I have been reading the little book by Phillip Keller titled, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”.
The author was a shepherd for many years. Mr. Keller tells the story of how, during winter blizzards, he would keep a bottle in his pocket with a mix of water and brandy. While checking his flock regularly, he would “see them standing there soaked, chilled and dejected. Some would succumb and lie down in distress only to become more cramped and chilled. Then it was that my mixture of brandy and water came to their rescue.” He says, “It was especially cute the way the lambs would wiggle their tails with joyous excitement as the warmth from the brandy spread through their bodies.” (Don’t you love this?)
He goes on to say: “What a picture of my Master, sharing the wine, the very lifeblood of His own suffering from His overflowing cup, poured out at Calvary for me. He is there with me in every storm. My Shepherd is alert to every approaching disaster that threatens His people. He has been through the storms of suffering before. He bore our sorrows and was acquainted with our grief.”
He talks about how imperative it is for us to continuously ask for the work of the Holy Spirit in our thoughts as we face each new challenge, large or small. Like the sheep, we can depend on our Shepherd to give us a place of rest and nourishment. We can even ask for His presence to drive away our dread, depression or despair. (Thank you, Lord!) But how many times do I find myself trapped in emotionally-draining- circles because I forget to ask?
About our thinking patterns, Keller says that our only hope is “…to be conscious daily, hourly of the purging presence of God’s Holy Spirit, applying Him to my mind.”
“And now no matter what storms I face, His very life and strength and vitality is poured into mine. It overflows so the cup of my life runs over with His life…often with great blessing and benefit to others who see me stand up so well in the midst of trials and suffering.”
The author wants us to understand that a good shepherd loves his sheep and does all he can to keep these truly stupid and helpless little creatures from unnecessary harm. Earlier he tells us that during the summer, he puts thick ointment on the heads and noses of the sheep to keep flies away because the flies lay eggs in the noses of the sheep. The eggs become larvae wiggling inside their noses, eventually moving upward into their heads, causing them incredible misery, possible infection and even death. It is torturous and the sheep often end up beating their heads against trees or anything else they can find, sometimes killing themselves.
He compares our own self-destructive actions to the sheep and talks about the love of our Shepherd: “To forestall and prevent this sort of thing from happening among His people, our Shepherd loves to apply the precious ointment of the presence of His gracious Spirit to our lives.”
“He is never asleep. He is never lax or careless. He is never indifferent to our well-being. Our Shepherd always has our best interests in mind.”
My prayer for you and for me is that we will grasp the intense love of our Shepherd. I pray that when fear, dread or despair, confusion, temptation or failure torment us, we won’t delay or forget to ask for the presence of the Holy Spirit. We must remember to call on His name and ask. If we stay caught up in our own thought processes, rather than asking for His presence, direction and peace, we are simply making a choice to stay tortured rather than to experience His love, care, direction, peace, wisdom and hope.
Who could ask for anything more?