I have been thinking about sheep lately. Perhaps it’s because it’s now summer and several of our neighbors raise sheep.
Perhaps it’s because my schedule is so incredibly busy and I am reminded of the words from psalm 23 “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I think most of all it’s because I know the Lord is my shepherd and as believers we are His sheep. It has made me ponder the question “Just what are sheep responsible for?”
That’s it. Sheep are only responsible for grazing. Doing what they do naturally – doing what they do best. When they do this the wool grows healthy, the milk comes in rich, their bodies are strong and fit, they deliever beautiful lambs. They live long, healthy, productive lives.
Now, sheep are nervous creatures. They have no defense mechanism. If they feel nervous, worried or agitated they won’t graze. So when King David wrote “He makes me lie down in green pastures” he was using his knowledge of when he was a younger man and spent many years raising, tending and shepherding sheep.
The Hebrew word of “lies down” is “raw-bats” which means to crouch on all four legs folded like a recumbent animal, to recline, repose, to make a fold.” As the king of Israel wrote these words we can be certain he was reminded of when he was just a young shepherd. Perhaps he was remembering one of the many evenings when a bear was close to killing several of his sheep. With the sturdy powerful rod he fought it off. After several tense minutes of beating back the bear he finally has time to run back to his precious sheep.
As he walks back towards them he hears their nervous bleating. He sees the agitated, fearful pacing. They have faced incredible danger and they cannot rest. He can feel the loud thuds of their terrified hearts. Quietly, calmly, David goes from sheep to sheep rubbing their heads, softly speaking gentle words of reassurance. Night is coming and they are exhausted. They need their rest. David knows that a sheep can be so sick from worry that he can stop eating and die.
As the first stars make their appearance David pulls out his lyre. Sitting on a small rock he begins to play. Quietly, smoothly, gently, the first quiet notes fill the damp air. The sheep stir. A few begin to graze. Finally, the first few sheep begin to lie down. He will continue to play and softly sing until their nervous hearts can rest in the knowledge of their shepherds love and care for them. “He makes me lie down.”
The only job required of a sheep is to graze. That’s it. When they do – all else falls into place – the wool grows, milk is produced, lambs are born, sheep grow strong.
Your only job is to graze – that’s it. Graze in peace. Graze in your Father’s love. Graze in joyful time with your children. Graze at the beach. Live your life without trying to figure everything out. Stop trying so hard to make the wool grow or the milk flow. Let every problem, fear, worry and care be removed from your mind. Relinquish control over to your gentle shepherd.
Just graze. This is what you were created to do. The rest will come.