Sunday Chronicles. #131, Feb. 17, 2019
Greetings from Springfield, MO where cloudy skies, temps only slightly above freezing, and a frosting of ice remains on the grass and other untreated surfaces. Unable to get out, I listened to Maranatha chapel service on TV, but an echo in the PA system, apparently from a mike left open in the back, made it hard to understand. However, it was good to sing and pray along with those in the service.
My week could be described as an on-going struggle to stop, or at least slow, my continuing loss of mobility. Being alone most of the time, I often call out to Jesus for help. Early in the week, I read in a devotional book an incident where an English actor/writer was giving readings from his and other prominent works. He asked the audience for requests and an older minister suggested the actor do Psalm 23. The actor agreed and recited the Psalm with perfect intonation and phrasing. When he concluded, applause rang out from the audience. He then asked the minister to repeat the Psalm. Slowly, with love in his voice for the Shepherd, the minister said the sacred words. When he finished, there was not applause but tears, as the words of the Good Shepherd settled into hearts. The actor reached out to hug the minister and said to the audience, “I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”
That story brought me back to a book I have read and reread several times: “ A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller, a man who spent much of his early life tending sheep. Until I read his book, I had always assumed that the phrase in v. 5, “You anoint my head with oil” was referring to the anointing of kings and prophets for their leadership roles; that is one possible interpretation, but Keller gives an entirely different view. He tells about when warm weather comes and shepherds move their herds up into mountain pastures for summer grazing how various kinds of flies annoy the sheep. One of the most deadly is the nose or nasal flies who attempt to deposit their eggs in the warm mucus membranes of the sheep’s nose. These eggs hatch into worm-like larvae which work their way up the nasal passage into the sheep’s head. Their burrow into the flesh and set up intense irritation and severe inflammation. Trying to fight off this annoyance, the sheep will beat their heads against trees, rocks or brush. In some cases they may even kill themselves trying to get rid of the aggravation. Those who do live may become blind. (There’s a sermon there, but no space for it today.) Here’s where the shepherd comes in. As soon as the nose flies arrive, he immediately treats his sheep with a mixture of oil, sulphur, and tar. He anoints each sheep’s head and nose with a liberal dose and continues to repeat this as long as needed.
How does this apply to me? or you? I don’t know what your pesky nose flies are, but I know several that bother me: What if the arthritis gets worse and I cannot bath or dress myself? Or if my savings run out and I can’t pay for additional care? Or if the therapy I’m doing doesn’t take the fluid off my heart and lungs? Or if I should fall and break bones that leave me bedfast? All of these scenarios steal into my mind and annoy me, partly because they happen to people living here every day. Like the sheep, I’m beating my head against stones. I know it’s useless to entertain these thoughts, so I began to praise and pray. That brings the Good Shepherd to anoint me with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and I can again praise the God of my salvation who has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. If nose flies of any description are buzzing about your head, let the Good Shepherd apply His anointing oil. He’ll give you repeated applications as long as you need them! It’s important to know and repeat the Psalm but knowing the Shepherd calms the troubled heart.
Thanks to so many of you for sharing love in various ways during this Valentine season. I’m behind on writing thank-you notes and letters. The physical therapy is both tiring and time consuming. Special thanks to all who gave to upgrade the media lab computers at Evangel. We are nearing the goal. I believe God is pleased by our efforts. Please continue to pray that I will overcome the noisy nose flies and will trust the Good Shepherd until I reach the point where I “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!”
May His unfailing love and mercy enrich your lives each day…Peace, jwb