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.” (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.

Four Requirements to MAKE a Sheep Lie Down

I tend cattle. Therefore, I have a mandate from God to care for His creation and see to it they flourish. I fancy the word cowherd as my job description because it connects me to the rich heritage of scriptural metaphor for shepherd. Sure, there are subtle differences between sheep and cow behavior. But, the similarities abound. I think they’re worth shouting about.

On the Barnyard of Heaven, I get a close-up, personal perspective on the relationship between a cow and a cowherd, hence a sheep and a shepherd. I hope my stories help you connect the dots and lead you to ah-ha moments in your relationship to our Good Shepherd.

Psalm 23:2 says, “He MAKES me lie down in green pastures.”

This ain’t easy. Phillip Keller highlights this in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23:

“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:

  1. Owing to their timidity they refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear.
  2. Because of their social behavior within a flock sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their kind.
  3. If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. Only when free of these pests can they relax.
  4. Lastly, sheep will not lie down as long as they feel in need of finding food. They must be free from hunger.

The unique aspect of the picture is that it is only the sheepman himself who can provide release from these anxieties…It is actually he who makes it possible for them to lie down, to rest, to relax, to be content and quiet and flourishing.

A flock that is restless, discontented, always agitated and disturbed never does well.”

“And the same is true of people.”

This framework sets me up to explore how my Good Shepherd pours Himself into the task of providing for me, to end that I can lack nothing. His mandate is to cause you and me to flourish. To MAKE us lie down.

It cost him his life.

Take A Deep Breath of Remember: I invite you to join me on a discovery tour into the four requirements needed to MAKE a sheep lie down. Check back for future blogs on this series.

Prayer: O Good Shepherd of our souls, put us at ease as nothing or no one else can do. Amen.

Photo Credit: Herdsman with Cows, in the Distance, a Village, Johann Friedrich Voltz, 19th century