One of my ewes “escaped” last week (a ewe is a female sheep). She didn’t actually set out to run away, she was just following her nose in search of fresh green things to eat. Since there are several other sheep in the pasture, competition for anything fresh is pretty fierce, so when she spotted something tasty just outside the fence, she stuck her head between the wires for a snack. Unfortunately for me, what she was trying to reach was where two fence panels meet, and as she pushed, they parted and she was able to squeeze through. “Freedom!” She was free to gorge to her heart s content in the deep grass of my neighbor s back pasture! When she heard the rattle of the feed bucket, however, she decided it was time to come home. Unable to find her “escape” hole, she paced up and down the back fence, bleating continuously as the rest of the sheep ate. When I walked around the outside of the pasture to lead her “home,” however, she took off into the brush, only to return every time I stepped away from the fence. When I herded her into a wire enclosure, she jumped the fence rather than be “trapped.” After several hours of alternately trying to lure her back or capture her, I finally gave up; if the coyotes caught her, well, “Bon appetit!” (After several days, I was able to lure her back under the fence, and she is once again safely penned with her flock.)
How like that silly ewe many people are! For want of a little something green, they put their lives at risk. When the “shepherd” tries to bring them back to safety, they flee farther into the “wilderness of sin.” They want both the “freedom” to roam at will and the security of a regular meal; no wonder Isaiah compares us to sheep (Isaiah 53:6). Like sheep, they are certain that the grass is always greener on the other side of God s “fence,” and so they constantly seek ways through it. John wrote in 1 John 3:4 that,
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
The expression “transgresseth … the law” expresses the idea of crossing over a boundary. John goes on to indicate that the very definition of sin is “violating God s boundary,” or (in other words) escaping the fence God made for us. Outside His “fence” are the seasonal pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25); inside is safety (Hebrews 11:7). Outside is danger, inside is security. Outside is isolation and want, inside is companionship and plenty (Matthew 25:1-12). Still, multitudes cry “don t fence me in!” We want “No restrictions!”No limits!”No boundaries!” and we want this with “No consequences!” as well, but we can t have one without the other. This is not a new problem; Jesus lamented over the stony-hearted city of Jerusalem,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).
The fact of the matter is that God s “fence” exists for our benefit. When we live within the boundary He prescribes, we have safety, security, sustenance, society, and certainty; therefore, “Fence me in, Lord, fence me in! Shut the gate and never let me out again!”
“Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.” (Leviticus 25:18)