podcast link below:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s Sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:1-4 (emphasis mine)
This is probably a very familiar set of verses to most Christians. I admit it’s one that I took for granted until I learned a new explanation for the comfort referred to in these verses. A good shepherd uses his staff (that long stick with a curved end) to gently pick up and place a fallen sheep on its feet again. For when a sheep falls down, it’s stuck because of the weight of its body is too much for him to just be able to roll over and get back up. So unless its picked up, it’s there on his back with its feet in the air like a turtle in a shell. The sheep can thrash about but it doesn’t do any good as it is still helpless upside-down.
When a sheep has fallen and is stuck on its back, the sheep is referred to as being cast. Only the shepherd can pick up a cast sheep and place it in an upright position again. Only the shepherd can restore a cast sheep to where it needs to be.
But if a shepherd isn’t keeping constant watch over the sheep, a cast sheep can easily be overlooked or forgotten. And if the sheep stays too long in the cast position, not only does it become dehydrated, weak, and sick from useless struggling, it can end up with internal organ damage leading to death.
This description of a cast sheep then became very real to me as a person. All too often, I’ve ended up on my back with my feet in the air because of: financial circumstances I had no control over; guilt and/or regrets from my past that overwhelmed me; physical and/or emotional pain that consumed me; or sin that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. At those times, I was a cast sheep. Helpless and upside-down all the while struggling uselessly.
And what did I do when I was upside-down in life? I cast about frantically for answers, for help. Fishing for help from many others in the same situation. Yet, all of us were simply cast sheep. Stuck on our backs, legs in the air, helpless, desperately looking for help. And what did I find the more I cast about for help? More desperation, more depression, more defeat. I ended up going nowhere fast…just like those around me…
Yet the whole time I was casting about, I wasn’t looking in the one place from where my help comes from (see Psalm 46). My Shepherd God, Jehovah Rohi. He was there watching, willing, waiting for me to call out to Him for help (see Psalm 145:18). He knew my thoughts, my circumstances, my emotions even better than I did (see Psalm 94:11).
Shepherd God alone was my help.
And the same is true today.
Only my Shepherd God could really help – only He could reach down from on high, take ahold of me, draw me up, and set my feet on the ground (see Psalm 40:1-2). Only He had that power to comfort me with His staff…And praise God! He did, each and every time!
But He’s not finished yet…
He is still Shepherd God, Jehovah Rohi. He is still watching, willing, waiting for me to call out to Him for help today. Only He can truly comfort me in those secret places that no one else even knows about. And only He is the same One Who calls me to Him today to trust Him as Shepherd God and obey Him by not casting about during my days (and nights!) in worry or striving.
And my Shepherd God will do the same for you today, no matter where you are or how long you’ve been upside-down casting about for answers and help.
Call out now. Shepherd God is watching, waiting, and listening. He is ready to help.
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall (Psalm 55:22).
Dear Shepherd God,
Thank You that You never stop watching and giving help when all seems lost or overwhelming. Thank you that You always provide what is needed at the right time and in the right way. Thank You that You never leave or turn away. Please help me to stop casting about for answers but to come to You as You alone are the Answer. Please help me to trust You for comfort and help, even and especially when my life seems upside-down.
In the strong Name of Jesus,
Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021.