Cast Down — Sheep and Shepherds

שָׁחַח

shachach

to sink or depress:—bend, bow (down), bring (cast) down, couch, crouch, humble self, be (bring) low, stoop

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If a sheep falls over, they have a very difficult time getting back up on their feet.  Their legs will be flailing in the air; they may cry and bleat.  More than likely though, the sheep will flail, be frightened and quiet, attempting to return to an upright position with little success. This position is referred to as “cast down.”

Their bodies are built in such a way that after several hours in this position, gas collects in their four-compartment stomach, which then hardens.  Then, the air passage becomes cut off, and the sheep will eventually suffocate if not righted in time.

The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.  Psalm 10:10

One of the ways a sheep can become cast is by looking for a soft, hollowed spot to lie down. Once down in there, a sheep can easily roll over on its back.

Another way it may end up cast is if the wool has become too thick.  If it lies down, even on a flat place, the thick wool may cause the sheep to roll over too far, becoming stuck in that cast position.  If the shepherd is tending to his sheep, he would be shearing them regularly and this should not happen.  But a sheep can escape from the watch of its shepherd and then may become lost.

Sheep also may get into blackberry brambles for munching or sidle up next to a barbed wire fence to rub.  In either cases, the wool may get caught.  If it should try to escape, but, instead, rolls over in the struggle, it would be cast.

Upside down sheep
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my salvation and my God.  Psalm 42:11 

David often used the words “cast down” in the Psalms.  David had been a shepherd boy.  He knew the ways of sheep and he knew what a good shepherd must do to tend to his flock. Many of the Psalms were written during times of duress for David: enemies after him, his people disobedient, his own disobedience, wars, and so much more…David understood what it meant to be as a sheep cast down.  When we feel as though we cannot get up from where we have managed to get ourselves stuck, we are cast down or feel such anyway.

When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, He pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but He raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks.  The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.  Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.  Psalm 107:39-43

 

W. Philip Keller wrote a powerful little book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, a classic now.  He writes from the perspective of a shepherd.  He actually was one for a number of years. When a shepherd restores a cast down sheep, he gives it reassurance; he massages its legs to restore circulation; he turns the sheep over gently, all the while reassuring it with the shepherd’s gentle touch and familiar voice.  He lifts the sheep up and holds it close while it gains its equilibrium back.

Mr. Keller paints a word-picture of a shepherd and his flock.  He also draws another word-picture of what our Good Shepherd wants to do for us.  Being on our backs, flailing because of sin, of guilt, of grief, of being unable to forgive or having someone unable to forgive us, our loving Shepherd is there to reassure us with His gentle touch and His grace.  He lifts us up, and holds us while we become spiritually balanced once again.

He restores my soul.  Psalm 23:3

God can and will restore us.  He wants us to be free of anything holding us down and making us less than who and what He created us to be.

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matthew 9:36

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LORD, You are my Shepherd.  I am your sheep.  I try to do things in my own strength at times, without You.  But I truly cannot do anything without You, LORD.  When I wander into the prickly brambles of this world, into ways not of You, plans that are mine rather than Yours, actions that are not upright, words that leak from my mouth that say that I am a foolish person or a lier or hurtful, passions of mine that are not full of compassion, or sounds from my heart that may not be heard by any human, but are heard by You…I am sorry, LORD.  I look for those hollow, soft places that I think will make life easier, or will take the sorrow away, or will help to convince me that what I just did or said was alright when it was not.  I carry the wool over my body to hide what I am ashamed of or I pull the wool over eyes so that they do not know what I have done or who I might pretend to be.  I run away from my Shepherd because I want to do things my way, to run in the pastures of my own choosing.  All of these ways lead me to become cast down.  It is You, my Shepherd, Who can see that I am on my back without a way to right myself.  It is You, my Shepherd, Who will gently love me so that when You place me back on my feet, I can stand and walk again.  I can stand uprightly before those who love me for the one that You created.  They can see me as I am because I abide in You.  You carry me across Your shoulders so that I may become connected to You once again.  Oh, my Shepherd, You bring me home.  You love me and will never forsake me.  You remind me of Whose I am and Who You are to me.  I praise You, my Shepherd.  In the Good Shepherd’s Name, I pray.  Amen.

