Sheep have a bad reputation, often seen as one of the dumbest animals on the planet. But a recent University of Cambridge study reveals they’re actually quite clever. The research proves that sheep can be trained to recognize human faces from photographs, and they can identify a picture of their handler without prior training. Given their relatively large brains and longevity, researchers are hoping the humble sheep can help in the study of neurodegenerative disorders like Huntington’s disease.
Scientists at Stanford University once conducted a study to measure voice recognition. During the study, twenty-four children heard three audio clips. The clips were less than one second long and contained unintelligible words. One clip was of the mother of each child, while the other two featured voices of women they didn’t know. Despite the brevity of the voice samples, the children identified their mothers’ voices 97 percent of the time!
A fretful parishioner once came to a famous preacher’s office, feeling disturbed and frightened. “Two men are following me everywhere I go,” she said. Because he was aware of the woman’s overactive imagination, the preacher said kindly, “Oh, I know exactly who these men are.” “Who?” she asked. “They are goodness and mercy,” he replied.
In the Middle East, where the Bedouin culture is alive and well, you’ll find shepherds who care for their sheep with great tenderness and watchfulness. I once observed some of these men at work, and I was amazed at their intimate care for their flocks. They protect their woolly friends from storms and predators, disease and hunger. And if one of the fluffy creatures ever goes missing, they’ll search until it’s found.
It’s devastating to be owned by another human. Slaves suffer unimaginable heartbreak and abuse because their lives are not their own. Another person tells them where they will live, what they will do, even whom they will marry. They have no say. Being owned is so harsh that even today, when we want to express the domination of one person over another, we are apt to say something like “Susan owns Tom,” meaning that he pretty much does whatever she wants.
The Bible uses many metaphors to describe people who are not believers in Jesus: Harvest fields (Matthew 9:37-38), fish caught in the net (Matthew 13:47), guests invited to a banquet (Matthew 22:10), and sheep—most often as lost sheep without a shepherd (Psalm 119:176; Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 18:12; Luke 9:36; 1 Peter 2:25).
Phillip Keller, a shepherd, is the author of…