Jesus refers to His followers as sheep. What does this have to do with your intimacy with the Lord you ask? Let us look at the characteristics of sheep.
- completely dependent on the Shepherd
- responsive to love and care
but sheep also …
- are easily panicked
- are gullible
- are vulnerable to fear and therefore stampede easily
- are vulnerable to mob psychology, so they are easily influenced by a leader – whoever that leader might be
- have only one defense when they are attacked – to run
- are easy prey to enemies
- are easily flipped over and cannot right themselves without the Shepherd
- need a lot of care
- are not concerned about the Shepherd's needs – only their own.
- are not concerned about pleasing the Shepherd, but rather are focused on pleasing themselves.
In Moses’ Tabernacle sheep could go no further than the Brazen Altar where they were sacrificed. Therefore they could not go past the curtain to experience fellowship with God that is represented in the Holy Place; nor could they have the deep intimacy that comes from entering the Holy of Holies.
Sheep were unable to enjoy that kind of intimacy with the Shepherd since they are a different species from Him.
Do you see the spiritual implications for you and me? If we continue to think of ourselves only as sheep we will never experience true intimacy with the Lord. The Father is not preparing a Marriage Feast for His Son and His sheep. He is preparing one for His Son and His Bride!
Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep and feed His lambs. These are the vulnerable, new ones.
Luke 22:31-32 – And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.Peter had to go through a conversion before he could be of any use to the brethren. He was a sheep at first. As a sheep he denied Jesus because he was looking after his own interests. But Jesus saw that Peter would be converted.
Peter had not yet developed the agape love for Jesus. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with agape - the perfect, intimate God-kind of love, but Peter’s response each time was that he loved Jesus with a brotherly affection.
Now let us look at the characteristics of the bride.
- Is intimate with her Husband and seeks to please Him
- As a result of this intimacy she knows not just His acts but understands His ways
- Partners with Him
- Is in covenant with Him
- Represents Him in His absence. (People will judge Him by how she looks, speaks and acts.)
- Carries His Name
- Bears and raises His 'children' – His fruit
- Submits to His leadership
- He is her covering, therefore she knows that He takes care of her needs. This frees her to focus on their relationship, and on their 'business' ventures.
In Moses’ Tabernacle the priests had to wash at the Brazen Laver in preparation for transitioning from the Outer Court to the Holy Place – a place of greater intimacy with the Lord.
Today you and I must first ensure that we change our mindset from being simply a dependent sheep. We must embrace our life as the Bride of Christ preparing for her Beloved Bridegroom!