"In the Shepherd's Arms"
"He restoreth my soul:" Psalm 23:3a
Each painting or drawing the LORD has me do, tells the story that He wants told. When I was thinking about this particular verse, I wondered how was I going to illustrate a soul being restored?
Even as a child of God, we go through trials and difficulties in our walk with Him. In Psalm 42:11 it says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Hope is a key word here.
Sheep are very dependent on their shepherd. No wonder throughout Scripture, God is constantly referring to us as being His sheep and He as the Great Shepherd. There are so many parallels between our relationship to Christ and a sheep’s relationship to their shepherd. God desires us to be as dependent on Him as sheep are with their shepherd.
When David says in the beginning of verse 3, that “He restoreth my soul:”, what was he referring to? He was a man after God’s own heart, so why would he need to have his soul restored? David went through a lot before he became the King of Israel. King Saul wanted him killed, so most of the time before he became king, David ran for his life. Sometimes I have wondered if he thought that God made a mistake wanting him to be the next king. After all, he was just a shepherd boy when God had the Prophet Samuel anoint him to be king. God doesn’t make mistakes though, He always has a plan.
I am sure there were times when David was not only physically tired but emotionally also. That’s where this verse comes in. David knew He could trust God to restore his soul. Maybe it reminded him of the times when he was in the field taking care of the sheep and a sheep became cast down. When a sheep is cast down it refers to when they lay down and depending where they lay or how big they are, the sheep could easily end up on their back. When this happens, the sheep will struggle and not be able to roll back over onto their feet.
What would happen next became very dangerous for the sheep. Gases would build up in the first part of their stomach and would cut off the blood circulation to their legs. If the weather was cool or rainy, the sheep could survive for several days in this position before they would die; but if it was hot or sunny they could die in just a couple of hours. This is where the shepherd had to be attentive in keeping their eyes on their sheep.
I am sure David had to tend to many of his sheep being cast down when he was a shepherd. They were helpless and unless he, the shepherd, came in a timely manner, they would die. Predators knew that also and would wait until the sheep became weak and then they were easy prey. The sheep had to trust David to come to their aide and put them upright. Once he did that, he couldn’t just go on his way and leave the sheep. He had to stay close to that sheep and massage their legs until they had the strength to stand on their own and walk with no problems or maybe he would have had to hold the smaller ones close to him until their strength was restored.
As Christians, we can become “cast down” in our daily lives. When going through the various trials in our lives, we become weak and can’t “move”. That’s when the “predator”, Satan, watches for just the right moment to come in for the “kill”. We have a Great Shepherd who watches over us. As we go through the various trials in our lives, He is right there with us. Now, we can allow Him to pick us up, “massage our legs” to bring strength back or we can turn our backs on Him or fight Him as He tries to give us strength.
As our Great Shepherd, He wants to hold us close to the point that we can feel His heart beating up against us. When my husband holds me close to him, when I’ve been upset or worried about something, it encourages my heart to feel and hear his heart beating as he holds me close. I feel safe and protected. How much more encouraging is it when we allow our Great Shepherd to do that with us.
There are three different ways that a sheep can become cast down. The first reason is where they decide to lay down. Although a soft place may seem the best place to lie down and rest, it could also be the place that will cause the sheep to be cast down. If a sheep lies down in a soft, hollow spot; it will cause them to roll on their backs and become cast down. As a child of God, many times we look for the easy way of life. Who truly wants to go through hardship? It is only after we have gone through the hardship and trials with our eyes fixed on our Great Shepherd that we avoid the soft, comfy spots in our lives. We realize that they only give a false sense of stability when in actuality; they can cause us to be “cast down”.
The second reason for a sheep to be cast down is their wool. If they have too much wool, it will cause them to become weighed down by it. The shepherd will then have to go through the process of shearing them. Of course, the sheep does not like to be sheared and this will cause a lot of work for the shepherd. The shepherd knows that the end result will be good for the sheep even though the sheep may think otherwise.
In Scripture, wool represented an outward expression of an inner attitude; in other words, pride and selfishness. When we find ourselves clinging to possessions, worldly ideas and putting our wants before seeking God’s will, just like the abundance of wool on a sheep, we too can be cast down when we seek our ways over God’s ways. He then has to come in and “shear” us of our “wool”. He does this by applying His Word to our lives. He may use a godly friend, family member or even a pastor to speak truth to us. It may hurt and if we fight too much, it may cause some “cuts and scratches”. At the end, though, there is restoration.
