The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name’s same. 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 prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou annointeth my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 23rd Psalm
Sheep have always fascinated me…their habits, weaknesses, etc…
This interest on my part came about because of the many references in God’s Word to sheep, Shepherds etc. One of my all-time favorite books is titled: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. It’s author Phillip Keller, both a Christian and Sheep Rancher, was given I believe by God, an ‘inside look’ at both sheep and the work entailed in being a loving, caring true Shepherd. Its a wonderful little book..well worth the few dollars to purchase. I actually got my copy [in paper-back] for less then $5.00.
We have a misconception in many cases, about sheep…at least I did before reading up on them and their ‘habits’. I always saw them as innocent little creatures who just ‘trotted along’ behind their Shepherd pretty as you please, always obeying, NEVER rebellious.
NOT! LOL! They can be some pretty head-strong creatures. Its one reason we usually see photos of Shepherds with both a rod and staff–both are needed to care for the sheep:
“Each shepherd boy, from the time he first starts to tend his father’s flock, takes special pride in the selection of a rod and staff exactly suited to his own size and strength. He goes into the bush and selects a young sapling which is dug from the ground. This is carved and whittled down with great care and patience. The enlarged base of the sapling where its trunk joins the roots is shaped into a smooth, rounded head of hard wood. The sapling itself is shaped to exactly fit the owner’s hand.
After he completes it, the shepherd boy spends hours practicing with this club, learning how to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy. It becomes his main weapon of defense for both himself and his sheep.
The sheep asserts that the owner’s rod, his weapon of power, authority and defense, is a continuous comfort to him. For with it the manager is able to carry out effective control of his flock in every situation.
If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away on its own, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger of one sort or another, the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch.
Another interesting use of the rod in the Shepherd’s hand was to examine and count the sheep.
In the terminology of the Old Testament this was referred to passing “under the rod” (Ezekiel 20:37). This meant not only coming under the owner’s control and authority, but also to be subject to his most careful, intimate and firsthand examination.
A sheep that passed “under the rod” was one which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it.
Because of their long wool it was not always easy to detect disease, wounds, or defects in sheep. In caring for his sheep, the good shepherd, the careful manager, will from time to time make a careful examination of each individual sheep. The picture is a very poignant one.
As each animal comes out of the corral and through the gate, it is stopped by the shepherd’s outstretched rod. He opens the fleece with the rod; he runs his skillful hands over the body; he feels for any sign of trouble; he examines the sheep with care to see that all is well.
Finally the shepherd’s rod is an instrument of protection both for himself and his sheep when they are in danger. It is used both as a defense and a deterrent against anything that would attack.
The skilled shepherd uses his rod to drive off predators like coyotes, wolves, cougars or stray dogs. Often it is used to beat the brush discouraging snakes and other creatures from disturbing the flock.
In some cases, such as David recounted to Saul, the psalmist no doubt used his rod to attack the lion and the bear that came to raid his flock.
In a sense the staff, more than any other item of his personal equipment, identifies the shepherd as a shepherd.
No one in any other profession carries a shepherd’s staff.
It is uniquely an instrument used for the care and management of sheep – and only sheep.
It will not do for cattle, horses or hogs.
It is designed, shaped and adapted especially to the needs of sheep.
And it is used only for their benefit.
The shepherd’s staff is normally a long slender stick, often with a crook or hook on one end. It is selected with care by the owner; it is shaped, smoothed, and cut to best suit his own personal use.
There are three areas of sheep management in which the staff plays a most significant role. The first of these lies in drawing sheep together into an intimate relationship. The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become separated.
He does this because he does not wish to have the ewe reject her offspring if it bears the odor of his hands upon it.
But in precisely the same way, the staff is used by the shepherd to reach out and catch individual sheep, young or old, and draw them close to himself for intimate examination.
The staff is also used for guiding the sheep.
Again and again I have seen a shepherd use his staff to guide his sheep gently into a new path of through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes. He does not use it actually to beat the beast.
Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal’s side and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go.
Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path.
Being stubborn creatures sheep often get into the most ridiculous and preposterous dilemmas.
I have seen my own sheep, greedy for one more mouthful of green grass, climb down steep cliffs where they slipped and fell into the sea.
Only my long shepherd’s staff could lift them out of the water back onto solid ground again…” ~ Chapter 8 A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Is it any wonder God uses the example of Sheep when speaking of His own?!
The behavior of sheep and human beings is similar in many ways. Our mass mind (or mob instincts), our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, our perverse habits are all parallels of profound importance. Yet despite these adverse characteristics Christ chooses us, buys us, calls us by name, makes us His own and delights in caring for us.
A good study on Sheep and their habits is a very good study on followers of Christ..I would highly recommend any Christian to look into these creatures–their habits etc. If like me, you’ll see yourself depicted in most [if not all] cases.
Anyway today I was browsing around reading and came upon another good study on Psalm 23: Its titled- Lord of the Sheep, written by Bob Burgess, a missionary.
I won’t post the entire page, but wanted to post what he calls his ‘free translation’ of Psalm 23, after finding such comfort in it himself:
1 The One Who Is Eternal, who always does what he says,
Is like a shepherd to me,
I will never be lacking in anything that is good for me.
2 In the middle of the day he causes me to rest in lush meadows,
And in the cool of evening he leads me to still, pure waters.
I am well cared for.
3 At night, when my emotions are frazzled,
His presence restores strength and stability to my soul.
And in the morning when he leads me out to pasture,
He leads me along paths of tranquility into ways that God has ordered.
And he does that not just for my sake,
He does it so that people will respect who he is.
It is his name and character that are at stake.
4 Even when I walk in places of spiritual darkness and physical violence,
I have no reason to fear evil,
Because you are by my side.
I see the weapons you carry
And I gain confidence and courage.
5 And even when my enemies surround me
And are watching every move I make,
You set up a table and receive me as an honored guest,
At a banquet of exotic foods.
My cup of joy is full and overflowing.
6 How can I expect anything but the goodness of God
And God’s covenant of love
To follow me, in fact pursue me, all the days of my life.
And I will live in the presence of the Eternal God,
The one who always does what he says, forever.