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Saturday, November 22, 2014


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psalm 23 part:   || 1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 || 6 || 7 || 8 || 9 || 10 ||


Excerpts from:
A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23
By Phillip Keller

part 6




From a shepherd's point of view this statement makes the halfway stage in the Psalm ... Now it turns to address the shepherd directly. The personal pronouns "I" and "Thou" enter the conversation. It becomes a most intimate discourse of deep affection.

This is natural and normal. The long treks into the high country with their summer range begin here. Left behind are the neglected sheep on the other side of the fence. Their owner knows nothing of the hill country -- the mountain meadows to which these sheep will be led. Their summer will be spent in the close companionship and solitary care of the good shepherd.

Both in Palestine and on our western sheep ranches, this division of the year is common practice. Most of the efficient sheepmen endeavor to take their flocks onto distant summer ranges during summer. This often entails long "drives." The sheep move along slowly, feeding as they go, gradually working their way up the mountains behind the receding snow. By late summer they are well up on the remote alpine meadows above timberline.

With the approach of autumn, early snow settles on the highest ridges, relentlessly forcing the flock to withdraw back down to lower elevations. Finally, toward the end of the year as fall passes, the sheep are driven home to the ranch headquarters where they will spend the winder. It is this segment of the yearly operations that is described in the last half of the poem.

During this time the flock is entirely alone with the shepherd. They are in intimate contact with him and under his most personal attention day and night. That is why these last verses are couched in such intimate first-person language.

It is well to remember that all of this is done against a dramatic background of wild mountains, rushing rivers, alpine meadows and high rangelands. David ... knew this type of terrain first hand. When Samuel was sent of God to anoint him king over Israel ... he was high up on the hills tending his father's flock. They had to send for him to come home. He knew from firsthand experience ... the difficulties and dangers ... all the dangers of rampaging rivers in flood; avalanches; rock slides; poisonous plants; the ravages of predators that raid the flock or the awesome storms of sleet and hail and snow were to familiar to him. He was fully prepared to safeguard his flock and tend them with skill under every circumstance.

All of this is brought out in the beautiful simplicity of the last verses. "I will not fear, for thou art with me ..." -- with me in every situation, in every dark trial, in every dismal disappointment, in every distressing dilemma.

Every mountain has its valleys. Its sides are scarred by deep ravines and gulches and draws. And the best route to the top is always along these valleys. Any sheepman familiar with the high country knows this. He leads his flock gently, but persistently up the paths that wind through the dark valleys.

There is a second reason why sheep are taken to the mountain tops by way of the valleys. Not only is this the way to the gentlest grades, but also it is the well watered route. Here one finds refreshing water all along the way. There are rivers, streams, springs and quiet pools in the deep defiles.

A third reason why the rancher chooses to take his flock into the high country by way of the valleys is that this is generally where the richest feed and best forage is to be found along the route. The flock is moved along gently -- they are not hurried. There are lambs along which have never been this way before. The shepherd wants to be sure there will not only be water but also the best grazing available for the ewes and their lambs. Naturally these grassy glades are often on the floor of steep-walled canyons and gulches. There may be towering cliffs above them on either side. The valley floor itself may be in dark shadow with the sun seldom reaching the bottom except for a few hours around noon.

The shepherd knows from past experience that predators like coyotes, bears, wolves or cougars can take cover in these broken cliffs and from their vantage point prey on his flock. There could be rock slides, mud or snow avalanches and a dozen other natural disasters that would destroy or injure his sheep. But in spite of the hazards he also knows that this is still the best way to take his flock to the high country. He spares himself no pains or trouble or time to keep an eye out for any danger that might develop.

One of the most terrible threats is the sudden chilling storms of sleet, rain and snow... If sheep become soaked and chilled with a freezing rain, the exposure can kill them in a very short time. They are thin-skinned creatures, easily susceptible to colds, pneumonia and other respiratory complications.

Our Shepherd knows all of this when He leads us through the valleys with Himself. He knows where we can find strength, and sustenance and gentle grazing despite every threat of disaster about us.