Sheep, Ravens, and Donkeys
I had just returned from a trip overseas visiting the gorgeous countryside of Scotland and England. Those lush green meadows were the home of many sheep. As far as my eyes could see, sheep dotted the hills all the way to the horizon. I loved watching the shepherd on horseback, riding among the sheep, counting the numbers, and making sure all were well. Imagine my surprise to this ideal setting when the headlines in a magazine stated, “Outbreak of Ravens Attacking Sheep.”
Ravens? The article said that for years there was a ban on shooting these birds, so the bird population had grown immensely. I always heard about wolves, coyotes, and wild dogs attacking these innocent animals, but ravens? These “birds of the air” did tremendous damage. They plucked out the eyes of the sheep, so the sheep couldn’t follow their shepherd and would eventually die. The farmers were petitioning to use firearms to kill and destroy the ravens, to no avail. Once protected, these animals had permission to reside and multiply.
Driving and looking at the serenity of the landscape, I would never have known about these birds had I not read the article. I asked my friend who raises sheep and she agreed about the problem. These birds, if given a chance, are sneaky and will show up unexpectedly. My friend often scanned the trees and the air to see if the birds were around.
I decided to find out what could be done about the ravens. If you could not shoot them or poison them, how will the sheep not be targets? I went to the trusty internet and asked that question. To my utter surprise, I found the answer was guard donkeys. I had heard of guard dogs, but donkeys? The farmers discovered that if they placed a trained guard donkey in the field with a herd of sheep, it will bond with them and learn to protect. The donkey will bray over and over and not stop until the danger is gone. The braying annoys the ears of the predators and they flee. If it is a “ground- footed” enemy, which won’t leave but continues to approach, the donkey will rear up and kill the animal by stomping or kicking it. Usually it only takes the annoying sound of the braying donkey for the danger to flee.
This whole scenario is a spiritual picture for us. Scripture defines the “birds of the air” as demons that come to kill, steal, and destroy. When I think of those black birds and picture them swarming, chills run down my arms. The birds circle and circle, looking for an opportunity until just the right unprotected moment. They swoop in and blind us sheep.
Rejection, insecurity, unresolved relationships, worthlessness, depression, fear, criticism, and confusion can blind us to the Truth. In Scripture, the eye is a symbol of a person’s ability to receive the light of God. The eye reveals our spiritual condition and understanding of God. “Only take care and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen and lest they depart from you” (Deuteronomy 4:9. ESV). We must be careful not to let the “birds of the air” blind us so that we cannot see the Gospel clearly.
Even the donkey has a spiritual significance in thwarting off predators. In Numbers 22: 22-35, we read about Balaam riding on his donkey. The donkey abruptly stops and lies down, only to be beaten three times by Balaam. The donkey receives the ability to speak and explains its loyalty to Balaam. Then the Angel of the Lord appears and tells Balaam he would have died had it not been for the donkey. Again, we see the donkey as the protector. Jesus also rode a donkey into Jerusalem to meet His enemies. I wonder if the donkey brayed loudly as it carried Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem and warned them the King of Kings was coming.
Let’s bow and pray:
Lord, we live in a world where we have free will. So many times, we allow the predator of our lives to pluck at our eyes until we are blinded to the Truth. I ask that You show me the blindness that I have allowed in my life. I ask forgiveness as you reveal those areas to me. You are a faithful Lord even when I am faithless. Your desire for me is to walk with clear sight in my Christian walk. Thank you for answering my prayer when I ask. Amen.