450 Sheep Jump to Their Deaths in Turkey
ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) -- First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.
In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported. "There's nothing we can do. They're all wasted," Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd, was quoted as saying by Aksam.
The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas, located in Van province in eastern Turkey, tops $100,000, a significant amount of money in a country where average GDP per head is around $2,700.
"Every family had an average of 20 sheep,"
Aksam quoted another villager, Abdullah Hazar as saying.
"But now only a few families have sheep left. It's going to be hard for us."
Puritan Thomas Manton on Isaiah 53:6
This departing from God and his ways is fitly represented by the straying of sheep: 'All we like sheep have gone astray.'
In the general it implieth:—
1. That we are brutish in our sin and defection from God: it could not be expressed but by a comparison fetched from the beasts; we were like sheep led aside in a sensual way. Man aimed at being equal with God, and he was made beneath himself: Ps. 49:12 'Nevertheless, man being in honour, abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish.' He continued not in the honour of his creation, and in that excellency and dignity wherein God had set him; but became like a beast, governed by his senses and lower appetite. It is true of all men, they do not continue in the excellency of their being, they have lost much of the dignity of their reason, and are more led by sense, as the brute creatures are. And therefore you have the saints often complaining: Ps. 73:22, 'So foolish was I and ignorant, I was as a beast before thee.' I was as behemoth, a great beast. Sometimes they have no command of their affections, but are merely led by the unruliness of appetite or passions: so Prov. 30:2, 'I was more brutish than any man;' that is, he was no more able to gain heavenly knowledge, whereby to be wise for heaven and salvation, than brute creatures are able to wield man's reason, whereby to apply themselves to the affairs of this life. Therefore man is often compared to beasts for fierceness and cruelty, as the prophet calleth the proud oppressors cows: Amos 4:3, 'And ye shall go out of the breaches, every cow at that which is before her.' So for their rude wanton simplicity, they are compared to 'a wild ass's colt,' Job 11:12. And here to a sheep in decay of knowledge and government. In the general, then, it implieth something brutish in us, and that through the fall we have slipped beneath the excellency of our rank and being.
2. Proneness to err. No creature is more prone to wander and lose his way than a sheep without a shepherd, which is easily seduced. So are we apt to transgress the bounds whereby God hath hedged up our way: Jer. 14:10, 'Thus saith the Lord unto this people, thus have they loved to wander.' They loved to try experiments in a way of sin. Man indeed would fain transmit the fault from himself, as Adam doth obliquely upon God: 'The woman which thou gavest me to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat,' Gen. 3:12. It may not be the shepherd's fault if the sheep wander, but their own nature, their aptness to wander. When we bring ourselves into inconveniences, we are apt to murmur, and secretly to accuse God in our thoughts, as if he did not sufficiently provide for us. Solomon saith, Prov. 19:3, 'The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord.' It is our own folly, and we blame our own fate, our evil destiny, and those unlucky stars that shone at our birth; and in these things we blame God himself. The saints themselves have been guilty of this evil, fretting at God for what inconvenience comes to pass through their own sin and folly. 2 Sam. 6:8, it is said, 'David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah.' He should have been displeased with himself and his own ignorance, to order the ark to be carried upon a cart, when it should have been carried upon the priests' shoulders. Thus, as sheep, it noteth to us self-abasement, because of our own proneness we did it as sheep, and they are apt to wander.
3. Our inability to return, or to bring ourselves into the right way again. It is like a sheep, not like a swine or a dog; these creatures will find the way home again, but a sheep is irrecoverably lost without the shepherd's diligence and care: Jer, 50:6, 'My people have been lost sheep, their shepherds have caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains, they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting-place.' The farther they go the farther they will be from the flock, and in a very sad condition. It holdeth good too here; for we do not know the way back again to God. Austin saith, I could wander by myself, and could not return by myself. And God saith as much, Hosea 13:9, 'O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.' That is done in a moment which we cannot help to all eternity. Our destruction is from ourselves, but our reparation from God. The good shepherd bringeth home the lost sheep upon his shoulders, Luke 15:5.
4. It noteth our readiness to follow evil example. A sheep is animal sequax, they run one after another, and one straggler draweth away the whole flock: Eph. 2:2,3, 'Wherein in times past ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we had our conversation in times past, in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others.' There is Satan, corrupt examples, and evil inclinations, the world and the flesh, all concurring to ruin man. We easily swim with the stream and current of others' examples, and do as they do; and even so men take and do a great deal of hurt by evil examples. Thus sins are propagated, and we live by imitation; like sheep, we draw others out of the pasture together with ourselves. Sheep go by troops, and so do men follow the multitude to do evil; and what is common passeth into our practice without observance.
5. The danger of straying sheep, which when out of the pasture, are often in harm's way, and exposed to a thousand dangers: Jer. 50:6,7, 'My people have been like lost sheep; all that have found them have devoured them.' So are we in danger to be preyed upon by the roaring lion, and the dogs and wolves that are abroad. In our sinful estate we are as sheep whom no man taketh up, being out of God's protection, and so a ready prey for Satan. See how pathetically the prophet describeth the misery of Israel: Hosea 4:16, 'Now the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place.' Oh! consider what it is for a poor solitary lamb to wander through the mountains, where, it may be, some hungry lion and ravenous wolf looketh for such a prey. Even so it is with straying men, their judgment sleepeth not; it may be the next hour they will be delivered over to destruction Rom. 3:16, 'Destruction and misery is in their way, and the way of peace they have not known.'
