Thursday, January 22, 2009

I will feed them in good pasture

I am but a novice shepherd, although I have had some time around horses. Sheep behave much like deer, and are easily frightened, more easily than a horse, but also more easily calmed and more quickly, in my estimation, forgetting the fright when it has passed.

My little flock is quite curious when my back is turned or I have a treat - but the instant I move to work with them (when I must - I leave them be as much as possible and move slowly and talk calmly around them as much as possible), terror strikes until such time as I actually can take hold and calm the one to be examined/clipped/etc.

It strikes me, this terror of death that is inborn in sheep. I am and will always be something of a predator to them, although they already know I am the one who brings water and food, tidbits of apple and nibbles of grain. They know I am the one that leads them out to the pasture where the green grass is, and at night the one who leads them to the warm barn where dogs and coyotes do not prowl. Nevertheless, at times when I stretch forth my hand to them to lay hold and remove a string of blackberry thorn caught in the wool (they love to eat blackberry vine leaf), one would think the butcher's knife is imminent and they go to their death. Yet when I go out 'in peace' to search out my flock at nightfall and gather them to the barn, they will come running in line at my voice without fear.

I'm afraid that were the Lord to come in his glory and might, unveiled, I would be like the panicked sheep. Perhaps that is, in part, why my Lord took the form of a servant, that rather than be dismayed at his 'wrath' (I'm sure to my sheep my coming at times seems like a coming in wrath and judgment, even if it is only to correct a problem, trim a hoof, remove a thorn) we might instead be drawn to him in quiet calmness. I don't know.

I have a lot to learn from sheep, thank God.


Ezekiel Chapter 34 (NKJV)

34:1 AND the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

34:2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

34:3 "You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.

34:4 "The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.

34:5 "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.

34:6 "My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them."

34:7 'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:

34:8 "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock"--

34:9 'therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD!

34:10 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them."

34:11 'For thus says the Lord GOD: "Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.

34:12 "As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.

34:13 "And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.

34:14 "I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.

34:15 "I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down," says the Lord GOD.

34:16 "I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment."

34:17 'And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.

34:18 "Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture--and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?

34:19 "And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet."

34:20 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: "Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep.

34:21 "Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad,

34:22 "therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

34:23 "I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them--My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd.

34:24 "And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

34:25 "I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.

34:26 "I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing.

34:27 "Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them.

34:28 "And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid.

34:29 "I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore.

34:30 "Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people," says the Lord GOD.'"

34:31 "You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God," says the Lord GOD.


Blogger Mimi said...

Thank you for your kind words.

I read an interesting book last year, written from the point of view of sheep. It wasn't fantastic, and dragged a bit, and then got into philosophical ponderings, but the base storyline reminds me of this post.

I think it was called "Three Bags Full"

3:02 PM  
Blogger Hilarius said...

Hmmm . . . I would think (as I suppose my post suggests), that the point of view of a sheep is a bewildering mixture of calm eating away of grass and forage and munching of cud (ruminating, that is) puctuated by moments of terror that something really is out to get you, creeping in the long grass or hiding in the shadowy corners of the barn.

I'll look for the book, although I still need to find another you recommended some time ago - Black Lamb, Grey Falcon (speaking of sheep!)

3:29 PM  
Blogger Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I don't read books much, from human or sheep point of view, but I liked what this post had to say in your sheep tale, and of course, following it up with scripture.

Hilarius, I know we were in contact last year some time, but I have lost your email address, and I couldn't find any of our exchanges, though I remember writing them. Which parish do you belong to and do you think we can get back in touch? Were you away for awhile, or why and how did we fall out of communication?

6:13 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

These were surprisingly philosophical sheep solving a crime, I'd actually skip it and go straight to Black Lamb, Grey Falcon - which I've not read either, but it is in my ever teetering and growing to be read pile!

7:48 PM  
Blogger The Postman said...

stumbled into your blog.
When I was in Norway I heard two actual stories of sheep.
1. A group of youth were walking across the fields, so at each fence they would go over the ladder meant for people as the gates were closed so that the sheep dont stray. In one such instance they heard a sheep bay very loudly. The one who told me the story says that, the sheep has become so accustomed to people helping them that it was calling out. These youth went and found it and freed it from its tangle. And once freed thee sheep and the rest of the flock followed them till the other end of the fence and stayed there as they walked on.
2. My friends had two sheep they had left at a farm while they had gone for a confrecne. I am not sure if they were gone for few days or weeks. But when they came back, from the many sheep, as soon as they called their name, these two came runing forth.
"My sheep here my voice"
Only when I spend sufficient time with my Lord. Like the we can recognise the voice of people we know across walls and over telephones ... even without seeing them :-)

a bit of a long coment, but I would like to also share one of my favorite hymns

1. There's a wideness in God's mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There's a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

2. There is no place where earth's sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth's failings
Have such kindly judgment given.

3. There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

4. There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

5. For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

6. There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.

7. 'Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
It is something more than all;
Greater good because of evil,
Larger mercy through the fall.

8. If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord.

9. Souls of men! why will ye scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?

10. It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
'Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

11. But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

12. Was there ever kinder shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us
Come and gather at His feet?

7:16 AM  
Blogger Hilarius said...

What a lovely hymn, thank you Postman!

I like the portion:

Souls of men! why will ye scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
'Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Lotar said...

I have a fond childhood memory of my parents and me chasing an escaped ewe around the yard for the better part of an hour. They have to be the most paranoid of all livestock.

5:26 PM  

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