Mitzraites were the firstborn in the known world at the time in that they were given the blessing of success and power but because of his goat behavior, a stubbornness that can be seen in their leader and authority, the Pharaoh, whose heart was hardened over and over, all success and blessing was lost and handed over to the second-born Israel sheep. These sheep stuck together and when push came to shove, they followed the voice of the shepherd and the directions that were given.
Esau and Jacob are another example of goats and sheep. Esau had a goat attitude, one that thought only of himself and his own goals and desires. His lack of respect over the importance of his position as first born was seen in his desire to eat over his birthright. This attitude lost him the chance to stay firstborn and receive the blessing from his father. Jacob was the one who listened to the voice of his shepherd (his mother) and received a gift he didn’t earn or deserve by grace.
Throughout the entire bible we can see examples of goat versus sheep behavior. Y’shua pointed out exactly the differences that matter most. One who acts unselfishly by giving of his time, money and support shows that he has what it takes to become important in the Kingdom run by Y’shua. These are the ones who know him and his heart because this is who he is and what he does. Anyone who claims to know him and serve him and does not do these things…they are living a lie.
So which are you? A goat? A sheep? Audit your behavior against the lists and endless biblical examples of what makes a goat or a sheep. I don’t know about you but I want to hear those words…
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
|Symbolizes stubbornness, won’t give in, selfishness||Symbolizes obedient, following the voice of the shepherd and being in unity with brethren, selflessness|
|Mitzraites (Egyptians) – Goats – First born people given power, success and blessing as a power in the world by Yah who forfeited that blessing by stubbornness||Israelites – Sheep – Second born who replaced the first born in success and blessing and power in the world (took blessing at the command of Yah the Good Shepherd)|
|Yah killed first born (Yah forced sacrifices of first born who were disobedient) (Ex 12:29)||People willingly sacrifice first born animals and redeem first born people because they are obedient (Ex 13:2)|
|Forced to clothe and provide for the poor and support the enslaved (Gen 15:14, Ex 3:22, 11:2, 12:35-36)||Moved by love and compassion to give food, clothes and company to the poor and imprisoned (Leviticus 19:9-10, 25:35, Deut 4:19-22, 15:7-8,10-11, 16:17,19:28-29, 24:19-20)|
|Idol worshippers – idol symbolism means giving credit to something else other than Yah for good and bad experiences.||Gives all glory and credit to Yah alone for every experience in life.|
|Enslaved to nations and the will of others||Set free from bondage by following the will and torah of Yah.|
|Esau like Egypt– First born with blessing and birthright stolen because of abuse of these gifts through his attitude||Jacob like Israel– Second born – took blessing and birthright at command of mother (through guidance and grace)|
|First born of Israel was replaced by Levites in leadership and blessing because of their sin (seed of the serpent)||First born (our will) sacrificed to Yah for the second born (his will/seed of the woman)|
|Firstborn of freedom: Those that came out of Egypt died in the wilderness by fear symbolizing our own personal will and way that leads to death because of fear.||Second-born of freedom: Those born to those that came out of Egypt who entered into the Kingdom led by Joshua symbolize our own growing faith and fruit of confidence and obedience.|
|“I want” attitude||“All to you Yah” attitude|
Here is a quick link to a short list of the differences between goats and sheep. Symbolically, all of these characteristics line up with attitudes and behaviors in people that are either desirable for the kingdom or not. There are even some goats and sheep that are extremely difficult for the average person to differentiate between based on looks alone. The shepherd can always tell the difference.