 

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Photo – Cast down sheep

Sheep and Shepherds

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  Psalm 23:1

רָעָה

ra`ah

shepherd

to tend a flock; i.e. pasture it; intransitively, to graze (literally or figuratively); generally to rule; by extension, to associate with (as a friend):—× break, companion, keep company with, devour, eat up, evil entreat, feed, use as a friend, make friendship with, herdman, keep (sheep) (-er), pastor, shearing house, shepherd, wander, waste.

occurs 173 times in 144 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the KJV

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I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:11

ποιμήν

poimēn

a shepherd (literally or figuratively):—shepherd, pastor

occurs 18 times in 17 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV

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Sheep do not have the ability to survive on their own.  They:

  • graze the same area until the pasture is destroyed.
  • pollute the same ground until it breeds dangerous parasites.
  • drink whatever water is available, clear or contaminated.
  • are fearful and become aggravated which can lead to improperly digesting foods.
  • are timid.
  • and can be stubborn.

They need a shepherd.

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Christians are compared to sheep quite frequently in God’s Word.

We wander down paths of our own devising rather than follow God’s way for our lives.  We delve into false beliefs.  We drink from unhealthy waters, figuratively.  We can be stubborn and fight against God’s best.

Looking at the natural habits of sheep when left on their own can be a reflection of ourselves.

Jesus is our Shepherd.  He is the Christ, the Son of God.  He created me and you.  Who better to care for me, for us?  He cared more than anything for the likes of me when He went to Calvary.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6

We are capable of doing right, yet often fail in our attempts using our own strength.  We drink waters of the world rather than the Living Water.  We live in fear rather than trusting in Him Who is trustworthy.  We wander away from our Maker and do not listen for His still, small voice directing us in the way in which we should go.

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matthew 9:36

Jesus is our faithful Shepherd, gentle, caring, and, yet, stern.

A shepherd owns his sheep and marks them with his special mark to determine ownership.  He will cut a notch, a distinctive mark, into his sheep’s ear while placing one ear on a wooden block.

In the Old Testament, Exodus 21, this was also done to a slave in a Hebrew household who chose, of his own free will, to become a lifetime member of that home.  His master/owner would take him to the door, put his ear lobe against the door post and, with an awl, puncture a hole through the ear.  He was marked.

1 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.  Exodus 21:1-6

We, as Christ’s, bear the mark of the Cross.  Jesus has authority over me.

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  Matthew 16:24

We need the Good Shepherd, the One Who truly is our Shepherd.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  11 I am the good Shepherd.  The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  14 I am the good Shepherd.  I know My own and My own know Me, 15 just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice.  So there will be one flock, one Shepherd.  John 10:7-16

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Father God, You gave Your One and Only Son to pay the price for my iniquities.  Thank You so very much.  

As one of Your children, I so want to please You.  Carrying my cross daily and following Jesus is my call.  And I want that to always be my call.  I am grateful for being willing and able, for the sake of the Gospel.  I follow.  It is a privilege, LORD.  A privilege.  

As a sheep, I would wish that I were not so vulnerable, but I am.  It is by staying in Your Word, by listening to and for You, by praying, that I can remain in Your fold.  I know that the good Shepherd guards the gateway so that I remain safe.  He watches for the wolves, protecting me.  I am dependent upon Jesus and look to Him.  I am sorry for my past periods of straying away.  I am here now.  I must stay close for His protection is vital to my life.  Thank You, Father.  I lift up in prayer those who stray or are lost or have not yet found the Shepherd.  May they hear Your Voice and come to You before it is too late.  I have family and friends in those places and I so want them with us in Heaven.  In the Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.  

