Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A sheep encounter and lying down without fear

When Jerry and I arrived at the football stadium where our grandson was playing one Friday night, we discovered that in conjunction with homecoming events, the school also offered activities for younger kids. This included bounce houses, games, and a petting zoo. The petting zoo caused me (a younger kid at heart at least) to veer off the stadium path.

I knelt, talked with a sheep who was lying down, and told her how cute she was--just a Mimi and a half dozen toddlers huddled around her. The sheep baaed contentedly in response. I think she understood me.

My thoughts turned to a book I’ve been rereading, the classic, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, by Phillip Keller. Keller grew up in East Africa watching native herders and later made his living as a sheep rancher. He uses his shepherding experience to draw insights into Psalm 23. I reached for the book while preparing a children’s lesson, and it had been years since I read it, so it was almost like encountering it for the first time.

There’s so much to glean from these pages, but I’ve been pondering his comments about  Psalm 23:2a, “He makes me lie down in green pastures . . .” Keller writes, “The strange thing about sheep is that because of their very make-up it is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met.” You can read the book to find out about other requirements, but I’ll focus on one of themsheep will not lie down if they’re afraid.

Since sheep have few ways to defend themselves, if there is even a small sense of danger, they will not lie down. Keller shares that two dogs have been known to kill 300 sheep in one night. He pens, “In the course of time I came to realize that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at ease as nothing else could do, and this applied day and night . . . In the Christian’s life there is no substitute for the keen awareness that my Shepherd is nearby.”

A quote from A.W. Tozer echoes this thought. “The only safe place for a sheep is by the side of his shepherd, because the devil does not fear sheep; he just fears the Shepherd.”

If fear has entered your life for whatever reasonfinances, health, family circumstances, or bad news, remember what Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life to the sheep” (John 10:11). By His side, we need not fear. He has made the supreme sacrifice for us. He is our protector, our provider, and the One who truly makes us lie down without fear.

Through the years, I have often gone to sleep with these words on my lips, “I will lie down and sleep in peace for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). Until recently, I have not connected this verse to Psalm 23. But now, I get it. Jesus as the good shepherd makes this possible.

The football game announcer’s voice sounded over the speakers, and I knew game time approached. I said goodbye to my sheep friend and walked on toward the stadium, grateful for the sheep encounter and even more grateful for my Shepherd.

I'm so excited to share the cover of my new book releasing in January,
A Plan for Everything!

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