‘The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.’
What follows is an excerpt from In the Shadow of Aran by Mari Jones. The book is a collection of stories from farm life which, although written some years ago, contain spiritual lessons for us today.
A Cry for Help
‘That delicious green grass down there would be really worth getting!’ One can just imagine a sheep on a rocky mountain saying this to herself. A push and a jump, and she can reach it. But to return is by no means so simple. It is far easier to come down the rock than to jump back. She has stranded herself on a rocky ledge where there is no room to go backwards or forwards – the rock face behind and the precipice in front. Here she must stay, in spite of all her efforts to save herself. Will anyone see her? She could be there for days before her owner passes by and is able to rescue her.
When the shepherd first sees her, he makes no effort to reach her. He does no more than cast a keen glance in her direction. The following day he may well pass that way again, and still do nothing about rescuing her. And so the poor little sheep is left there to starve.
A few days later the farmer will return again, and by this time his sheep has grown so weak and desperate that she is bleating as though her heart would break, calling out persistently for help. The shepherd has been waiting until now to hear that bleat. He knows that now is the opportunity to reach her. Had he gone to her aid before she began to bleat, she would still have had strength to do something for herself, and in her fear at seeing him approach she would have leapt to her death in the chasm below. But now her pathetic bleating assures the shepherd that she is at his mercy.
He has purposely brought with him two lengths of rope. One end of each he ties to a slab of rock above the spot. Then, grasping hold of the first, like a rockclimber or a quarryman, he lets himself down the rope from one foothold to the next until he reaches the sheep. There she lies, a helpless bundle. He ties the second rope round her securely. Then, after hauling himself back to the top, he carefully pulls the sheep up after him. Great is his rejoicing at getting her safely back again, and great will be his care over her as he nurses her back to strength.
The shepherd, of course, has many other sheep. Why did he risk his life to save this one in particular? It was because her bleat gave him no alternative. She belonged to him. Who else would go? He knew that he alone would be the answer to her cry. Although he looked at her apparently unheeding, he knew that it was his responsibility to save her.
We too, through our foolish wanderings, can get ourselves into a situation very like that of the sheep. We feel perhaps that the Shepherd is slow in coming. It may seem as if He is delaying His coming. But He is waiting to hear the bleat, the crack in the voice, that tells Him we have come to the end of our tether, and are looking entirely to Him to save us. Those who have confidence in themselves have never welcomed God’s intervention.
‘The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.’ Psalm 34:18
‘You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.’ Jeremiah 29:13