You’ve sat where Paul sat. I know you have. You were hotter than a two-dollar pistol on the trail to Spain or college or marriage or independence … but then came the layoff or the pregnancy or the sick parent. And you ended up in prison. So long, Spain. Hello, Rome. So long, appointment. Hello, disappointment. Hello, pain.

How did you handle it? Better asked, how are you handling it? Could you use some help? I’ve got just what you need. Six words in the fifth verse of the Twenty-third Psalm: “You anoint my head with oil.”

Don’t see the connection? What does a verse on oil have to do with the hurts that come from the disappointments of life?

A little livestock lesson might help. In ancient Israel shepherds used oil for three purposes: to repel insects, to prevent conflicts, and to heal wounds.

Bugs bug people, but they can kill sheep. Flies, mosquitoes, and gnats can turn the summer into a time of torture for the livestock. Consider nose flies, for example. If they succeed in depositing their eggs into the soft membrane of the sheep’s nose, the eggs become wormlike larvae, which drive the sheep insane. One shepherd explains: “For relief from this agonizing annoyance sheep will deliberately beat their heads against trees, rocks, posts, or brush.… In extreme cases of intense infestation a sheep may even kill itself in a frenzied endeavor to gain respite from the aggravation.”

When a swarm of nose flies appears, sheep panic. They run. They hide. They toss their heads up and down for hours. They forget to eat. They aren’t able to sleep. Ewes stop milking, and lambs stop growing. The entire flock can be disrupted, even destroyed by the presence of a few flies.

For this reason, the shepherd anoints the sheep. He covers their heads with an oil-like repellent. The fragrance keeps the insects at bay and the flock at peace.


This article excerpted from Traveling Light.

Traveling Light is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

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