Use 1. Is to show us the necessity of a Redeemer. All are included under a necessity of looking after a remedy; if all be sick, they must all seek to the physician or perish. And therefore it concerneth every one to see what they have done for the saving of their lost souls. 'All the world is become guilty before God,' as the apostle saith Rom. 3:19. Guilty you are, but have you sued out your discharge?' By nature you lost the glory of God, but are you changed into the image and likeness of Christ from glory to glory? You were polluted in your first birth, but are you born again of water and the Spirit? Are you saved by being washed in the laver of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he hath shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour? You are sinners by practice, but are you washed in the blood of the Lamb, and reconciled to God? You have gone astray, but is the case altered with you? 1 Peter 2:25, 'For ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the shepherd and bishop of your souls.' Do you use Christ as a mediator to seek the favour of God by him? Do you put yourselves into his hands as your Shepherd, and resign and give up yourselves to be governed by him as your bishop and overseer? As the misery involveth all, so doth the care and necessity of looking after a remedy concern all. In the first Adam we contracted guilt, and became liable to the wrath of God; in the second, we have righteousness, which is a pledge of God's favour. In the first Adam we lost the image of God; by the second, we are made partakers of the divine nature. In the first, we lost paradise; but by the second, are restored to a better paradise, heaven itself.
But let us not reflect only upon this common necessity, but our own personal necessity, what need we have to look after a Redeemer, and to get an interest in him, and that his redeeming grace may become glorious in our eyes.
1. In your natural estate you were every one of you as lost sheep, fugitives, and strangers, and enemies to him. Thy way was lost, thy God lost, thy happiness lost, thy soul lost; so it was, for Christ 'came to seek and to save that which was lost.' Then the devil was thy shepherd, then thou didst put thyself under his conduct, and God was looked upon as thy enemy. Oh, think of it; at a day old thou wert sinful, even to the death, and worthy of God's hatred: Col. 1:21, 'You were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your minds by wicked works.' And his wrath remaineth on you, till application be made of the blood of Christ upon gospel terms: John 3:36, 'He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.' These terms are repentance and turning to God. Now dost thou believe that thou wert a child of wrath by nature, a fire-brand of hell? and canst thou be secure, and desirest thou not to be freed from so great a danger?
2. In practice. How didst thou wander and depart from God throughout the whole course of thy life? The stragglings of thy youth, how canst thou look back upon them without shame and blushing? Cry out then, Ps. 25:7, 'Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me, for thy goodness' sake, O Lord.' And in thy riper years how shamefully didst thou stray from God, even since thou begannest to have more of conscience, and a greater use of reason? It were endless to trace us in all our by-paths: 'Who can understand his errors?' Ps. 19:12. In every age, in every condition, in every business, we have been wandering from God.
3. Since grace received we have had our deviations: Ps. 119:176, 'I have gone astray like a lost sheep: seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments.' Though our hearts be set to walk with God in the main, yet we are ever and anon swerving from the rule, either neglecting our duty to God, or transgressing against the holy commandment. Oh, therefore eat your passover with sour herbs, and bless the Lord for finding you out in your wanderings, and following you with the tenders of his grace in Christ.
Use 2. If the Spirit of God sets forth our natural estate by the straying or wandering of sheep, see if this disposition be still in you, yea or no. Are you not apt to go astray from God and from his ways?
1. From God. Every sin is a departing from him, but especially unbelief: Heb. 3:12, 'Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living' God.' Adam thought to find much happiness in forbidden fruit, to mend and better his condition, but was miserably disappointed. So when we do not believe God in his word, we will be trying our fortunes and taking our own swing and course. But I speak of a more general disposition. There are some whose main care it is to be getting away from God; as the prodigal went into a far country, Luke 15:11. They think to be better anywhere than at home under God's eye and presence. This appeareth by the care they take to keep God out of their thoughts: Ps. 10:4, 'God is not in all his thoughts.' A thought of God rushing into their mind is very unwelcome and unpleasant to them; they are backward and hang off from communion with God, and the duties of religion are looked upon as a melancholy interruption.
2. From the ways of God. Though they are the only ways of peace and life, and will surely make us happy in the end, yet naturally we are of a libertine and yokeless spirit. Sinners looking upon all things through the spectacles of the flesh, count them harsh and unequal, and a strict confinement: Mat. 7:14, 'Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there' be that find it.' They cannot endure God's restraint: Prov. 14:12, ' There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.' The broad and easy ways of sin are pleasing to flesh and blood, but destructive to the soul. Well, then, he that counteth the company of God or the ways of God irksome, hath this wandering disposition still remaining with him; and if it be not checked it will prove his eternal destruction. The sheep do not fare the better for going out of the pasture. We leave all good in leaving the chiefest pod; and in departing from God you turn' your back upon your own happiness; as beasts put into a good pasture will yet seek out some gap that they may range abroad.
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