“So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations.”
In the Bible, we find sheep used in many ways, both literally and spiritually. Jesus is called the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). In the sanctuary system, a perfect lamb, one without blemish—representing Jesus’ future sacrifice for mankind—was brought as a sacrifice for the confession of sin. God’s people are called His sheep. And in the parable of the ninety and nine, Jesus the Shepherd went out in search of the one lost sheep to bring it safely again to the fold.
Sheep are thought to be timid, passive, and unintelligent. On the contrary, research shows that they are complex, individualistic, and social. They are even capable of problem solving and have an IQ similar to that of cattle and pigs. They display intelligence in their ability to self-heal when sick. Additionally, they have excellent memories and display emotions.
Newborn sheep are called lambs—a ram if male, a ewe if female. Mating typically takes place in the fall with births occurring from March to May, but can begin as early as February. Both ewes and rams can mate as early as 7-9 months after birth. Ewes are pregnant for approximately five months with the ewe’s major growth occurring in the last month of pregnancy. First-time mother ewes often have a single lamb, whereas a seasoned ewe may have one to three lambs.
Birthing the lambs is also known as lambing. The typical birth weight of a lamb is between 5-12 pounds. At full-growth, a sheep can grow to approximately four feet in length and weigh 99-350 pounds. If the sheep remains healthy, it can have a lifespan of 10-12 years.
A normal lambing event occurs without any difficulty or intervention. Difficult births are often caused because a lamb is not in the right position for birthing, entanglement in the umbilical cord, the ewe’s pelvic area is small, or her cervix has not properly dilated. Size and weight of both lamb and ewe, disease, and stress can also result in difficult births. In these cases, human intervention may be required to prevent the death of the lamb, the ewe or both.
Once the lamb has been born, the ewe begins the bonding process by licking it dry. With multiple lambs, the ewe will often clean them in the order of birth. The ewe also bonds through the sense of smell which allows her to recognize her lamb(s) by amniotic fluid, diet, and organic compounds in the wool. This bond also contributes to the ewe’s ability to recognize her own lambs by their bleat (baaa) if they wander off.
By observing the lifecycle of sheep, we can more clearly see the effects and results of sin. When we consider the creation of this world up until Adam and Eve sinned, we can appreciate the natural order of how God intended the world and those who live in it to function and live. Before sin there was only the manifestation of God’s power and love. But even today, though marred by sin, all of nature still bears witness to His invisible divine attributes—eternal power and love.
Praise God for eyes to see! May we all look forward to experiencing nature in the new heaven and new earth with our precious Lord and Saviour.
“Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Psalm 100:3
When one takes the time to enjoy the splendor, beauty, and intricate creations in nature, it is difficult to imagine that one cannot see that it is all by intelligent design. There are no “big bang theories” or “beautiful little accidents.” The Lord, our Creator and Sustainer of life, created all things to testify of His love and to supply our every need.
Sources: christiantoday.com.au/news/sheep-are-pretty-dumb; onekindplanet.org/animal/sheep; sheep101.info/lambing