Down Nature's Paths

 

The Sheep and the Goats

WE HAVE considered together the bird symbol Jesus used for humanity—sparrows. We have also considered the animal symbol for our race—sheep. We have found with each that Jesus chose the symbol because the bird or the animal needed His love, not that it deserved His love.

After sparrows and sheep, there is a third nature symbol used for humanity in the Bible—goats. This symbol is used in association with sheep, but in contrast to sheep. The sheep and the goats are together, but God separates them. "Jacob have I loved," He once said, "but Esau have I hated."

We wouldn't have supposed it would have been that way. We would have loved the goats—and Esau. Goats have many superior qualities. They are superior in intelligence. "Silly sheep" is a deserved epithet. A wise herder, in wolf country, is said to run a few goats with his sheep; because when the killers appear, the goats will bunch, the sheep will follow their example and crowd around them, and the wolves do not succeed in scattering the sheep and cutting them down one by one.

As far as this world is concerned, Esau was a far more admirable person than Jacob. He had dash, virility, adventuresomeness, manliness—give him the open field, a fiery mount, a band of kindred spirits to ride behind him, and he'd show a thing or two to that sissified sneak hanging around his mother's kitchen. Anybody with half an eye could see that Esau had far more of the qualities of leadership than Jacob did. And it was a pretty raw deal that life handed out to Esau, so he and his friends thought.

The difference was that God saw him, not with the half eye of human admiration, but with the divine Eye of inward comprehension. Why was it God loved Jacob and turned away from Esau? It was entirely because Jacob needed and wanted God's love. Esau needed it, too, but he wanted it not-till after he had profanely thrown it away. So the silly, helpless sheep need the shepherd's loving care, and they return love for love.

God loved Jacob and Jacob loved God. God loved Esau and Esau loved Esau. So God withdrew His love from Esau; and He said to the goats on His left hand, "Depart!"