He Maketh me to lie down in Green Pastures
Mr. Keller tells us that sheep, ‘because of their very makeup find it almost impossible to lie down unless four requirements are met”
Owing to their timidity, they refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear.
Because of the social behavior within a flock, sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their kind.
If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. Only when free of these pests can they relax.
Lastly, sheep will not lie down as long as they feel in need of finding food. They must be free from hunger.
Fear, tensions, aggravations and hunger, freedom from these will let the sheep lie down and only the shepherd who watches over them can provide relief. A flock that is restless always agitated and disturbed never does well and the same is true of people.
Sheep are timid and easily frightened animals. Mr. Keller tells of an incident where when company arrived at his home and as the friend got out of the car, a tiny Pekingese pup jumped out of the car and just one glimpse of that tiny dog sent 200 of his sheep that were resting nearby, rushing across the pasture. With little or no means of self-defense, their only recourse is to run. If they even suspicion that, there is danger from dogs, coyotes, cougars, bears or other enemies they are ready to flee. In the course of his raising sheep, Mr. Keller came to realize that what comforted, quieted and reassured his sheep was his presence, their master and owner.
We can surely say the same about ourselves. We can easily fear so many things, especially the unknown, the unexpected and the future. When I am fearful over those types of things, I find if very difficult to lie down in peace and rest. True physical rest comes with true spiritual rest in troubled and fearful times. Often, we too want to run from what we perceive as danger. Yet I find that what comforts me, what quiets me when I am fearful, is the Word of God, to remember my Savior, the Good Shepherd who is also my friend and to remember that He does have all things under control. The Spirit bears witness in my heart and conveys this wonderful sense of Christ to me and in that assurance of Christ, I can rest.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). The idea of a sound mind is a mind that is not perturbed or obsessed with fear but a mind that is at peace.
“I will both lay me down in peace and sleep: for thou Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8)
Sheep need to be free from friction within the flock where there can be rivalries and jealousies in the ‘butting order’. This rivalry causes tension and competition for status and self-assertion and the sheep find that they must always stand up and defend their rights. The continuous conflict in the flock causes the sheep to become edgy, tense, discontented and restless. Mr. Keller tells of watching over his flock and as soon as he came into view, the sheep quickly forgot their foolish rivalries and stopped their fighting. The presence of the shepherd made all the difference in their behavior.
How amazing the comparisons between a flock of wooly sheep and a church full of people or any other organization. There are quarrels, butting heads and competition for some perceived status that really does not exist. A point that impressed Mr. Keller was that the less aggressive sheep were often far more contented, quiet and restful, a definite advantage in being one of the ‘bottom sheep’ in a flock.
If our focus is on The Good Shepherd, truly on Him, then our eyes are not on those around us and this is the place of peace.