The Parable of the Sheep Dog

.... There once was a very great man who owned the sheep on a thousand hills (in fact, he owned the hills); and having so many flocks, he set shepherds over them. One large flock had more than 2,000 sheep and he set several shepherds over those.
.... The shepherds knew that the secret to an easy life was in keeping the flock content. They were easier to control that way. So they led them forth, fed them and always sang to them, saying: "Peace, peace, have no fear; all is peace and safety here."
.... Then one day, a wolf drew near the edge of the fold and the shepherds saw it. Suddenly it snatched away a lamb and drew it into the woods to devour it. The rest of the sheep never realized what had happened; they only thought of the wolf as another sheep and went about their business. But the shepherds knew.
.... So the shepherds reasoned among themselves, saying: "We really should try to save the lamb; but if we do, there will be a fight with a great deal of noise and the whole flock will know that something is wrong. They’ll become frightened and suddenly we’ll have 2,000 scared sheep on our hands."
.... Therefore, knowing that intervention would make their jobs more difficult, the shepherds decided to do nothing. So from time to time the wolf returned and another lamb was taken. The shepherds closed one eye and turned away while continuing their songs of peace -- whereas in reality, peril stalked the fold.
Time passed, and the master sent the shepherds a present: a sheep dog, whom he had bred for the purpose of tending sheep. The dog made the shepherds tasks easier: he cared for the sheep, found them when they went astray and licked their wounds. Everyone loved the sheep dog.
.... Then one day the wolf returned and the sheep dog saw it. His eyes sharpened as the wolf drew near and fell upon a lamb to carry it away. The dog ran quickly to the shepherds, barking furiously in beckoning them to come; but the shepherds only calmed the dog and bid him silence, for he was scaring the sheep with all of his noise.
.... Two days later, the wolf returned. Again he took a lamb, and when the sheep dog saw it he ran to the shepherds as before. Again they rebuked him and bade him silence, and the sheep dog became confused. For the master had trained him both to trust the shepherds and to protect the sheep, so he was torn.
.... Yet again the wolf returned; but this time as it approached the fold, the sheep dog drew near to it in a crouch. As the wolf stretched out its paw for the lamb, the sheep dog suddenly attacked it, nipping its flanks so that it yelped loudly with pain. A scuffle followed with loud barks and yelps as the dog chased the wolf back into the woods.
.... The sheep dog returned, scratched and panting. The lamb had been saved but a tremor of fear passed through the fold: What had just happened? And in the background, the shepherds began to scowl.
As time went by and the wolf returned, the sheep dog always fought with it. Sometimes he was able to deliver the lamb but sometimes not. And through it all, everyone’s attitude was changing:
.... The shepherds could not stop the dog because they knew he was doing the master’s work rightly. Yet they hated him because he made it harder to calm the flock, and he was making them look bad.
.... The sheep were better at ‘feeling’ than thinking, but if their feelings could be translated into words they would go like this: "We used to love the dog because he cared for us, found us when we went astray, and licked our wounds. But look at how he treats that other sheep now!" (The wolf, in sheep’s clothing). "See what a vicious dog he has become! So now we hate the sheep dog!"
.... The wolf, of course, hated the sheep dog most of all.
.... And the sheep dog himself began to feel isolated, lonely and miserable; no one loved him any more, everyone seemed to hate him though he was laying down his life for them daily. And even though he was hated for it, he knew that he still had to do his master’s bidding.
.... Then one day came the finale as the sheep dog and the wolf squared off for a final battle. Tooth and nail flashed with cutting fury, hair and hide were flying, barking and yelping filled the air. The last pretense of peace was shattered as the sheep came bleating to the shepherds in fear.
.... Also other shepherds, who were visiting from another flock, seized the shepherds by their arms and said to them, "Do you not know a wolf when you see one? When are you going to help your sheep dog?" The shepherds were greatly ashamed and ran to the place where the wolf had been cornered. They seized it and bound it, and cast it out for ever.
.... Now the other shepherds congratulated them, and the sheep crowded around them with joy. They loved their shepherds who had protected them from the wolf. The sheep dog, too, came limping back to them, cut and torn from the battle and whimpering softly. But the shepherds only looked at him with disdain.
.... "Every wound on that animal is a testimony against us, and bandages would be like flags to proclaim it. Are we supposed to help him? No, but rather, we hope he dies!" So they ignored him, and the sheep dog limped away to lick his own wounds.
.... Gradually the dog recovered strength and he tried to be useful as before, but the shepherds had effectively shut him out. They would only have him chasing sticks or even chasing his tail. When the sheep dog saw this, he tucked his tail between his legs and quietly left them.
.... But fortunately for the sheepdog, the master found him on the road and took him in, bound his wounds, and nurtured him again. And the master made a note to himself that he would soon have a word with those shepherds about all of this. But in the meantime he would find a new home for the sheepdog, where he might be appreciated.
....Hear another parable:
.... A shepherd led his sheep, gently guiding those with young as he nurtured and cared for them. But then came a wolf, and he lit into it with savage fury. The same man! It was also the same reason. Because he loves the sheep.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.


  • That parable makes no sense.

    By Anonymous Todd, at 10/21/2005 9:35 PM  

  • Hi Todd,

    To some people it won't make sense:

    "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.'
    (Matt 13:14-15)

    By Blogger loren, at 10/22/2005 1:36 AM  

  • Loren,
    An interesting augmentation of the original that takes in some personal experience, I think. If you are suffering wounds from the wolf & scorn from the sheep & undershepherds, I feel for you, or your friend, whoever it is. Someday the wolf will be gone!

