A couple of evenings ago, I went outside to go check on the sheep.
I knelt down and was soon covered in face rubs and sniffs and snuffles and sheep snuggles and sheep hair. I love how my sheep just want to be around me. They often come running even when I don’t call, vocalizing their greetings all the way. (Or demands for food, whichever way. Ha!) I scratched behind their ears and rubbed their necks and talked to them. After several minutes, one by one, they slowly walked off a short distance and laid down under a couple of nearby trees. They rested quietly, contentedly chewing their cuds while occasionally looking up and blinking softly at me with those big, liquid eyes.
I lingered a few minutes longer, taking in the peaceful scene before me. Suddenly, I heard in my spirit a familiar passage from Psalm 23, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…” I caught my breath. The scriptures were coming alive right before me.
Phillip Keller has written a book entitled, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. It is a great read, and one that I especially can appreciate. In it he says, “The strange thing about sheep is that because of their very make-up it is almost impossible for them to lie down unless four requirements are met.” These four requirements, he goes on to explain, are freedom from fear, freedom from friction within the flock, freedom from torment by flies or parasites, and lastly, freedom from hunger.
As Keller points out, sheep really are defenseless creatures. Except for running away, there isn’t much else they can do to prevent being eaten or mauled by a predator. Obviously then, sheep aren’t going to lie down to rest unless they feel safe.
Also, sheep will fight. It’s hard to rest when you’re too busy fighting. Mostly they tend to fight over stupid stuff, over dominance and the simple desire to just be the top sheep. I’ve seen one sheep walk up and butt another one and force her to get up and leave just because the poor girl was sleeping in a spot that the bossy one decided she wanted to sleep in! (Seriously? You’ve got a whole pasture full of nice spots to sleep in!) I’ve seen them butt heads and start fighting for no apparent reason at all! I had a very bossy ewe, but I sold her for unrelated reasons and the dynamics of the flock changed significantly afterwards. There was so much less squabbling and head-butting!
Sheep need to feel well enough to rest. They can’t sleep if they are tortured by flies or parasites. I remembered only all too well how just a few months ago when the lambs were small we had to deal with an infestation of internal parasites. Those blasted things can kill a lamb so fast you won’t even know what happened if you aren’t constantly on your game. I hate parasites!
As far as the proverbial green pastures are concerned, the hubs and I have spent countless hours cultivating the fields carefully and fighting to eradicate them of invasive and noxious pest weeds. The grass is a beautiful deep green presently, but that didn’t happen by accident or by itself. If a sheep is hungry, she will not lie down to rest, but will constantly be searching for something to eat.
Remembering all the hard work we had done to make sure the sheep were healthy and safe made this moment feel extra special.
I know how much I love my sheep. How much more does God not then love each one of us?
“’You are My flock, the flock of my pasture; you are men, and I am your God,’ says the Lord God.”
“I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” -Psalms 4:8
“I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick…” -Ezekiel 34:16a
“I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by My own.” -John 10:14
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” -John 10:27
This last passage is so true. It’s satisfyingly amusing to watch some poor guest who wants to meet my sheep try and call to them. Ha! They won’t come anywhere near someone they don’t know, much less respond in any way to a strange voice. I have to call them myself, and then introduce them quietly. I have to assure them that this person can be trusted before they will let said person pet them or get anywhere near their babies. They place their trust in me to let someone else come that close. I don’t need to tie them to lead them either. They simply follow me. Do we know our Shepherd that well?
The difference between us and sheep I suppose is that we as people get to decide who will lead us. We can allow the Lord to protect us and heal us, if we are but willing to stay within His flock and graze within His pastures. He asks us to love one another and not fight among ourselves over stupid stuff.
To my sheep, peace is being within my presence. They can lie down and sleep because they know I will watch out for them. Peace is not the absence of predators or danger. We are not promised freedom from that. Quite the opposite in fact. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33. Peace is the Person of the Good Shepherd. To know Him and to be in His presence is to know peace and to find true rest. He invites you to lie down in His green pastures. Won’t you join His flock today?
I'm Debbie. I love listening to chickens cackle and sing. I love Lindt chocolate truffles, a good cup of coffee, and a good book.