Lessons From the Flock – #3
When I’m checking around our sheep, I sometimes find one of them upside down, legs in the air, and unable to get itself back up onto its feet. This is what we call a “cast sheep”, and basically means that the sheep is immobilised.
Generally, when I discover a cast sheep, it’s simply a matter of turning the sheep over onto its feet and watching it walk away. Sometimes it can take a minute for the sheep to fully regain its balance, but then it’s fine and can go on with normal life once again. However, if I happen to find the sheep too late, its skin underneath can be red from sunburn, a raven may have mercilessly pecked at it or, worse still, it may be found dead.
I think there’s some lessons we can learn from the cast sheep. You see, the sheep that I find cast like this are the ones that are doing the best – they are the fattest and healthiest of the flock. Because of their great condition, when they lie on their side to sleep they can inadvertently choose a spot that causes them to roll over from their side and straight onto their back. Without help, this is the end of their life!
Is it possible that we can actually be going so well in life that we end up being in more danger than we realise? Moses gave a warning about this in Deuteronomy 8, where he exhorted the people to remember to live in the ways of YHWH’s Torah. He reminded the Israelites of their total reliance upon their God in times past and then warned them as they entered the blessings of their future. He tells them:
“For YHWH your Elohim brings you into a good land … a land wherein you shall eat and are full … Beware that you forget not YHWH your Elohim … lest when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; then your heart be lifted up, and you forget YHWH your Elohim … and you say in your heart, my power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.” (selection from Deut 8:7-17)
Sometimes we can allow our strengths and our blessings to become our downfall. The good things can actually blind us by taking our eyes off our Maker. Moses’ warning reminded the Israelites that their obedience to YHWH’s Torah was an integral part of remembering all that He had blessed them with (v11). He ends the section by saying that if they fail to remember YHWH in their lives, then they “shall surely perish” (v19). The reliance on the blessings they’d received would leave them flat on their back and unable to survive!
There’s another lesson we can learn from the cast sheep. It’s in the salvation it receives from its owner. The sheep cannot save itself, no matter how hard it tries. The other sheep can’t help either – salvation is only found in one beyond its own kind. Even when the owner attempts to help, the sheep will usually kick in defiance, as though it doesn’t really need to be saved. Sometimes it needs to remain upside down, kicking, until it gets tired and submits to the help offered.
Let’s also remember that we can’t save ourselves, and neither can we save anyone else. Salvation comes only from our Father through the work of Yeshua. Don’t take this for granted either, because we naturally rebel against our God and attempt to rely upon our own strength – time and time again! We must submit, and we must live lives of submission.
Remembrance and submission both have roots that go back to our obedience to the instructions our Father has given us. Our loving and submissive obedience to Torah keeps us from forgetting (Deut 8:11), and keeps us in the life that YHWH has created us for (8:1).
Ultimately, there is hope for the cast sheep, but that hope is not found in itself or in others around it. There is only One who seeks and finds His sheep. Let’s stay close and submit to our Good Shepherd, so that we can find pleasure in the life He has given us.