    One question which I am sure you can answer: what is the scripture that mentions the sheepdogs' role? (though I know he is not called a sheepdog in scripture).

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/22/2005 10:37 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Nothing current in the parable that pertain to me, though it currently relates to some friends (and I can relate to it in historical ways.) Most of the symbolism in this parable is pretty standard stuff except the meaning of the sheep dog, so here's a little explanation about him:

    The only Scriptural reference to an actual sheep dog is in Job 30:1, just to show that they had them.

    When Gideon's army formed, those who lapped at the water like dogs were chosen by God for the task (Judges 7:5). These men were just common citizens, though God had prepared them for the battle. The meaning of the sheep dog is similar. He's not a shepherd, but in a certain sense he stands out a little bit from the sheep because he will do battle.

    Actually the role of the sheep dog, intended in this parable, is reflected in a negative application in Isaiah 56:9-11. The sheep dogs mentioned there were the actual shepherds (pastors) and they were similar to the shepherds in this parable because they neglected their duties.

    By taking those same principles and giving them a positive application, the sheep dog in this parable emerges pretty clearly:

    "All the beasts of the field, come to devour, all the beasts in the forest.
    Yet His watchmen are very keen; they are not deceived; they are like wise sheep dogs that bark when they're supposed to; they are not lazy, but attentive to their duties.
    Yes, they are brave and serve nobly for they understand the Lord's will. They look to His ways that the might serve Him, each in the flock where God has set him."

    (based on a positive application of Isaiah 56:9-11)

    So the sheep dog is not one of the professional church staff. He's more like a leading member from the congregation who assumes the thankless task of protecting the church in an hour of need because the pastors have negelected this duty.

    Of particular note, the parable shows that the sheep dog's task will be thankless. Contrary to what we might think abstractly, if the actual situation should arise, no one would appreciate him for doing it. This is based on Galatians 4:16 -

    "Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?"

    So if someone finds themself in this type of situation, they had better settle it in their hearts to serve the Lord, because there will be no accolades from men. In fact they are likely to see the opposite, so they must know the score and prepare for this.

    By Blogger loren, at 10/22/2005 12:29 PM  

  • i am not sure if iam one friend who put it there for....but goshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..this parable hit really does.,,it is a very sad one..though..and I guess the thing to remenber about it that only the master recognises the sheep dog burden and struggle..nobody esle did and could understand it.....]

    the parable is surely about the church ...I shall surely link it to my blog....

    thanks loren it was very helful...
    I read it to tears...

    By Blogger VERONIQUE, at 10/22/2005 3:00 PM  

  • Hi Veronique,

    Actually, you were on of the friends I had in mind when I decided to post this parable. But there is another friend, also.

    By Blogger loren, at 10/22/2005 9:51 PM  

  • Brother,

    You have ministered in ways you may not know. The Spirit of God speaks. You are quite an encouragement brother. I just received a hug from my Ra'ah. Abba is good. I know this will be a source of encouragement to others.
    Ecclesiastes 9:13-18

    In His grace,

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/23/2005 12:33 AM  

  • Good to hear for you Brian, I miss your blog so I'm glad when you come share on mine.

    By Blogger loren, at 10/23/2005 3:12 AM  

  • thanks really ministring to me..thismorning I was thinking abt it again...and I FOUND MYSELF SAYING TO GOD...oh lord I dont think I am brave enough to be a sheep DOG...but i REALLY FEEL THE HP trying to tell me very important...sth that ive been running away from...

    it s a hard thing to be a sheep dog,,,it s a very lonely calling...

    By Blogger VERONIQUE, at 10/23/2005 7:37 AM  

  • Loren,
    I have wanted for weeks to tell you how much this post touched me. I have been in this situation before, but thankfully God had set up a good support group of brothers, and presently we have a good under-shepherd.

    Thanks again,
    brother John

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 11/19/2005 11:10 PM  

  • Hi John,

    Thanks for the report! I posted this for two people I know, but apparently it applied to more than that. Glad to head about your new group!

    By Blogger loren, at 11/20/2005 1:05 AM  

  • Even when we lick our wounds, we must behold that only the Shepherd matters.

    He is the only one that should be exalted.

    Sorry if I ever offended you in the past in my buffoonery sometimes. Still learning how to get out of the way.

    I must say that this parable is indeed a work of the gift of encouragement and I am sure that it is to many.

    I often think of how hard it was for Yeshua to always face so much rejection. Why does the human Spirit hate him so?

    Oh Lord, have mercy on us. We know not what we do.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 2/08/2006 11:56 PM  

  • Hi Brian,

    Good to hear from you again! But what's this stuff with apologies? You're the most Christ-centered person I've found on line! And it's always a pleasure to see what you think! I'll send you an e-mail with more.

    By Blogger Cleopas, at 2/09/2006 10:39 PM  

  • Thanks brother,

    encourage me to be even more Christ centered as I admit something deceived me and got me off tract these past few weeks.

    Oh we must lift him up and get out of the way so that men be not inhibited from seeing and looking to Him for salvation.

    I am finally discovering that the closer we get to Him and behold his light we then have to struggle with what cripples us from drawing closer; It is hard to admit this, but I must learn to admit it fast and continue to behold His beauty. he has overcoming power.This is why He shines the light in our hearts.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 2/09/2006 11:35 PM  

  • This is a parable describing the ministry of a watchman. And it has greatly comforted and encouraged me. This has been my ministry experience.

    By Blogger Jamon Smith, at 8/11/2016 11:40 AM  

  • This is a parable describing the ministry of a watchman. And it has greatly comforted and encouraged me. This has been my ministry experience.

    By Blogger Jamon Smith, at 8/11/2016 11:43 AM  

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