As I thought about writing this blog on the Book of Judges, these Psalmist lines came to mind. Uncommon as it may seem at first, might there be a relationship between both? Perhaps in some way the Psalmist speaks to God's longing for the once enslaved Israelites to draw near, as they lose sight of their foundation and their faith.....and so suffer the consequences of their choices, as told in the stories of Judges. Sound familiar? If these stories about the Isrealites' encounters with twelve Judges seem severe, I believe God's love for you and me runs deeper at least a thousandfold. Come look with me at the Psalmist's symbolic images of how our Creator and Shepherd longs to keep and care for us.
In certain areas of the world, like the western part of this country and southern Europe, the high plateaus of sheep ranges are usually referred to as “mesas”, the Spanish word for “table.” This is also an African translation. These rocky ranges are often found in remote and hard to reach places, where shepherds will make several trips in order to survey the best travel routes and find the most useful and safest places for their sheep to graze. As the “table” is prepared, the shepherd must also clear out the drinking waterholes filled with leaves and debris. After all this, other dangers are still present.
Now Sheep are especially troubled by an insect called the nose fly. One nose fly settling on a sheep's head can easily nest and in a few days form small larvae which eventually worm their way into the sheep's intestines, causing aggravation and at times extreme pain. To forestall such crisis, shepherds must remain mindful of any nose fly threats. Imagine trying to catch a fly or mosquito with a fly swatter and multiply that hundredfold to capture protecting a flock of sheep. It's almost useless and definitely unsettling for the flock. Yet as a shepherd remains alert to the climate, h/she can curtail these nose flies by applying an ointment of linseed oil, sulfur and tar to each sheep's head, so they can graze in peace.
I recall several years ago a friend saying, “we have no idea how God's Spirit protects us each day.” I sometimes catch myself during an outdoor walk in awe of how the very nature of life integrally works together to continuously offer sustenance and beauty. Yet in the dailyness of my schedules, tasks and relationships, do I remain mindful and draw near to the One who created this life, with this same awe?
I pray God be ever present at the table (mesas), and in the tapestry and pastures of my life...and yours.