Monday, May 25, 2009

A Cast Down Soul

Why art thou
cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him,who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Psalm 43:5

Phillip Keller, in his classic book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, gives a striking picture of the care and gentleness of the shepherd. When David said, "He restores my soul," he chose language that every shepherd would understand.

"A sheep is built in such a way, that if it falls over on its side and onto its back, it is very difficult for it to get up again. In this position, it flails its legs in the air, bleats, and cries. After a few hours on its back, gas begins to collect in its stomach, the stomach hardens, which cuts off the air passage, and the sheep suffocates. This position is called a cast-down position. A cast-down sheep needs a loving shepherd to restore it.

To restore a cast-down sheep takes time. The first thing the shepherd does is massage its four legs to restore circulation. Then while calmly reassuring the sheep with his voice, he gently turns it over, puts his hand under the sheep's belly, lifts it up, and holds it so it can gain its equilibrium. When the shepherd feels that the sheep can stand on its own, he lets the sheep go and watches it take a few faltering steps. He has restored a cast-down sheep.

What a picture of what God does for us! When we are on our back, flailing because of guilt, grief, and grudges, our loving Shepherd reassures us with His words. With His tender hands He lifts us and carries us until we've gained spiritual equilibrium."

As we consider our own lives and our experiences with the Good Shepherd, we can gladly bear the same witness that Job gave:

When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. Job 22:29

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