Animals are used to depict certain aspects of human behaviour or characteristics. Such metaphors are easily understood. Psalm 22 is a brilliant illustration of this. It is a prophetic insight written a thousand years before the crucifixion of Christ. The psalmist used such animals as, bulls, lion, dogs and wild oxen. You can see their human counterparts around the cross in the Gospels.
Jesus used animal terms on a number of occasions. Two of them I want to emphasise , they are Wolves and Sheep. We understand that because Jesus is the Good Shepherd the sheep are His people. Matthew 7:15 ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.’ Jesus, in His great message about the events preceding His return, highlighted the fact of false prophets proliferating. Matthew 24:24.
It seems to me that we are living in their ‘breeding and marauding season.’ The Church is being mauled by the Devil’s brood. Sadly, the non-churched community think these ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ are part of the ‘sheep’ community. This results in people cursing the Church and rejecting Christ because of the evil actions of the false prophets. There are seven species of wolves and they roam in specific areas. There’s the gray wolf and the artic, the red wolf and Himalayan, an India one plus an Ethiopian and Eastern breed. Within our Church and Society scene it is a good reminder to be on ‘red alert’ for their human counterparts.
Within the pages of the Bible the term wolves is applied to men in official positions (Ezekiel 22:27) intent on dishonest gain. Zephaniah 3:3 applies it to Judges who use their position for personal gain and revenge. It is an amazing fact that so many of the wolves in religious sheep covering strut the world’s stage. Television and the internet make them sound so plausible and personable as they promise much whilst stripping your soul and bank balance.
In an article on wolves was the following quote: ‘The majority of victims of predatory wolf attacks are children under age of 18 and, in the rare cases where adults are killed, the victims are almost always women.’ As I read the New Testament I find something very similar. The writers of the New Testament letters give strong warnings about this danger. Paul warned the Ephesian Elders that such predatory wolves were prowling even as he was talking. His warning was their call to be on guard and not be a mere hireling who runs away from protecting the flock. (John 10:12). I’m left with the impression that the majority of these mangy mongrels are males (I wouldn’t call them men).
How is this being played out today? Child abuse in Church run institutions and parish churches are under the spotlight. The predators in cleric garb have ripped out the faith and innocence of children many of whom are wrecks of what they were meant to be. Those who knew and did nothing are mere hirelings, not shepherds. Christ Jesus speaks of a greater judgement which will fall upon such wolves (and I think it will fall on those who neglected their shepherd’s calling). I believe Christ holds such victims in a special section of His heart and affections. May they discover it, though they have to struggle through a lot of emotional and spiritual rubble!
What then is our best defence in dealing with these spiritual and moral predators? How are we able to develop an inner alarm system which gives out warning vibrations? Paul’s words to the Elders in Acts 20:32 is a good commencement place. ‘I commend you to God and to the message of His grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.’ His words to Timothy also undergird the importance of knowing Biblical teaching. ‘Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching, continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.’ (1 Timothy 24:16)
The strange thing about Christ Jesus as the Shepherd is His command to His sheep. ‘I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them…’ Matthew 10:16-42. We are not to be cowered by the wolves but to take the message of transforming grace to the society in which they prowl. Jesus says it is nerve-wracking and dangerous but that the wolves are actually afraid of sheep with a message of the cross. He also promised personal recognition and reward for His people rising up to the challenge.