Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cast Sheep and God's Great Love

From time to time, a sheep will wander off after its own devices and become cast.  This means it rolls over onto its back and cannot right itself.  If help does not arrive within minutes, fluids accumulate in its lungs and it will suffocate.  Only a shepherd’s vigilance, alert to the location and situation of all his sheep, can prevent his flock from perishing this way over time.  Immediately he upon noticing one missing, he entrusts the rest of the flock to an undershepherd and goes off in search of the lost one, knowing only he can set it back on its feet and rub the circulation back into its legs.

It is when we wandering souls are flat on our backs like a cast sheep that we learn the true essence of prayer:  “the helpless soul’s helpless look unto a faithful Friend”[1]  Here alone do we learn the blessedness of spiritual bankruptcy:  only empty hands and hearts are ready to be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ever since my first significant "cast sheep" experience, I have loved Psalm 107.  Over and over, the pattern repeats:  people have become cast, they cry out to the Lord, and He delivers them.  The lost and homeless, dying of hunger and thirst, cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivers them.  The prisoners sentenced to hard labor for their own rebellion and disobedience cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivers them.  The foolish trapped in the consequences of their own folly cry out to the Lord, and He delivers them.  The sailors overwhelmed by storm and waves cry out to the Lord, and He delivers them.  No matter the reason for their desperate straits, when they finally turn to the living God in the their desperation, He hears and answers. He may not answer in the way or timing we'd like, but He does answer. He comes to their rescue in His loyal love.

The rest of the psalm presents a series of paradoxes which leave no doubt:  the place of our need, that two o'clock in the morning place, is the place we meet God.  We are poorest when we think we’ve got it made, and on the brink of true riches when we realize our helplessness and cry out to God.

Let us give thanks to this Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for us, for He alone satisfies the deepest hunger of our souls.  He alone can set us free from the false refuges which become our prisons.  He alone can rescue us from our foolishness.  He alone can calm the storms of our souls and guide us safely Home.  He alone seeks and saves His cast sheep.

“Whoever is wise, let him take note of these things!
Let them consider the Lord’s acts of loyal love! ” (Psalm 107:43, NET).


[1] Ole Hallesby, Prayer (Augsburg: Minneapolis, MN, 1994), 59.

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Thanks be to God for His acts of loyal love toward me and mine this past week:
for my adoption as God's child;
for His wisdom to know my needs and goodness to grant them;
for His hallowed name;
for some positive (but mixed overall) results from first attempts at deep-water jogging;
for blackberry cobbler made from the berries in Allen's own garden;
for kind compliments on last week's photos;
for several nights of not waking the first time until 4:45 am;
for a new swimsuit;
for our UPS delivery man's hard work;
for my mom graduating to a sling without a "pillow" to adjust the angle of her arm;
for progress on Rocky's blanket;
for waiting for guidance;
for my almost 16 years of Steinway;
for good blood pressure readings;
for laughing together at Mythbusters;
for a providential encounter with an old acquaintance at the grocery store;
for a friend's grand-nephew "adopting" Amore and me at church;
for paper and pen in my purse to entertain him for a whopping 15 minutes;
for Amore's hard work and diligence reseeding our lawn again;
for honest heart-sharing by text message;
for a needed emotional boost for a struggling loved one;
for "immeasurably more" (Eph. 3:20-21).

from the gratitude journal, #723-817

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