We kept sheep for about 10 years. Total joy!
There have been several books written on how the Bible portrays sheep as metaphors for humans. A favorite is “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by W. Phillip Keller.
This book is highly recommended for the author’s personal and spiritual understanding of sheep in relationship to the good shepherd.
Yet, even beyond these explanations, we easily saw ourselves in the sheep we tended, and years later, the lessons continue to ring true.
It is hard to forget those times we would corral the sheep in barn stalls so that we could trim their feet or administer worm prevention by “drench.”
It was comical to watch these animals perform a predictable move called “hiding from the shepherd” by which they thought they could escape the unpleasant tackle, trim and drench.
A ewe would withdraw to a corner of the stall and put her head down, pressed into the wall in a maneuver clearly intended to fool the shepherd.
She seemed to believe that if her head was tucked down and pressed firmly into the wall, we couldn’t see her. It was hilarious.
Yet, how many of us think we can hide from God? We do not want his preventive medicine. We reject his snipping of our overgrown flesh.
We dare to pretend that among all the sheep in the stall, he won’t see us if we do not incline our face toward him. Maybe he thinks it is comical too.
Or maybe it breaks his heart.
Chew On It
There is a different characteristic of sheep that is actually worth emulating in a metaphorical sense.
Sheep, like cattle, are ruminants. Suffice it to say, without getting into the science of four chambers in the stomach, that after the ewe eats grass or hay, she enjoys it again by chewing the cud — rechewing, reswallowing and redigesting that which is good nourishment for her.
Ah! Now we are on to something. Suppose that when we receive the good nourishment of truth — when we read the Bible or spend time in prayer listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit — we allow ourselves to ruminate on it.
We ponder it; consider it again, let it digest more completely.
In our culture, there’s an emphasis on speed and consumption — even speed of consumption when it comes to things like fast food.
How many of us take time to consider deeply, to meditate on how the Spirit has spoken to us, to reflect on where that still small voice of God is leading us?
In John 10, we read, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. ... I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. ... My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
It takes time to learn the voice of the Shepherd. If we are in a hurry, we may miss his call; we may miss the gentle leading of his voice. But how important it is to recognize his voice amidst all the noise and chaos — or worse, to listen to the voice of darkness masquerading as light.
We must tune into the frequency of the Holy Spirit — the way of righteousness, the truth of Christ.
How much of a difference would it make in this new year, in the newness of each day, to not just seek his leading, seek his truth, seek understanding in the white noise of the messages we are bombarded with every day — but to spend time ruminating, chewing it over again, seeking discernment about how truth applies in each of our lives, really allowing it to be fully digested into our souls?
Resolving to Ruminate
Many of us have made promises for 2018. We promise to do better, to be better, to spend more time with those we love on what matters most.
Perhaps among those pledges, we should add the step of rumination, not just reading the Bible or committing time in prayer — but adding the step of pondering.
What does God have for me in this bit of truth? How can I apply it in my life more personally and more meaningfully?
As described in Isaiah 53:6, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.”
Thankfully, the verse does not end there — “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” — and neither does our comparison to sheep have to end there.
Perhaps we can all, like sheep, ruminate on the nourishment of truth, its beauty, reality and application to our own way.
This post was originally published on Lancaster Farming.