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Photo of shepherd and sheep

Photo of John 10

Rooted

May we spend time out of this weekend in quiet contemplation of You, Father, Your Word, Your Love.  May we grow in You and be firmly rooted in You, that we would be pleasing to You in all ways.  Amen.

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Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  Colossians 2:6-7

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For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:14-19

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ῥιζόω

rhizoō

to cause to strike root, to strengthen with roots, to render firm, to fix, establish, cause a person or a thing to be thoroughly grounded

He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.  Psalm 1:3

Father God, as I think about being rooted in You, I feel this beautiful sense of strength…not my strength but Yours.  I am watered through those roots by Your Word, the Truth.  The roots grow…the tree grows.  I thirst for You, LORD.  And You fill me to full. The fullness is from You.  I gain because You bless me with Your love, Your grace, Your righteousness, Your all.  You build me up as I dwell in Your Presence.  As I am with You, I yield fruit…the more time I spend with You, the more fruit this tree yields.  And then others benefit from that fruit as I walk in this world.  You prosper me as I do my best to walk in Your ways for my life.  I hear a word behind me, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when I turn to the right or to the left.  I will walk there, LORD.  I am Yours and Yours alone, Father.  Thank You for Jesus for I would have no God-given root system without Him, without Your sacrifice, without Your love.  In His Name, I pray.  Amen.

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And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.  Isaiah 30:21

The Mystery

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μυστήριον

mystērion

from a derivative of μύω mýō (to shut the mouth); a secret or “mystery” (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites):—mystery

Mystery

  • something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain, a riddle
  • the condition or quality of being secret, strange; a person or thing whose identity or nature is puzzling or unknown
  • the secret rites of Greek and Roman pagan religion, or of any ancient or tribal religion, to which only initiates are admitted
  • the practices, skills, or lore peculiar to a particular trade or activity, regarded as baffling to those without specialized knowledge
  • and chiefly Christian Theology–a religious belief based on divine revelation, esp. one regarded as beyond human understanding, an incident in the life of Jesus or of a saint as a focus of devotion in the Roman Catholic Church, esp. each of those commemorated during recitation of successive decades of the rosary.

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.  When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  Ephesians 3:1-6

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Colossians 1:27

God chose the time and the place for His mystery to be revealed.  Just as we are able to understand a Truth in His Word, He knows when to reveal something to our individual hearts and minds.  In Paul’s time, God knew that the time was His to reveal the Truth in order to break down the wall between the Jew and Gentile.  He wanted the Gospel preached to the Gentile world and they would, then, be partakers of the privileges instead of lying in ignorance and idolatry forever.  He surely desired that the Jews, His Chosen People, would also see clearly now.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:1-3

The veil would be removed in Christ.

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.  But their minds were hardened.  For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.  But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:12-18

This mystery, thus made known, is Christ in you (or among you) the hope of glory. Observe, Christ is the hope of glory. The ground of our hope is Christ in the word, or the gospel revelation, declaring the nature and methods of obtaining it. The evidence of our hope is Christ in the heart, or the sanctification of the soul, and its preparation for the heavenly glory.”  Matthew Henry

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  1 Corinthians 15:51-52

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Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.  1 Timothy 3:16

Father God, I shout Hallelujah! because You have removed the veil for all to see the Truth of Your blessings, this greatest of all mysteries.  I am so grateful that I know You through Your Son, Christ Jesus.  I have Christ in me, hope of glory in me.  Such blessed moments!  May I seek Your face and kneel before You for You are power and glory and honor and blessing.  You are the God of all, All in all…Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent.  Praising You, Father for revealing Your mystery to us.  I pray in the Name of Your Glorious Son, Christ Jesus.  Amen.  

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Daniel 2:27-28a photo/Scripture

1 Timothy 3:16 Photo/Scripture