If you were to be called an “old goat” by someone, would you take that as a compliment or an insult? While I can’t think of a circumstance where it would be complimentary, this is especially true from a Biblical standpoint! If there is one animal in God’s great and glorious creation that we don’t want to be compared to, especially in the Day of Judgment, it is a goat. It must be admitted that there are some good things that can be said about the goat as an animal. Did you know that globally, for example, more people drink goats’ milk than any other type of dairy product? Throughout the world goats play an important role in some people’s diet and economy. However, the Lord chose to use goats as a representation of those who are lost.
When Jesus comes again to judge the world in righteousness, there is a great separation that will take place at that time: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matt. 25:31-33). This is serious business because those on the left hand (the goats) will be condemned to a place of “everlasting fire” (verse 41), while those on the right hand (the sheep) will receive “life eternal” (verse 46). The implication is that we make the choice in life to either follow Christ or refuse His invitation to discipleship. After all, Jesus gave the following explanation: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Spiritually speaking, here is the basic difference between sheep and goats– the sheep follow the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11), while the goats go their own rebellious way.
It is a beautiful analogy that Christ used in comparing His followers to sheep, pointing us to certain traits that help us to understand what true discipleship is. But why are the lost compared to goats? Surely the Lord wants us to understand that we must not possess the same characteristics that make this animal a perfect representation of lost souls. First, the goat is a stubborn creature that will butt heads with just about anything . . . a gate, the side of a car, a bull, and even with humans. Since this is what they love to do best, goats sometimes stand on their hind legs and then come down with great force to butt each other. Do you know why they don’t knock each other out? It’s because they are hardheaded, so much so that they’d rather butt heads than anything else.
This is a perfect description of man’s rebellion against God. Please observe how Jeremiah described it in his day: “O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return” (Jer.5:3). Sin always involves defiance of God’s authority (1 John 3:4). Therefore, when we refuse to repent or in some cases won’t even admit that we have sinned (Rom. 3:23), we are taking our stand with the “goats.” Frederick II, an 18th century king of Prussia, once went on an inspection tour of a Berlin prison where all the inmates protested their unjust imprisonment. No matter the crime they were charged with, everyone declared, “I am innocent. I didn’t do it!” But the king finally asked of a man who was standing in the corner, “Why are you here?” The reply was, “Armed robbery, your Majesty.” The royal visitor probed a little deeper, “Were you guilty?” The prisoner admitted, “Yes, indeed, your Majesty.” Frederick II then turned to the guards and commanded, “Release this man at once! I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all of these fine, innocent people who occupy it.”
Surely the King of kings has the right to demand that we humble ourselves before Him, as we seek the forgiveness of sins by the terms of His gospel (Rom. 1:16). Spiritually speaking, here is the difference between the sheep and the goats! The sheep look to the “Good Shepherd” for guidance, while the goats feel self-sufficient. As Jesus declared in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” This statement implies that if one does not have a strong desire for salvation, he will never see the need to enter into Christ’s “sheepfold” (John 10:1).
It could be argued, I suppose, that the goat is a more capable animal than the sheep. In fact, goats are probably the most independent of all grazing, foraging livestock. The problem is that they are so independent that it is difficult to keep them within enclosures. That’s the reason why they will keep you busy repairing fences, breaking out at all hours of the day and night and going where they’re not supposed to. Please read how one young man described his experience with this animal: “Ok . . . It all started when I got my summer job as a corral assistant at a summer camp. I got to take care of animals, chickens, ducks, cats, rabbits, a miniature horse, and twenty goats. Now, goats aren’t the easiest creatures on earth to control, and with twenty of them, they can destroy pretty much anything they put their mind to. Well, one day one of the ‘head’ goats broke the fence in the back of the corral that conveniently looks over a five-foot cliff, which goes out to a four-foot ledge that extends to a twenty-foot drop down to the beach. Well, it lead six other goats off the cliff with it, down onto the ledge. So, my friend had to crawl down unto the ledge and literally throw the goats up to me.” What a harrowing experience that must have been!
While sheep may be helpless creatures that sometimes get randomly lost, they do not deliberately run away from the shepherd. An escaped goat, however, will stare at you while you talk softly to it, then it will turn its head side to side and run like crazy in the opposite direction. No wonder the Lord had a preference for sheep! Spiritually speaking, we must be like sheep who realize their need for the shepherd’s care and are like submissive children (John 10:2-4). Do we see the need to “abide in Christ” (John 15:4) or do we feel the need to strike out on our own and declare our independence? Are we like those who don’t abide in the “doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9) or are we doing our best to “keep the ordinances” as delivered by inspired men (1 Cor. 11:2). We need to respect the boundaries of God’s word and “learn not to go beyond the things which are written” (1 Cor. 4:6/ASV).
AT THE WRONG THINGS
Goats will eat just about anything! Sometimes people will put a goat in the yard, hoping that it will eat the weeds or keep the grass down, but that often turns out to be a mistake. If the animal gets loose, it will become a disaster area, as it goes about eating flowers, shrubs, small trees, etc. It might even gnaw on the siding of the house. It just isn’t too particular about what it eats.
This is a major difference between Christ’s sheep and the goats. We feed in His pasture and listen to His voice (John 10:27). We desire the milk of God’s word that we might grow thereby (1 Pet. 2:2). While goats aren’t happy with “sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3) and feed their souls on just about anything the world has to offer, we hear His voice and we follow Him. After all, nothing else is satisfying to our souls! Remember the warning of the Good Shepherd: “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24).
Article by: Billy Dickinson