I know out there, not so much here on our forum, but in a lot of the traditional pastoral system, pastors still refer to the people in terms such as the “laity” (which comes from “laos”, I believe, and it does mean people) but what really bothers me is when I hear them refer to their people as “dumb sheep!” And then use the natural example, that sheep really are dumb! You know, you have to tell sheep what to do, you have to treat them spiritually like they don’t know anything..(And, sheep, when isolated, will definitely wander off, which is why they need shepherds). A thought, maybe if we equipped them and prepared them, they would know who they are, and what they are to do! (And, I don’t actually know any pastors personally that we work with who use that terminology, praise God! )
The LORD upbraided and chided the shepherds in Israel in Jeremiah 23:1-4 and Jer. 50:6,7:
Jer. 23:1-4- “Woe to the Shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings, says the Lord. “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. “I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the LORD.
Jer. 50:6,7- “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place. All who found them have devoured them; And their adversaries said, ‘We have not offended, Because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice, The LORD, the hope of their fathers.’
But Peter, the apostle, says in I. Pe. 2:25- “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.” This passage comes from Isa. 53:6 and through verse 8 is, of course, referring to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who bore our sins on the cross: “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation?”
In John 10, Jesus uses the great illustration of the “Shepherd, sheep, and the sheepfold!” John 10:1-5;14-16- “Most assuredly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. “But he who enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. “Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers…” vs.14-16- Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”
That doesn’t sound like “dumb sheep” to me! I like the term that is most used in the epistles, especially by Paul the apostle, describing the people of God, after being described in the gospels and the book of Acts, as believers, disciples, etc. and that is… SAINTS….. (set apart, holy ones) So, the great Shepherd of the sheep is the Lord Jesus Christ, and all His sheep should hear His voice, and follow Him… If they are truly following Him, then they will follow the shepherds who are also hearing the voice of their Father… What should be the development of the SAINTS in the Lord… Gal. 4:6,7- And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a servant (slave) but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ… Just some midnight musings… God bless… JB