Have you ever been living life as usual, when you suddenly realize that God has just dropped down into your day? Do you sense that He is sending you a reminder of His activity in the world and in your personal life? I realize we should notice His activity every day, but it seems we come to take so much for granted. Or, at least, I do. And then something rather out of the ordinary happens, and suddenly we see it!
That’s how it was that Sunday in October a few years back. On this particular day, my dear friend, Susan, had come out to my house in the country to spend the day. We hadn’t had a girls’ day in quite a while, and I was excited to make up for lost time. It was so good just to have the opportunity to hang out and visit. But then … there was Zeke.
Susan knew of the difficulty I was having controlling my seven-month-old, 100 pound Great Dane, Zeke. It was particularly challenging when I had visitors. And since, later that day, several other people were expected for Bible study, Susan and I decided to burn off some of Zeke’s energy. Walking him the one mile to and from the mailbox at the end of my driveway just might do the trick. However, even with the pinch collar, it was sometimes tiring to keep Zeke focused on walking. This was especially true this day, as there were signs that the pygmy goats belonging to my neighbor, Don, had paid a visit to my side of the fence. Zeke, it seemed, felt duty-bound to follow the very obvious trail left by the visiting neighbors. And follow it he did. And with gusto!
Nonetheless, with a little persuasion, we did indeed make it to the mailbox. It was on the way back that we encountered two bawling kids (the four-legged variety), teasing Zeke from the other side of the fence. Oh, the joy of trying to rein in 100 pounds of enthusiasm bent on playtime with the neighborhood kids! To say the least, though I am not certain that the walk did anything to tire Zeke, I felt sure that I would sleep well that night!
The Bible study group came and went, and Susan stayed on a little longer to work on my computer. And although I had certainly enjoyed our girls’ day, the very best part happened after she left. You see, on her way down the ½ mile winding, wooded driveway, Susan called from her cell phone. One of the goats, she relayed, was caught by its horns in the fence, unable to free itself. I assured her I would immediately call Don, who, I had no doubt, would respond right away. “Should I leave?” she asked. I told her it would be fine and she should go on home to her husband. I hung up with Susan and called Don to let him know of the situation.
I had just returned to my comfortable chair when Susan called again. Her tender heart had not allowed her to drive away and leave the little fella in that predicament, if only for a few minutes. So, she had worked until she had been able to free him. He had run off into the woods, as she climbed back into her car and headed home. I dialed Don again, hoping to catch him before he headed out. However, by the time his phone began ringing, I knew it was too late. The sound of his Gator coming up the fence line could already be heard. Well, I thought, Don will find no goat, assume it has liberated itself, and return home. When my phone rang some 30 minutes later, I thought he was probably calling to let me know that he had found no goat. That’s why I was confused when instead he said, “Thanks for calling. That little girl had been caught down there for 2-3 days. She had dug herself in so far I had to take a shovel to dig her legs out.”
“I’m confused, Don”, I replied. “The goat was not there earlier when we walked to the mailbox, and Susan called back to say she had been able to free it.” “Where?” Don asked. I repeated what I had told him earlier, that the goat had been stuck between my house and the mailbox. “Well,” Don said, “This little girl was down at the creek with her head caught in the fence, and her legs caught in the mud. But she’s okay. Just hungry and a little sore. She’ll be fine.”
At the creek … caught in the mud? That was completely at the other end of my property in an area I never pass, and certainly Susan did not pass today.
So odd, I thought. Now I know that it is not uncommon for goats to get their heads stuck in fences. In fact, a Google search will return many comical images, (like the one above), of contraptions farmers have attached to the horns of goats in order to prevent such an event. However, during the three or four years Don had owned goats, I had never known of one instance in which this had happened. And yet today there were TWO at the same time? What are the chances?
And then, as the picture began to come into focus, tears began to flow. Wow! We had just experienced something miraculous as our Out-Of-This-World Father had allowed us a glimpse into His oh-so-compassionate character. He had opened a door just a crack and motioned us to come in and participate in one of His activities. He had invited us for a close-up look at Who He is and what He is like. He had sent us a personal love note.
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31
Could it be that the goat Susan had rescued was caught at that particular place and at that specific time, only to bring attention to the one in distress in the creek? If Susan had not freed this little goat, would Don have extricated it and returned home, never to find the other until it was too late? Did God care so much for this little girl caught in the creek that He had dispatched a decoy and three adult humans to participate in her rescue?
That Sunday in October, God reminded Susan and me that He cares for the goats and the sparrows. How much more, then, does He care for us? Surely at those times that we find ourselves in desperate situations, we are not hidden from His sight.
You see, Yahweh/God has His own fence, or boundary, which He has put in place for our protection. It is called His good and perfect teachings and instructions (His Law). There are times that each of us desperately desires what is on the other side of this protective fence. Like Don’s goat, no one forces us to stick our head through, and so there is no one else to blame when we become hopelessly trapped. We make that choice ourselves, driven by our animal nature, which wars against His desires for us.
Perhaps, we reason, we can just stick our head through, but not really go completely there. So, we purposely place our heads (our minds or thoughts) on the other side, thinking we can pull back at will. But alas, it does not turn out to be that easy, for where our thoughts linger, our heart and our actions will follow. Whether we have crossed the fence into a spirit of anger, arrogance, or hate. Or whether we crossed into greed, one of the many lusts, or one of the many idols of the heart, we find ourselves there. And a power struggle has begun. We waver between desiring to pull ourselves completely back to the right side of the fence, and the desire to be completely on the wrong side, but we can’t seem to get altogether to either place. And in the process of trying, we become ever weaker, covered in spiritual mud, and edging closer and closer to certain death.
It will take the loving, compassionate work of the Ultimate Shepherd to bring us back to where we belong. We should listen for His voice, coming up the fence line, calling our name and asking, “Where Are You?” (see the teaching by that title under the 5 Loaves, 2 fishes tab for more on this). When we hear His voice, we would be wise to cease struggling and allow Him to do the work that is necessary to bring us back into the protective boundary He has placed for us. What a loving Shepherd!
And it is also impossible to recount the above story without another strikingly similar one, documented in Scripture, coming to mind. You can find it in Genesis 22. It is the story of the binding of Isaac. You remember it, I am sure. It is one of many stories which provide an amazing foreshadowing of our Messiah Yeshua. In fact, as He often does, our Rabbi and King has placed within this account, pictures of His character in several of His multiple roles. We see the foreshadowing of the Father who orders His Son (His only begotten, beloved Son) to go up the mountain carrying His own wood. And we see Him binding that Beloved Son to the wood upon the altar. We hear the voice of the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) as He calls from heaven. And we see Him in his role of strong Lamb (ram), Who, of His own volition, places His head into the thicket, relinquishing His power to a crown of thorns in order to die in our stead. (In Scripture, the word translated as horns, represents power). Amazing!
I pray that the next time fear rears its ugly head in your life or mine, we will hear the bleating of sheep and the song of the sparrow, and the echo of His words – Fear not, for He cares for you. I pray that we will recognize the voice of our Shepherd coming up the fence line to extricate us from our willful disobedience, and that we will stand still, cease struggling, and permit Him to do His work. May we allow Him to bring us back onto His side of the fence where He will wash away the muck of our rebellion, feed us, and give us rest. And may we be reminded to thank Him always for the Sacrifice already made on our behalf, to free us from that which binds us to certain death.
Thank you for the reminder that, though I may sometimes fall, and become hopelessly entrapped in a mire, I am not hidden from Your sight, and You will pick me up and return me to safety. Thank You for the reminder that even at those times that I find myself caught by my strength in a barrier and can move neither forward nor back, You will dispatch Your messengers to rescue me and to set me free.
And most of all, thank you for dispatching Your Lamb to carry His own wood up a mountain and there to be sacrificed in my place. No doubt, He had the strength and power to free Himself, and yet chose to allow His power to be bound up in a crown of thorns, because that was preferable to seeing me caught, paralyzed and dying without hope.
Amen and Amen (may it be so)