I was browsing through my picture albums yesterday of a trip I took to Israel ten years ago. At the time, I was sitting on a rock overlooking the parched landscape of Bethlehem. It was a crisp morning, the type of day when a light sweater and the smell of a fresh breeze might likely invite God to speak to me.
As the tour guide was sharing with us the possibilities that perhaps "this" spot might have been the place David shepherded his flock, I noticed a teenage boy coming up over the hill with a staff in hand followed by the sheep and goats in his care.
I thought, "How cool, Lord. I love it when you send me visual aids!" Here was a little David in our very midst. I wondered if anyone else noticed the miracle at hand.
As the shepherd boy meandered his way across the crowd with his flock straying in multiple directions searching for grassy twigs under every rock, I noticed the guardian was losing control of his animals. Until that is.... until he called out in a high pitched voice and in one accord, the sheep turned from their isolated spots and willfully followed their master over the hill.
Yet one sheep in particular caught my attention. He was visibly agitated, terribly uncomfortable "baaaaa - baaaaing" with all its might. And then the shepherd boy poured some kind of liquid over its head, and all was well, once again.
I thought, "I know there's a lesson here." So I slipped away from our group, approached the sheep herder and inquired, "What did you just do?"
The 23rd Psalm clearly reveals what the boy was doing. Apparently the little lamb had a scratch or a wound on its head and the herdsman was soothing the pain by covering the irritation with oil.
My Shepherd Jesus does the same for me. When I've been inconvenienced, stunned by someone's remark, or I'm infested with worry mites, My Shepherd anoints my head with oil, too, and I instantly feel Him draw near: the sweetness of His presence, the gentleness of His touch, the hope of His promises. He settles me down on the inside so this little sheep can relax in the goose-down comfort of my Shepherd's tender loving care.
Today I'm reminded. The Lord is MY shepherd, MY overseer, MY defender, MY protector. What is it you need today? He knows the path you take, the grassy twigs that lead you astray, the rocks that cause you to stumble. Yet, His consciousness never abandons your well-being or your emotional and physical needs. He speaks to you when His Father tells Him to, and if you're tuned in, you'll recognize His pitch, and you, too, will follow Him over the hill.
Many of us have read the 23rd Psalm a million times. We even memorized it in fifth grade. But far too often, we overlook the reality of the Shepherd's insatiable care and replace it with mundane familiarity.
Oh, friend. Read it again, line by line. Envision Christ watching and stalking you. Take the veil off your eyes and feel His momentous love. Let yourself loose and "baa... baa... baa" before His throne. Jesus your Shepherd sits nearby with a cup of oil in hand.
P.S. See an actual picture of that Bethlehem hill with Pam and the shepherd boy.