“In the course of time I came to realize that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field.” (Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23)
Only the presence of a Good Shepherd can meet the Four Requirements to MAKE a Sheep Lie Down. Here’s number one:
Owing to their timidity, sheep refuse to lie down unless they are free from all fear.
Phillip Keller shares stories of stampeding sheep fearing legitimate threats such as cougars, bears, stray dogs and coyotes. But, in other instances, all it took was a jackrabbit suddenly bounding from behind a bush, or a Pekingese dog jumping out from a car door to cause a whole herd to bolt in blind fear.
On the dairy, I have my own stories of nighttime encounters with cougars and bears passing nearby that send a herd of resting, ruminating cows into full stampede into the cowshed. I find it fascinating that my co-worker, Bill, can “smell” a bear. I can’t discern the threat so specifically, though my lantern sometimes catches the flash of eyes in the dark. Bill’s always right. The next morning, tracks or scat confirm his olfactory bear sniffing skills. Equally upsetting to cows is the arrival of the professional hoof-trimmer setting up his equipment to perform bovine pedicures.
It’s no surprise you and I have fears too. Both legitimate fears and silly anxieties that prevent us from lying down, prevent us from finding rest. Life brings uncertainties. Life delivers realities of harsh, painful circumstances, replete with suffering and loss. We formulate strategies of bolting or tactics of retreat.
Let’s take A Deep Breath of Remember as we hear Phillip Keller:
“Then, in the midst of our misfortunes, there suddenly comes the awareness that He, the Christ, the Good Shepherd is there. It makes all the difference.”
Or how about these words from the shepherd lad, David, protector of the flock, killer of both lion and bear:
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)
He makes me lie down… (Psalm 23:2, NIV)
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8, NIV)
Prayer: Thank you Holy Spirit as you come quietly to reassure us that Christ Himself, our Good Shepherd is aware of our dilemma and deeply involved with us. Amen.
Photo Credit: Lambs at Rest, courtesy of the National Trust – East of England.
2 thoughts on “Good Shepherd, MAKE me Lie Down. I’m Afraid.”
“In the course of time I came to realize that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field.”
I don’t have any experience in raising livestock, but I propose an addition to the quote from Phillip Keller: Not only is it the presence of the shepherd among the sheep that quiets and reassures them, but also hearing his voice and feeling his hand.
My wife has three cats – two of them go out at night and patrol the neighborhood and take care of cat-business (whatever that is…). When I get home from work at 3, 4, or 6 in the morning, there they are, waiting to be let in. But, the curious thing is, no matter how lovey-dovey, curl-up-and-purr-in-your-lap they were 12 hours ago, after they’ve been out all night, they come back acting skittish – as if they started reverting back to being part wild.
That is, until… they hear my voice calling their names, “Hi Joe… Hi Rowdy…” (named for Little Joe from Bonanza, and Rowdy from Rawhide). Until then, they know they’re waiting at the right house, at the right time, the right car (or bicycle) pulls into the drive, and the right size, movement, and smell of person gets out. Sometimes, as an experiment, I go through the normal routine and unlock the front door and hold it open – but without saying a word. Rowdy, in particular, will stay in the fringe of darkness… wanting to come into where there is light, warmth, food, and a cozy place to sleep, but still holding back, skittish, and jumping at any movement.
But, if I stop at the steps and call their names, I can see their whole posture begin to relax… They venture closer and raise their head to be scratched. So, I stroke them behind their ears. “Ahhh…!” They relax even more and seem to say, “Now I KNOW this is home… lets go in and get something to eat!”
So, this observation with house cats reminds me of John 10:
[Jhn 10:2-5, 11, 16, 27 KJV] 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. … 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. … 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd. … 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (copied from: https://www.blueletterbible.org).
Is this observation transferable to the church flock? People have been out in the world all week taking care of what ever their business is. But on Sunday, some of that dust from the world is still clinging around… they want to come into where there is light, warmth, and spiritual food but find themselves holding back in the fringe between light and dark.
With the cats, sometimes, I just call their name once and all is good. Other times, they need to hear the voice calling their name over and over, and an extra moment spent at the doorway being petted before they can completely relax from fear and come in, eat, and lie down in peace.
Perhaps people are the same?
your friend, B
Howdy Joe and Rowdy,
It’s ol’ Wishbone here:
Tell Ben Cartwright (Robert) thanks for sharing the wonderful word picture of how you guys respond to his voice and discover peace in his presence.
I thought of you a lot these last days. I carried a few inches of dust all week from trailing the herd. But no matter how brutal the conditions or how wobbly and saddle-sore I became, I knew there would be a greeting from my pastor Sunday morning. When he stood up and said, “Peace be with you.” – A greeting heard by many weary pilgrims down through the centuries initiated by our church fathers, I joined you in letting the tension seep away. I sighed one of those deep sighs that knows all is well.
I gotta hunch I will remember you and your responses to the Master’s welcoming voice for of the dark nights we have ahead of us.
Thanks again for the purrfect metaphor.