It sounds idyllic, even exciting when we read about the Shepherd’s leading, and safe keeping. But the journey for the sheep can be a far cry from the ideal. Along the way are irritating shrubs that leave seeds and twigs in the fleece. Parasites lie in wait to jump on board for a free ride, meal and the fun of being an irritant. Eyes can become inflamed by dust or the sun’s brightness. It is in these moments the sheep appreciates the Shepherd’s care. The oil he pours soothes plus deals with the bugs and clears the eyes and refreshes the face.In what way was David applying this imagery to his relationship with the Good Shepherd? How do we? This is especially important for us to understand as we are dealing with the spiritual, not literal experience. The journey aspect is easily understood. We get weary. Parasites latch onto our soul and annoy our spirit. Our spiritual eyes can be inflamed by the dirt of the world and the heat and smoke of opposition. How does our unseen Shepherd apply the oil of His grace and compassion to our life?
The sheep must be in a secure setting as intimated by the set table. This allows the Shepherd access to the person a.k.a. the sheep. In psalm 19:8 David defines one of the ‘flasks’ of oil. ‘The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes.’ Why are there ‘blighted believers?’ The teachings of God’s Word have been resisted or neglected, not applied. It is no use singing ‘open my eyes, Lord …’ if you won’t open His book. When you read and heed His word Proverbs 15:30 is activated. ‘The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the body.’
Grief is another factor which contributes to cloudy eyesight. This is something we will all experience. Some will see through their tears the hope we have because of Christ’s triumph over death. Such comfort will keep the eyes clear and healthy. As Paul told the Thessalonians ‘so [do] not grieve as others do who have no hope.’ On other occasions a person may feel as though he is the victim in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Life’s spitefulness and unfairness assaulted him and left him in a bad state. How does our unseen Shepherd minister to such a person (who may well be you or I)? How does he pour His oil into our wounded heart, mind and body? Through a man or woman equipped with the necessary resources.
Why was the Good Samaritan travelling with the ancient equivalent to our first aid kit? He must have been a much travelled person and had learnt to be resourced to meet the unseen emergencies. The Lord wants to equip us with His grace, wisdom, compassion and practical skills to help others in their crises. It is costly in both the learning and then the applying of what was needed. Why would anyone really enter upon such a venture? For the Lord’s honour and His compassion which dwells within and compels a follower to care. I often wonder if the victim ever met his benefactor. Does that really matter? How fortunate are those assaulted by life to have someone known or unknown who becomes their Good Samaritan.
Part of the spiritual first aid kit requires the renewing power of knowing and obeying the Good Shepherd. As Jesus put it, He knows His sheep and they know Him. We only get to know Jesus when our relationship is put under pressure. Theory must be replaced by practical experience which only happens when you do His specific will. The bruises from attempting and failing are pleasing to the Master. The oil of His pleasure and its soothing power is able to be applied by His Spirit. Out of such a ministry we can truthfully bear witness to the character of the Shepherd. What psalm 100 says becomes more than a theological statement. It takes on the personal dimension of witnessing to your own discoveries of knowing Him and His anointing. We are the ‘sheep of his pasture’ and wear His brand.
To be continued.
©Ray Hawkins March 2016.