“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…” Psalm 23:1-2
Before our good Shepherd leads us in paths of righteousness, or feeds us in the presence of our enemies, or anoints our heads to do great things for Him, He makes us rest our identity in Him.
Phillip Keller, in his book A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23 writes: “In every animal society there is established an order of dominance or status within the group. In a pen full of chickens it is referred to as the ‘pecking order;’ with cattle it is called the ‘horning order;’ and among sheep we speak of the ‘butting order.’
“Generally an arrogant, cunning and domineering old ewe will be boss of any bunch of sheep. She maintains her position of prestige by butting and driving other ewes or lambs away from the best grazing or favorite bed grounds. Succeeding her in precise order the other sheep all establish and maintain their exact position in the flock by using the same tactics of butting and thrusting at those below and around them…. Because of this rivalry, tension, competition for status, and self-assertion, there is friction in a flock. The sheep cannot lie down and rest in contentment. They must always stand up and defend their rights and contest the challenge of the intruder.”
The only time they can rest, Keller goes on to tell us, is when they are in the presence of the shepherd. When he is nearby there is no butting order. Each sheep is special, not because of a place it holds in relation to other sheep, but because the shepherd knows its name. Each sheep has the place the shepherd gives her, not the one she has earned for herself.
Have you noticed that human beings, left to themselves, create a butting order? No one can rest or they might lose their place. Someone said that we “spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.” It’s all part of the butting order.
The Lord wants you and I to come out of the butting order and learn to live in His Presence. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)