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The Peril of Sheep Diseases

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Rev. Robert Wimberley

Ezek 34:11-12
11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

INTRO:  The word sheep is mentioned exactly 187 times from Genesis to Revelation.
New Ungers Bible Dictionary tells us that the term Sheep can mean several things in the Hebrew….

1. young sheep, a lamb, Heb. keseb.
2. A flock of sheep (rendered “flock,” the most frequent word thus rendered, Heb. ‘son.
3. ne of a flock, a single though sometimes used collectively (Jer 50:17), Heb. seh.
4. ny four-footed tame animal accustomed to graze, but always a sheep in the NT Grk. Probaton.

Sheep were an important part of the possessions of the ancient Hebrews and of Eastern nations generally. They were used in the sacrificial offerings, both the adult animal and the lamb, i.e., a male from one to three years old, but young lambs of the first year were used more frequently.  No lamb under eight days old was allowed to be killed .  A very young lamb was called taleh (1 Sam 7:9, “suckling lamb”;
(From The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

I came across a book several months ago which belonged to my father.  It was written by a former English Shepherd who had spent the majority of his life raising and shepherding sheep until God called him to be a pastor.  So he traded in his staff for a Bible, and his rod for a pulpit.  But he felt that it would be beneficial to write about the first hand experiences he had as a shepherd, since so many of those experiences apply today to the spiritual flock of the Lord.


The author, Phillip Keller told of 4 personalities that were most common in every sheepfold he ever tended.  Each of these have an application, the first of which is….

Solitary Sheep

This sheep constantly strays from the flock, and it does not eat with the flock.  He is the loner of the flock.  The shepherd may not notice his straying unless he identifies the sheep each time it strays.  In spiritual analogy this type of sheep has some real inward problems that he may not be willing to admit.  The solitary sheep might feel the other sheep are too mature or immature for his fellowship. All of these attitudes are unhealthy and are more the reason why this sheep needs the attention of the Shepherd.

Fear of exposure is common among solitary sheep.  They have a fear that secret sin may be revealed by God to the Shepherd.  On the other hand, some solitary sheep are merely looking for attention.  They separate themselves so that there separation will be noticed.  Such attention seekers need immediate help.

Hermit Sheep

Though similar to the Solitary sheep in some ways, the hermit sheep avoids the flock for different reasons.  They hermit sheep stays away form the flock to avoid being sheared or clipped by the Shepherd.  It has an odd way of knowing when shearing time is approaching.  It will do anything to avoid the clipping process. This sheep will purposely not participate in the activities of the other sheep because it like its solitary counterpart is trying to make a statement to the flock and to the Shepherd.

  Uncut Wool–  The shepherd must continuously watch for the hermit sheep so it cannot hide.  The uncut wool of the hermit sheep will eventually grow long enough to cover his eyes and blind him so he cannot see the path that he is heading down.  Such a condition is dangerous; predators, thickets, and pits are just a few of the dangers he can no longer avoid because of his isolation and refusal of clipping.  His unclipped wool becomes heavy enough to slow him down, making him fall behind the flock and become prey.  When the flock is moving to better pasture, the Hermit sheep are left behind so that they do not influence the other sheep.

Spiritual Application – The hermit sheep is so obvious, it is a type of saint who has decided to be un-unified with the rest of the church, and refuses to take correction and advice from the Pastor.  This saint is blind, as the hermit sheep is and cannot see that path of dangers that lie ahead.  This saint will be left behind as the church moves forward.

Wandering Sheep

The Wandering sheep is the most dangerous of them all.  To the wandering sheep, the grass is always greener somewhere else, so he’s always looking for a way out of the sheepfold or pasture.  He spends all of his time looking for escape, and he usually finds and opening in the fence, a hole in the ground, or a gate left open, to flee.  The wandering sheep never settles down to enjoy the present pasture, and he breeds discontent among the other sheep as well.  Because of his bad influence and example, he especially affects the young of the flock.  Generally the offspring of a wandering sheep will take the example of its parents and never settle down under the authority of a Shepherd.

Cast Sheep

Now the final classification of sheep is found to have first been solitary, hermit, then wandering.  It is an old term in shepherding called “Cast Sheep” or “Cast Down” sheep
A cast sheep is a very pathetic sight.  Lying on its back, its feet in the air, it flays away frantically struggling to stand up, without success.  Sometimes it will bleat a little for help, but generally it lies there lashing about in frightened frustration.  If the shepherd does not arrive on the scene within a reasonably short time, the sheep will die.  This is but another reason why a shepherd must look over his flock everyday.  To make sure that every sheep is on it’s feet.  If one or two are missing, the first thought that flashes thru the mind of the shepherd is …”one of my sheep is cast somewhere…I must go put it back on it’s feet again”

  The Process – The way it happens is this…  A heavy, fat, or long fleeced sheep will lie down comfortably in some little hollow or depression in the ground.  It may roll on its side slightly to stretch out or relax.  Suddenly the center of gravity in the body shifts so that it turns on its back far enough that the feet no longer touch the ground.  It may at first feel a sense of panic and then start to paw frantically.  Frequently this only makes thing worse, for it rolls over even further, making it impossible for it to get back on its feet alone.   As it lies there struggling, gasses begin to build up in the body.  As these expand they tend to retard and cut off blood circulation to the extremities of the rest of the body, especially the legs.  If the weather is hot, the cast sheep will die in just a few short hours. If the cast sheep is an ewe it will die and kill its offspring as well.

  The Shepherd – The shepherd must tenderly roll the sheep over on its side.  This relieves the pressure of the gases.  Then straddling the sheep he will hold her up and begin rubbing the circulation back into her limbs.  It took quite some time before the sheep could walk again.  It would teeter, stumble, stagger and fall. The Shepherd would pick it up again and help it return to normalcy.

4 Major Cast Sheep Diseases

White Muscle disease – Lack of proper vitamins in diet because it was not eating with the rest of the flock

Twin Lamb Disease – Low blood pressure due to stress causes ill births

Foot Rot Disease – Too much time in one place never moving on with the flock.  Staying in stagnate places cause the sheep to not be quick and alert.  It threatens the mobility of the sheep

Parasitic Disease – Parasites attach themselves to the thick uncut hair, and work their way inward into the sheep’s body.

Sound familiar?  Jesus said, “If you love me, feed my sheep.”  He understood that the People of God are much like sheep.  They need a shepherd.  Do you love him?  Feed His sheep.  Do you love him?  Tend to the flock.  Do you love him?  Mend their wounds and heal their diseases.