I’ll admit it: I’m a city boy. Milk isn’t squeezed; it’s poured out of plastic containers. My portion of cow fits on a plate and never says moo and never gets out of the gate.
But I’ve been trying to read from some shepherds to find out about sheep and to better understand the 23rd Psalm, written by David in the Bible. It’s the beloved Psalm that begins “The Lord is my Shepherd” and has the line “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Understanding sheep will help us understand ourselves. If they can lie down in peace and contentment, maybe we can too.
Phillip Keller, in his great book, “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23,” helps us understand.
He notes that sheep aren’t very good at lying down. They are spooked by the slightest noise and smallest animal. He tells of a friend’s Pekingese jumping from the car and sending 200 of his sheep running in a panic through the fields.
Then he tells us that a good shepherd will provide four freedoms that ensure peace and contentment.
The first of those is freedom from fear. Keller, a dog lover, nonetheless made sure that his friends never again brought a dog to his ranch. And when a cougar showed up and killed some lambs early in his career he learned to sleep with a rifle and flashlight by his bed and to run to his flock at the slightest noise.
The second is freedom from tension. Sheep compete and develop a pecking order, though in sheep it’s called a “butting order.” A good shepherd will protect the weaker sheep and make sure they are provided for.
The third is freedom from aggravations, which in his area were flies and ticks, and the fourth is freedom from hunger, which meant considerable work on his part to grow grass in the summer and provide hay in the winter.
Of interest to me is the common denominator in all four freedoms. They each require the hard work, vigilance, and presence of the shepherd. That brings us back to our lives.
It is easy for people to be like sheep. We worry. We compete and constantly compare how well we’re doing with everyone else. We get bugged by little things and hunger for more, even when we have all we need. Peace is great but elusive.
David’s answer was finding someone who truly cared for him. He found someone who could be counted on to be there at all times, even when cougars roamed the fields.
Such friends are priceless. I hope you have at least one friend closer than family that you can depend on when peace flies out of the window and sleep won’t come.
But David suggests that the best such friend is God. Have you sought him out? Maybe it’s time to lie down in green pastures.
Rick Cupp is minister at Kenai Fellowship. Sunday Bible classes for all ages are at 10 a.m. Worship at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday meal 6:15 p.m. Worship and classes at 7 p.m.
• Rick Cupp is minister at Kenai Fellowship. Sunday Bible classes for all ages are at 10 a.m. Worship at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday meal 6:15 p.m. Worship and classes at 7 p.m.