(REFERENCE: WE’RE STILL STUDYING THE TWENTY THIRD PSALM. PLEASE READ IT THOUGHTFULLY, CAREFULLY, AND PRAYERFULLY. PERHAPS IN TRANSLATIONS BESIDE THE KJV. THAT IS OUR “POINT OF DEPARTURE.” WE’RE TRYING TO GO BENEATH THE SURFACE AND GAIN A GREATER UNDERSTANDING AND APPRECIATION FOR THE SCRIPTURE. -dk)
For some time, I’ve been considering the “shepherd song.” You know the psalmist uses an analogy and compares our Lord to our “Shepherd.” That means, of course, if He’s like our “shepherd,” then we must be like His “sheep.” David probably used that analogy because he, himself, was a shepherd. He was very familiar with the work and dedication required. And, no doubt, he was very familiar with how sheep behaved, what they needed and what they were worth. And everyone who heard him speak understood precisely the point(s) he was trying to make and “got it.”
Like you perhaps, I’d read and recited those words until I can say them from memory. But until now, I’d never asked myself why he used the terms “shepherd” and “sheep.” On closer examination, some of the reasons became crystal clear and worth contemplating.
I have no plans to become a shepherd, but I do derive some satisfaction in trying to understand why writers of Scripture chose such an analogy. That has certainly made me think. Never owned a sheep, so my knowledge isn’t first hand. Outside the twenty third psalm and some references in the New Testament, the extent of my acquaintance with sheep were in the profound poems: “Mary had a little lamb,” or “Baaa! Baaaa! Black Sheep, have you any wool?” Or once or twice being in a place I had no business being, arms on shoulders of a group of my buddies, “goodoleboys” swaying and in gross dishamony singing the “Whiffenpoof song.”
From what I’ve heard and the little I’ve seen, sheep are not by temperament the fiercest of animals. They aren’t predators. You don’t see them go out and sneak up on any other animal, stalk and attack it viciously with no provocation. Then rip its heart out or drag it down and eat it while it’s still struggling frantically to escape and fighting for what will be its last breaths. That isn’t the way sheep are built. They pretty much keep to themselves and occupy their time by being sheep. They seem to be quite content once they understand who they are. They don’t have nervous breakdowns or heart attacks usually. They don’t wind up on shrink’s couches or in psych wards or prisons. They’re sheep. And sheep are not killers. They aren’t vicious, temperamental, easily angered or upset. They don’t have nasty, ugly dispositions and aren’t sneaky or deceitful. Have you ever even heard of a “sheep in wolf’s clothing?!”
And they seem to get along pretty well among themselves. You never see them growling over food and snatching another sheep’s lunch right from under its nose. I think I like that about sheep, although I’m not ready just yet to adopt one as a pet. They don’t mistreat other sheep. They certainly don’t gossip about their peers or try to split up the flock or take over the shepherd’s job.
I’ve heard the expression “gentle as a lamb.” Have you ever heard such a comment about an alligator or a tiger? Or a rattlesnake? Of all the animals whom the Lord could have chosen and said: “My people are like that. . .” Does it cause you to pause and ponder and wonder about His reason? Is it possible that He may be trying to teach us that being kind, gentle, and patient with others is the way He’d like for us to be? Or that we could learn lessons from them about the wisdom of trusting the Heart of the Shepherd.
Or could it be, at sometimes, He’s trying to show us the value of “resting” spiritually while lying down “in green pastures” or strolling “beside still waters?” After all, it does “take time to be holy.” I believe it was an earlier Christian known to me only as “Brother Lawrence” who wrote a beautiful little devotional booklet entitled: “The Practice of the Presence of the Lord.” Practice may never make “perfect” as long as we wear a human body; but it will make it possible. And we’re told to “draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” It will take time for you to really become acquainted with anyone, and you can’t do much more or better to accomplish that than listening and learning quietly in their presence.
A PARTING NOTE: I may be unable to post anything for the next several days, so I’m going to go ahead an make some of my other notes available. I’ve received some comments at my home email address and when I try them on the site, it appears as if they’re coming from me. If you have comments or questions, I’d like for you to put them directly on the blog. . . particularly when they are discoveries you make or insights you’d like to share with others
A servant and fellow student, donkimrey