Sheep (He Restoreth My Soul)
Psalm 23:1-3 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in [b]green pastures; He leads me beside the [c]still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Psalm 42:11 New King James Version (NKJV)
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The [a]help of my countenance and my God.
Only those intimately acquainted with sheep and their habits understand the significance of a "cast" sheep or a "cast down" sheep. This is an old English shepherd's term for a sheep that has turned over on its back and cannot get up again by itself.
A "cast" sheep is a very pathetic sight. Lying on its back, its feet in the air, it flays away frantically struggling to stand up, without success.
If the owner does not arrive on the scene within a reasonably short time, the sheep will die. Even the largest, fattest, strongest and sometimes healthiest sheep can become cast and be a casualty.
(The way it happens) A heavy, fat or long fleeced sheep will lie down comfortably in some little hollow or depression in the ground. It may roll on its side slightly to stretch out or relax. Suddenly the center of gravity in the body shifts so that it turns on its back far enough that the feet no longer touch the ground. It may feel a sense of panic and start to paw frantically. Frequently this only makes things worse. It rolls over even further. Now it is impossible for it to regain its feet.
As it lies there struggling, gases began to build up in the rumen (the first stomach). As these expand they tend to retard and cut off circulation to extremities of the body, especially the legs.
The shepherd comes and tenderly roll the sheep over on its side. This would relieve the pressure of gases in the rumen. He gently lifts the sheep onto its feet. Then he straddle the sheep with his legs, holding the sheep erect, rubbing its limbs to restore the circulation to the legs. This often took quite some time.
He restores my soul, because it's impossible for us to get ourselves out. When the sheep started to walk again they often just stumble, stagger, and collapse in a heap once more.
All the time the shepherd work with the cast sheep, talking to it gently. "When are you going to learn to stand on your own feet?" I'm so glad I found you in time. The language is always combined tenderness, rebuke, compassion and correction.
Little by little the sheep would regain its equilibrium. It would start to walk steadily and surely. By and by it would dash away to rejoin the others. Set free from its fears and frustrations.
"He restoreth my soul."
Sheep (No time to be still)
Ps 23:3, He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Sheep are notorious creatures of habit. If left to themselves (in the same place) they will follow the same trails until they become ruts; graze the same hills until they turn to desert wastes; pollute their own ground until it is corrupt with disease and parasites.
No other class of livestock requires more careful handling, more detailed direction, than do sheep. Sheep gnaw the grass to the very ground until even the roots are damaged. Such abuse means loss of fertility and the exposure of the land to all the ravages of erosion. Result, the land completely ruined.
The greatest single safeguard which a shepherd has in handling his flock is to keep them on the move. That is to say, they dare not be left on the same ground too long. They must be shifted from pasture to pasture periodically.
In the same way we have to move. We cannot be dormant. We have to pray without ceasing. Read the word daily. Walk in constant contact with God, abide in Him, submit to Him, obey Him, keep our minds stayed on Him. Let Him protect us. Let Him fight for us, and let Him keep us.