When looking at the Old Testament as a whole, I find that there’s a cohesive message that many have missed (including me all of these years). To me, it helps to gel my understanding of God’s story so that I might be more passionate about doing my part in helping to make more disciples for Christ.
What I see from the beginning is that when we made the decision to go against God in the garden, that this allowed the consequences of separation from God into the world. Now, this is not in itself new territory of understanding. However, there is the telling of two stories from this point forward: the upper story, we see how God has made a plan for us to be re-unified with Him since the episode in the garden, and the lower story, where we have multiple accounts of individuals that are called to lead and to serve God in an effort to lead God’s chosen people. At the same time that we see these leaders, there is a continual theme where the masses of people actually turn away from the ways of God when there isn’t strong leadership.
It’s this lack of leadership where we see the phenomenon called ‘the herd mentality’. I see the herd mentality as an important early biblical theme that plays out all the way through the entire bible. It starts when we read about how selfishness crept into the world when Cain killed Abel, and is written about in every book of the bible going forward. Check this out! We continually read how this or that person or people worship other gods or do things which are detested in the sight of the LORD while the few or chosen leadership try and do right by God (let me emphasize two things: I say ‘chosen’ as in tapped into service, not ‘chosen’ as in special. And I say ‘try and do right by God’ because sometimes they succeed, but most of the time these special people fail, time and time again. These emphases are in and of themselves a hugely important part of God’s story!).
The herd mentality is often the whisper in the back of my brain that says, “Oh, it’s all right to be selfish and to think only of the things that concern me. It’s all right to spend time only on myself. Kill or be killed!” Isn’t this similar to what Cain must have been thinking when he offed his brother Abel? God asks Cain (by the way, knowing full well the answer) in Gen 4, “Where is your brother?”, to which Cain replies, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The herd mentality is shown when later in Exodus 32:1 it says, “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘come, let us make gods who will go before us’.” And so, a golden calf was made by man, and we’ve been making similar golden calfs ever since! The herd mentality, often manifested today by my impatience with situations, says, “hey — somewhere in my brain I know that I’ve been created to always have a leader in my life. Oh, that leader must be me and what I think is great!”
The herd mentality is shown again when in the time of the Judges, we read about the physically powerful Samson. Once he was been killed, all the people just continue forward as if they can’t operate life without a single human voice leading them. Then in Judges 21:25 we read, “In those days, Israel had no king. Everyone did as they saw fit.”
The same pattern continues when the people pray to God to give them a king. God says, “You don’t want a king” and the people say, “yes, we really do”. God says, “All right! But be prepared for the consequences!” And what we discover is that these kings, though many have a heart for God, still do evil to people and are selfish and power-hungry. God was trying to tell them all along, “Let ME be the only king you need!”
This lower story of how we as a human herd with selfish motives continues throughout the New Testament and on until the current day. The upper story of how God is planning to re-unite us with Himself through the person of Jesus is also told throughout the Old Testament through prophets. When Jesus comes on the scene, He tells us exactly how we can be re-united with God: through believing on Him.
‘Believing In’ and ‘Believing On’ may be interchangeable, but I think that ‘believing on’ might be a great way to interpret this because Jesus often tells us that He has come to carry our burdens and that we can place all of our cares on Him. Jesus came so He can carry me on his back during my earthly life. He also came so that when it comes time for me to face the Father, the Father will see only Jesus and not the herd mentality that is in my nature.
The word of God tells us, in a very straight-forward manner, that we are all of the herd mentality in Romans 3:23. “All have sinned and are far from God’s saving presence”. The apostle Paul tells us that it is only through the power of Christ that we can rise above the herd. The herd mentality tells us that ‘we’re not good enough for God, so sometimes, why bother?’ Jesus tells us that we don’t have to be good enough.
Jesus tells us that He is the shepherd of the flock. Jesus is the manager of the herd, and we only have to believe in what He says. Sure, we need to get along with the rest of the herd. But in most instances, the herd will tell you to run over the edge of the cliff with the rest of them. Err on the side of the Shepherd.
“What must we do to do the works God requires?”, they asked. Jesus answered: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent”. – John 6:27-29