I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.Matthew 10:16
I love this verse. I love it for many, many reasons. It is actually one of my favorites, truth be told. I love it for the sheep, wolves, snakes, and doves. When the Bible speaks of animals, I find myself looking at the nature and characteristics of those animals.
When I look at a sheep, I see a passive and frightened or skittish animal. Honestly, when I first came to Christ I never liked the picture of being Christ’s sheep. I didn’t want to be something so helpless. But learning from David in the Bible, who was a shepherd, I learned how wrong I was. Because, see, we are sheep. We are obedient followers that will follow the one who will lead us in the right places and in the right ways.
Now, when you think of “wolf” what do you think? For me, I think of packs, hunting, fangs, and inquiring eyes. I think of intelligence. They follow their prey over long distances. They do that to seek out the perfect opportunity to attack. They’re patient, much like the enemy. And they will enjoy a good sheep.
Snakes are shrewd. To be shrewd means to be marked by clever discerning awareness and hardheaded keenness. You can see it in their behavior and features. Their unblinking, lidless eyes, watching. Their slow casual manner. Their stealthy nature. They are quiet. They may look weak, but are quite strong. Did you know Jesus was very cunning? Here are some examples: Matthew 5:17-19, Matthew 22:15-22, Matthew 21:23-27, and John 4:10-18. Also, read “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldridge, it’s a good read. Chapter 9 touches on Jesus’ cunning personality.
Then you look at the dove. Doves are innocent. When you see one, don’t you think of peace, love, harmony, and purity? I have always thought of a messenger too. Like, seeing a dove as a messenger from God. Also, doves have a homing instinct. I’m sure if you have ever seen one flying, it’s just on it’s way home.
Doesn’t all these animals and characteristics make Matthew 10:16 more amazing?!
“I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves.” I read that and I imagine God saying, “Follow me, because I’m with you and will lead you in the right places, and in the right ways. But you need to trust me, because though I’ll protect you, the enemy is watching, waiting for an opportune time to attack you.” I picture a sheep (me) following my shepherd (God) with a pack of wolves (the enemy) tailing us.
“Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” This, I picture, the sheep not being so frightened or skittish. I imagine God saying, “keep an eye out. Be awake, alert. Because you have me, you are stronger than you think. These wolves aren’t anything to you if you stay one step ahead of them. Don’t panic, strike back when they get close. But don’t stop moving forward. Spread my Word, be peace makers, love your neighbor. I’ve washed you clean as snow. You, my son/daughter are pure. I’ve made a home for you. So come, but shine my light along the way.”
Anyway, yeah. That’s how I see Matthew 10:16. We’re obedient like sheep. The enemy waits to strike, like wolves. So we have to be on alert, striking with our cunning when need be like snakes. But shining God’s light all the same like a dove. All the way until we are right at home with Christ.