Finally, there is a third way that a sheep may be cast down and that is by being fat. Their weight makes it harder for them to be surefooted and eventually when they lie down, they end up on their backs. When a shepherd realizes that the sheep is cast down due to weight, then the sheep is put on a strict ration of less grain. The sheep is then watched by the shepherd more closely. The goal is to have an energetic, strong sheep instead of a fat, weak sheep.
We as Christians can face the same “fat”. It comes by way of feeling like we have accomplished much in our lives. Pride is our “fat” and when we are the most sure of ourselves, that is when we will fall and be “cast down”. God tells us in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (KJV). Another word for haughty spirit is a proud, snobby spirit. Not only is our Great Shepherd telling us our pride goes before destruction but if we have a proud, snobbish spirit, an attitude of thinking we are better than others then He will chastise us. Hebrews 12:6-7 says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”. Even though this may seem tough and hard to go through, we have to remember that He truly loves us as He disciplines us but yet He is so merciful at the same time.
One thing to remember in all of this, whether through a trial or chastisement, the Great Shepherd knows what He is doing and He knows what is best for each of us. With knowing this we can truly rest in His arms and know that He will restore our souls. I painted a lamb which represents us in our Savior's arms; what better place is there to be, than In the Shepherd’s Arms and that is where we find our HOPE !
"Thirsting After the Shepherd"
"He leadeth me beside the still waters." Psalm 23:2b
Thirst is a basic need for all people and animals alike. Have you ever had a day where you were so thirsty you just had to have a drink of water and nothing else would satisfy. We have many drink options but nothing can satisfy us more than water. There is a reason for that: our body is composed of about 60% water. By drinking water, we help different functions in our body to do what God created them to do.
Just like us, the sheep's body is composed of 70% water on average. The fluid helps to maintain their normal body metabolism. The water is also essential in helping with their general health and well-being, along with determining their strength, vitality and vigor. When their water supply drops off, dehydration sets in causing serious damage to their tissues. They can become weak. Thirst indicates the need to have the water replenished in their body, just like with us.
When sheep are thirsty, they become restless and start to go looking for water. If they are not led to pure, clean water; they will drink from dirty water holes where they can pick up parasites or other diseased germs. In regards to our spiritual thirst, Our Great Shepherd mentioned throughout Scripture that we can only be fully satisfied when our thirst for spiritual life is being quenched when we draw unto Him. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Matthew 5:6
When Jesus said in John 7:37b, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."; He was implying that a person needs to accept and take in the very life of Christ to the point that it becomes a part of that person. We need to have a thirst for God and that thirst can be satisfied through the pure, clean water from the Word of God.
So what did David mean when he said, "He leadeth me beside the still waters.", in verse 2b of Psalm 23? As a shepherd, David knew how important it was for his sheep to drink from the pure, clean water, which would come from the dew on the grass, deep wells and the streams. The dew from the grass was pure and clean, but in order to drink from that, the sheep would have to rise early when the dew first would appear as that was when it was the heaviest. When they would drink from the pure, clean water, their thirst was satisfied and they were able to be content and rest.
When a child of God rises early and starts their day off with the pure, clean water of God's Word, they too find themselves content and rested, confident to face whatever circumstance may come their way. I like to sleep, and so at times, I find it very hard to rise early to drink in the pure, clean water of my Great Shepherd's well. I then find myself at times "drinking" from other things, although they may be good, they are not as pure as the Word of God itself.
As I started writing this devotional for this painting, I didn't know where this was going to take me. I was continually asking the LORD to write through me and to show me what He wanted me to learn from it. I feel that not only did He write through me, but more importantly, He showed me that I need to rise early so that I too, may drink from that pure, clean dew that is waiting for me to take in. What better way to start my day, than to "drink" from the purest of water there is.
As you look at this painting, you can see the sheep's reflection in the water. It shows that the water is clean. As we look in our "water's" reflection, may we not see our image, but the Great Shepherd's instead. We need to be thirsting after the Shepherd for that is where we will find true rest!
In this special blog series, I painted Psalm 23 verse by verse, personalizing the verses from a sheep's devotion to their Great Shepherd. Each picture is painted on a roof slate with acrylic paint. There are a total of 12 blogs when completed.