In the sports pages, the acronym G.O.A.T. stands for the Greatest Of All Time. In the Bible, however, it may stand for the Grimmest Of All Time.
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. – Matthew 25:31-33 NET Bible ®
The sheep represent people of faith while the goats are the emblem of those who have rejected Jesus. But why pick on the goats?
I know as much about goat husbandry, as a sumo wrestler at a quilting bee. But I can research, and this is what I have learned.
Goats look like sheep: Throughout the ages, these ruminants have looked ridiculously alike. The primary way to distinguish them is by their tails. A goat’s tail goes up – the sheep’s – down. Then there is the issue of odor. The goats reek!
In order to maximize manpower, both were typically herded together, until time to shear the sheep (I guess there was a goat tail checker on the payroll)
So maybe the Lord wants us to know that you can’t always tell a Christian apart from one who is not. I know professing sheep that smell more like goats, and some moral goats that act better than sheep. On the day Jesus separates them, however, it will be based on their relationship to Him.
Goats look for trouble. Quotes from a livestock forum: “If you leave goats in with your horse, they may chew off his tail.” “My dad has described goats as ‘Jack Russells with hooves.’”
Male goats headbutt sheep, people and anything else that moves – including pickup trucks. (and you thought sheep were dumb)
The Lord has issues with those who abuse others. In fact, His indictment of the goats in Matt 25 was based on the insensitive way the goats treated His sheep. Hmm. That snide remark to my wife was a little goatee like.
Goats are destructive: Sheep enjoy grass and are content to leave some for later. Goats will gnaw it to the ground, which destroys the pasture.
They also shinny up trees to feast on the leaves and twigs. Their habits have earned them the title of “worst land destroyers in history.” Whole herds have been known to wander off and create a feral race of goats that decimate the environment. Sounds like a sci fi sequel – “Planet of the Goats.”
Whereas goodness and mercy are said to follow the sheep, wanton destruction follows goats.
Paul wrote to us saying, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11. In other words, we sheep should leave people better off for having spent time with us.
Goats are independent. Goats were the first to social distance. When grazing, they tend to spread out, rather than feed side by side as do sheep.
Goats tend to do their own thing. Check out the picture! I sat down at a petting zoo and ended up with a goat sitting on top of me.
Sheep will follow their shepherd, but the goatherd vainly tries to keep up with the goats. One herder says that sometimes you need to take the alpha goat by the horns or collar and force compliance to get the others to follow.
As for a fence, a goat can dig under it or climb over it – and they will. It’s been said, “If your fence won’t hold water, it won’t hold a goat.” A shepherd carries a staff which he uses to defend sheep and to discipline the goats.
When there is danger, sheep run to the shepherd. With the other guys its every goat for himself. They scatter.
A goat will not follow the Savior – and this is probably the trait that makes them a most fitting emblem of unbelief. Jesus, the Shepherd, put it this way in Mark 8:34-35, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and because of the gospel will save it.”
It is likely impossible for a bearded billy goat to deny himself and get behind and follow the shepherd. Not so impossible for us. May we be goaded by the goats to gladly follow the Good Shepherd.
All Scripture references are from the NETBible ®