“I have concluded based on my years of experience that sheep are stupid. Not just stupid but mind-numbingly stupid— sometimes I wonder how they manage to breath and eat.” Glenn Brunkow, Rancher¹
I’m re-reading a fascinating book by Phillip Keller called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.² Keller was a shepherd for years and relates many things about sheep that most people don’t know.
The book is eye-opening and provides a deeper understanding of our relationship with the Lord, the Great Shepherd. It’s no accident he calls us His sheep!
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” Psalm 23 KJV
The shepherd watches over his sheep day and night. They cannot take care of themselves and they get into all kinds of trouble. They will drink polluted water, wander off and be attacked by a wild animals, get stuck in the same fence repeatedly, etc.
“He who watches over you will not slumber;” Psalm 121:3
Sheep are fearful, timid, and skittish. A rabbit hopping by suddenly can send them into a panic. But they calm down when the shepherd walks into view and they are comforted. So many times in my life, when I was in a panic, the Lord has comforted me and calmed my fears. That’s when I wonder how people who don’t know Him get through tough times.
We do “not want” because Jesus is always with us, in good times and in bad. Our joy and peace comes from His presence in our life, not in what we have or the way life goes. We are content to be led by Him, doing His will.
One thing I found interesting is the fact that like humans, some sheep refuse to follow the shepherd and instead do their own thing. (Ouch!)
This can result in lots of serious problems for the sheep, problems they would have never experienced – if only they had followed the shepherd. (I think this parallel is pretty obvious!)
Keller tells how he would lead his sheep to a clean, clear stream and a stubborn ewe would go off and drink from a polluted, parasite-infested puddle instead. Isn’t that what some people do? We choose the unclean ways of the world instead of the ways of God.
“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. By this he meant the Spirit,” John 7:37-38 NIV
A good shepherd provides good forage for the sheep, lush green vegetation, so that the sheep can have plenty to eat, grow, and thrive. However, some sheep will wander off and eat from barren, dry brush instead. Many times, we prefer to feed on the barren ground of the world around us instead of the peace and comfort that comes from dwelling in His Word and His presence.
The final parallel I want to share is the most extraordinary. Sheep must have plenty of pure clean water. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to lead them to a lush green field heavy with morning dew.
The sheep can keep fit and hydrated for months just by grazing right before dawn when the field is heavy with dew. The sheep feed heavily and are most content at this time of day. A good shepherd will make sure his sheep have this opportunity to drink in the “still waters” of dew.
“In the Christian life it is of more than passing significance to observe that those who are often the most serene, most confident and able to cope with life’s complexities are those who rise early each day to feed on God’s Word.” (Keller)
These are just a few of the many insights from A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller.
I don’t know about you, but it gives me great comfort to know that I don’t have to be smart to thrive. I need only to follow Jesus, the Great Shepherd.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 NIV
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11 NIV
“If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14 NIV
This is My Journey Unscripted.
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²ISBN 0-310-26790-0 available on Amazon