“Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb, Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow.” In reality sheep are a little messier than those in an innocent nursery rhyme. More often than not, farming requires us to get our hands dirty and getting wool clean takes effort. Proverbs 31:13 tells us a godly woman “looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.”
This spring our happy meter went beyond delight into the euphoria zone as we cleaned ten fleeces by hand. We had wool everywhere; on the porch, in the yard, on a trailer, in our hair, on our clothes, in trunks, and under the beds! The family cat tried to eat some but gave up when the wool stuck to his rough tongue.
Our love of wool is ancient. Humans have been wearing wool since the Stone Age! Our distant ancestors recognized wool’s warmth, but I wonder if they knew it was naturally flame resistant. Fred and Wilma Flintstone could have cuddled a little closer to the campfire had they known. The US Military is one of the largest consumers of our country’s wool largely for this flame resistant classification.
In Biblical times too, wool was used in connection with military combat, but not how you might think. In one of history’s greatest battles, the scene opens in Judges 6:37 with the invasion of Israel. They have been very bad and God allowed their enemies to conquer them as a consequence. The scriptures specifically mention whenever the Israelites planted a crop, the invaders came and destroyed it. The Lord answered their cries for help by choosing Gideon to lead the revolt. He protested saying he was the least in his family and his clan was the weakest in the land. The Lord promised to be with him, but since he was already questioning God’s presence due to the destroyed crops issue, he asked for a sign. He asked God to make a fleece wet with dew but the ground all around it remain dry. The next morning he wrung a bowl full of dew out of that fleece. And then again, just to make sure, he asked for a second sign, this time for the fleece to be dry but the ground around it be soaked with dew…which indeed came to pass the next morning. An important lesson not to miss is that Gideon moved forward with God’s instructions even during his doubt. He tore down the false idols his town was guilty of worshiping (working at night because he was afraid), and he rallied several thousand troops ready to fight. Doubt didn’t paralyze him and he was faithful…as was God. Gideon ended up chasing away his enemies with a mere 300 men making a lot of noise.
Oftentimes the outcome of the battle relies on remembering God is sovereign. Also we must recognize our enemy. Jesus warns us to “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) I don’t ever mean to be irreverent but I can’t help it, I’m a product of Saturday morning cartoons and whenever I hear that verse, I imagine Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf punching the time clock and then spending the day trying to steal and protect the sheep. Ralph the Wolf would often disguise himself as a sheep and once even tried passing himself off as the Sheepdog! The reality is, we can be easily deceived unless we study to know the truth.
The children in the nursery rhyme ask “Why does the lamb love Mary so? Mary so? Mary so?”, and the teacher replies “because Mary loves the lamb you know…” In parting, let’s consider this: Perhaps the best way to not get the wool pulled over our eyes is to simply love the Lamb.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel