In addition to being wanderers, it is nearly impossible to get sheep to “lie down.” The only way a sheep will lie down in green pastures is if it is FREE FROM ALL ANXIETIES – including a freedom from fear, freedom from friction with the other sheep, free from pests, and freedom from hunger.
Sheep are notoriously afraid. They are helpless, timid, and easily panicked. So much so, says Philip Keller in his book ’A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23’, that a single jackrabbit bounding from a bush can stampede a whole flock. When one sheep gets started and starts running, they all will bolt in blind fear, not even looking to see what it is they are running from. On one occasion, Keller says, a friend of his dropped by to see him who also had a Pekingese puppy. Just one glimpse of the unexpected little dog was enough, he said. “In sheer terror over 200 of my sheep which were resting nearby leaped up and rushed across the pasture.”
The main reason why sheep are so easily frightened is because they are so vulnerable. After he woke up one morning to find one of his best ewes had been killed by an unsuspected cougar in the middle of the night, Keller said from then on he slept with a flashlight and a rifle beside his bed – ready to jump at the first sound of a disturbance.
Like sheep, we too are easily panicked. We are vulnerable, and when you get down to it, pretty helpless in the face of attack. For sheep, there is no greater calming effect than the sight of the Shepherd. We, too, can “lie down” in peace, free from fear and anxieties, knowing that the Lord is our Shepherd. There are many dangerous places in this world, and there is only so much we can do to protect ourselves, but the safest place we can be is in the care of the Shepherd.