‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ – Romans 8:28
Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” – John 13:7
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11
As this is the Lord’s Day our devotional will have a little more content. What follows is an excerpt from “In the Shelter of the Fold” by John and Mari Jones. The book is a collection of stories from farm life which, although written some years ago, contain spiritual lessons for us today.
Through Deep Waters
The very word ‘scab’ is hateful to the sheep farmer; it brings back memories like nightmares from the past. It is a disease that attacks the skin of the sheep, caused by a certain kind of parasitic mite. When a sheep suffers from ‘scab’, these minute creatures, in every stage of development from eggs to adult, are certain to be present at the same time.
The lesion may be seen on any area of skin, including the head and inside the ear. It does not attack any other animal. The diagnostic sign is that the sheep scratch themselves, chiefly around the shoulder and the tail area, leaving bald patches. When this is observed the farmer is required to inform the Ministry vet at once.
There were no cases of the disease in Britain for twenty years, but it reappeared in England in 1972, and in Wales the following year. In an effort to rid the country of it, a law is now in force which requires that the whole flock be gathered together, and every single sheep, without exception, be completely submerged for a few seconds — head and all — and kept for one minute in a bath containing a solution of benzine hexachloride, conforming to the Ministry of Agriculture’s instructions.
It appears that this mixture, when made up according to official instructions, is strong enough to ensure that one dip is enough to kill the eggs. But the last time this particular misfortune befell us, we had to gather the sheep together and put each one through the treatment twice within fourteen days — and that during the busy period of the hay harvest! And there stood a policeman supervising proceedings with his watch — one or two wags felt like pushing him and his watch into the tub!
One cannot but feel sorry for the poor sheep, thrown so suddenly and unceremoniously into the bath — thrown in on their backs, for the wool opens out better that way. If one of them succeeds in swimming the length of the bath with its head above water, there will be someone with a wooden pole ready to push it under, so that the whole of it — ears, mouth, nose and all — disappears out of sight into the disinfectant.
When the rams with their curly horns reach the far end of the tub, they no doubt suppose that the treatment is over; but without warning the long pole is hooked into the curve of their horns and they are pulled back to the start and plunged once more into the solution. All this is very necessary, for the root of the horns is a good hiding-place for the seeds of maggots and scab. And then what sneezing and shaking of heads and scattering of water-drops from the fleeces, when once they feel their feet on the firm ground of the drying pen!
They take it all so meekly — ‘as a sheep before her shearers is silent’ (Isaiah 53:7). If an occasional ram knew his strength, the dipper would often be with him in the dipping bath!
Innocent creatures! If only there were some way of letting them know why they must endure such treatment, that they might know the purpose of it all, that it is for their good, and to save them from future suffering! If only they might realize the love of the shepherd for them, which is responsible for it all!
The One in whom we trust, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, will sometimes ask us to go through a similar treatment, and often, like the sheep, we do not understand the reason for it. But it is all for our good.
John and Mari Jones