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Just dropping by ... Bringing in the strays

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 24 May 2018

Growing up on a cattle ranch, I have spent many hours in the saddle on cattle drives. The cattle needed to be moved to greener pastures, no matter what the weather. Some days were bright and shiny and a pleasure to saddle up and ride out on the range. Some days, the wind was blowing dust in billows to where you almost couldn’t breathe.

Some days, the freezing snow soaked you to the bone while, other days, you were pelted with torrents of rain and prayed the lighting wouldn’t strike because you were the tallest thing for miles around. It wasn’t an easy task to care for a herd of cattle, but it needed to be done. On the drive, we were always vigilant to make sure every cow and calf got to the prescribed destination without harm.

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In the movies, cattle seem to mosey quietly along, never straying from the herd. In real life, however, there are always one or two that need to make their own path. They watch for the time to make their escape. They hide in the trees, jump the fence or dash across the prairie at breakneck speed. They don’t realize their choice might take them into a wilderness filled with lurking danger.

They don’t know the coyotes are waiting to eat their calves or the pasture they are fleeing to is a dry pasture with no water or feed. They don’t realize at the end of the cowboy’s trail, there will be plenty of green grass and water. They just want to be free to make their own choices.

I had a discussion with a grandson about the parallels of the cattle drive and God’s care for us. God is willing to go to any lengths to bring His children to their life’s mission and final destination. The Biblical story of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, is a good example. Joseph was one of God’s faithful servants. He tried to follow the right path in every situation, but God wanted more for him than Joseph understood.

Joseph was happily going along living with his family of 11 brothers. His father loved him and favored him above all the others. Joseph could have stayed in the land of Canaan where everything was peaceful, but God had a different plan. God showed Joseph his destiny in a vision. He was shown he would be a king, and his brothers and even his father would bow down to him.

Destiny could not be fulfilled in Canaan. God took the reins on the horse of adversity and allowed his brothers to sell him into Egypt. Joseph was sold to Potiphar, and his destiny began to unfold. In Potiphar’s house, Joseph tried to make the best of a bad situation. He worked hard trying to follow the teachings he had been given as a child.

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Perhaps Joseph thought if he worked hard, Potiphar would give him his freedom. In any case, Joseph became a model servant. Potiphar rewarded his effort and made him a trusted servant governing his household.

A servant would not fit into God’s plan for Joseph so, again, he took the reins on the horse of adversity and changed Joseph’s course. Potiphar’s wife became that adversity. She hounded Joseph day by day to lie with her. Joseph constantly refused her advances. Finally, he literally ran away from her, leaving his garment in her grasp.

At that point, she knew Joseph would never succumb to her wishes, so she made the decision to destroy him. She lied to her husband, and Joseph was sent to prison.

There are no kings in prison, but it became a great training ground for Joseph to prepare for his future life. In prison, he became a trusted friend of the prison guard. In fact, so trusted, that prison guard practically gave Joseph the keys to the prison. The scriptures state the prison “prospered” under Joseph’s management.

Joseph must have wondered many times. “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?” He could have been angry and vengeful. He could have incited rebellion in the prison and taken his freedom by force, but he simply went along making the best of a bad situation, trusting the Lord had brought him into this, and the Lord would take him out.

Being buffeted by the horse of adversity, Joseph grew into a spiritual giant. He grew close to the inmates of the prison and gained their confidence. Two inmates shared their dreams with him, and he gave them honest interpretations even though one would find joy in the outcome and the other would find sorrow.

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Joseph was finally taken before Pharaoh. Looking on his past experiences and the sudden changes in his life, Joseph probably wondered: “What now?” But Joseph had reached the beginning of his final destination. Green grass and plenty of water awaited him in this new pasture.

He became Pharaoh’s right-hand man. He was given full charge of the kingdom. People bowed to him and feared his judgement. His brothers and his father bowed before him just as God had promised in Joseph’s childhood dream.

Joseph always wanted to be part of God’s herd, but there are examples in the Bible of people who did not want to be part of the herd. In fact, some were so wild they wanted to destroy the herd completely. Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, was one of those strays.

He wanted to jump the fence and take the entire herd with him. God knew Paul’s destiny and sent the horse of adversity to stop him in his tracks as he was traveling to Damascus to wreak havoc on the saints of God. Jesus, himself, appeared to Saul and asked, “Why persecutest thou me?”

From that day forward, Paul was committed to stay with the herd and even to bring in the strays of his own accord. Was that the end of Paul’s dealing with the horse of adversity? No. He was bitten by a serpent, shipwrecked, persecuted, lived with a thorn in his flesh and, ultimately, was martyred for Christ’s sake.

If Paul was going the right direction, why did the Lord allow the horse of adversity to plague him? As the cowboy out on the range ropes his calves and throws them to the ground, puts a hot iron to their side and lops off ears to mark them as his own, Paul was given adversity to brand him as the Savior’s.

Every time Paul overcame adversity with faith in Jesus, he became stronger, just as Joseph became stronger with every trial he faced. Paul was finally strong enough to face death with courage and to leave a never-forgotten legacy of true discipleship. He wore the brand of the Savior.

I have lived long enough to see the horse of adversity at work in my life. I can see patterns and circumstances that led me to this point in my life. Adversity often shaped where I lived and what I chose to do. God’s loving care reminds me of a hymn. Though it is a song about sheep, not cattle, it still shows the deep concern and love the Savior has and how he will pay whatever price to bring us back if we are willing.

Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd

Dear to the heart of the Shepherd
Dear are the sheep of his fold;
Dear is the love that he gives them,
Dearer than silver or gold.

Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are his “other” lost sheep;
Over the mountains he follows,
Over the waters so deep.

(Chorus)

Out in the desert they wander,
Hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue he hastens,
Bringing them back to the fold.

Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are the lambs of his fold;
Some from the pastures are straying,
Hungry and helpless and cold.
See, the Good Shepherd is seeking,
Seeking the lambs that are lost,
Bringing them in with rejoicing,
Saved at such infinite cost.

Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are the “ninety and nine”;
Dear are the sheep that have wandered
Out in the desert to pine.
Hark! He is earnestly calling,
Tenderly pleading today:
“Will you not seek for my lost ones,
Off from my shelter astray?”

Green are the pastures inviting;
Sweet are the waters and still.
Lord, we will answer thee gladly,
“Yes, blessed Master, we will!
Make us thy true under-shepherds;
Give us a love that is deep.
Send us out into the desert,
Seeking thy wandering sheep.”  end mark

—Text: Mary B. Wingate, 1899-1933.

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.

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