This little book is considered something of a classic. I read it as a morning devotional for a while, one chapter at a time. In it, Keller relates his own experiences as a shepherd to the concepts in the 23rd Psalm. Many of us have grown up far from a farming or ranching life and know very little about animals, their habits, and what owners do to keep their flock or herd healthy. Original readers and hearers of this psalm would have had a wealth of background information that modern Christians have lost. For example, did you know:
- Sheep are timid and easily frightened into stampeding by the smallest of animals (for example a jackrabbit jumping into their midst); they are also disturbed by infighting among the flock — nothing quiets down these anxieties and tensions down as much as the presence of the shepherd among them.
- It is not unusual for a sheep to accidentally become turned over on its’ back and be unable to get up by itself. The old English term for this is “cast” or “cast down.” A “cast” sheep is helpless and dependent upon the shepherd to find and restore it.
- When sheep are left to themselves they will destroy their grazing fields. They stay in the same location, follow the same paths, overgraze and pollute the area until it is ruined. They require the attention of a good shepherd to move the sheep continually so that they and they and the land are preserved.
- Sheep are troubled by flies, gnats and other parasites during the summer months. To alleviate their discomfort, the shepherd will apply a remedy including linseed oil to their heads–he anoints them.
Throughout the book, Keller parallels our lives with God and the life of the sheep with a good shepherd. He says:
“… it is not mere whim on God’s part to call us sheep. Our behavior patterns and life habits are so much like that of sheep it is well nigh embarrassing.”
“When all is said and done the welfare of any flock is entirely dependent upon the management afforded them by their owner.”
VERDICT: 5 stars. I think most Christians will enjoy this book and develop a deeper insight into a Psalm we repeat so often that we seldom stop to meditate on the deeper meaning.