‘‘He restores my soul’
The Bible has hundreds of verses that mention sheep, shepherds, flocks and sheepfolds. Sheep are mentioned in the Bible more than 400 times! More than any other animal. Jesus says in John, 10:14, ‘I am the Good Shepherd.’ So, I’m guessing, that if Jesus is our shepherd, then that makes us the sheep - oh dear!
Now, it wouldn’t be too harsh to say that Sheep aren’t particularly clever animals. If left to themselves, sheep are not likely to last very long! They are prone to wandering off and getting lost. They have an in-built instinct to follow each other around with no real thought of danger in mind. In fact, if the leader at the front tumbles off a cliff, it’s very likely that the rest will follow! They require constant care and watching over.
Like the sheep pictured in the image above, Sheep have a habit of falling onto their backs and are unable to get themselves back up again. They flail their legs in the air, bleat and cry, and if they are not rescued, within a few hours gases in their stomachs start to build up, and the sheep will eventually suffocate. This position is referred to as a sheep being ‘cast down’.
Before he became king, David was a shepherd boy. He knew the ways of sheep, the scrapes that they could get themselves into, and the qualities needed to be a good shepherd. Many of David’s Psalms were written during times of duress: wars, enemies in pursuit, his people disobedient, or anguished from a mess of his own disobedience, the list goes on. In describing his pain, he often used the words ‘cast down’, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me?’ (Psalm 42:5). David understood what it meant to be as a sheep cast down, and I wonder if this was the image he had in mind when he wrote such words.
Jesus sees us in our moments of feeling cast down. What does he do? Does he walk away? Does he think ‘oh well, I may have lost one but at least I’ve still got the ninety-nine?’ Or perhaps you think he does come to pick you up, but then frustrated, ties a lead round your neck and crossly marches you back to the flock, exasperated with you. No!
Because Jesus is our good shepherd. He leaves the ninety-nine in search of the one. He doesn’t count the cost, he doesn’t give up, He went all the way to death, even death on a cross to get you back. His love and mercy knows no bounds. His Goodness pursues you, and when He finds you, knowing your weary state, He joyfully carries you on his shoulders and takes you home. He gently lifts you up and, ‘..gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart’ (Isaiah 40:11). When a shepherd restores a cast down sheep, he softly reassures it, massages its legs to restore the circulation, gently turns the sheep over, then lifts it up and holds it so it can regain its balance. What a picture of what Jesus our shepherd will do for us, and so, so much more besides.
‘He restores my soul’. Can I encourage you, if you find yourself feeling cast down, to allow your good shepherd to gently restore your soul today? He is the only one who can get you back on your feet again. Allow His love and mercy to flow through you, and carry you close to His heart. A flock safe in the arms of its good shepherd, there’s surely, a no better place to be.