Cast Down

“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” went the TV commercial that aired in 2007. Sadly, it generated a lot of mockery, and it became somewhat of a bantering phrase for many. I can neither confirm nor deny that I may have done so, but as I get older, falling isn’t anything to laugh about. Lynne won’t let me get on the ladder to put my Christmas lights up, not that I’ve ever missed a step on the ladder. Just sayin!

As Christians, we can find ourselves in a position where we’ve fallen and can’t get up. The Psalmist referred to it as “cast down,” which author Phillip Keller states “is an old English shepherd’s term for a sheep that has turned over on its back and cannot get up again by itself” (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, p. 60). Note that in the last phrase, the sheep cannot get up without help. The shepherd knows that a “cast” sheep will not live long in that position, not to mention the danger from predators.

This phrase is a metaphor for a child of God who has found themselves in a place where the only possibility of getting on their (spiritual) feet again is if the Good Shepherd comes to their aid.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me.”

Psalm 42:5-6a, ESV

How does a child of God, a sheep in the hand of the Good Shepherd, end up with a “cast down” soul? Keller gives three ways that can happen.

First, the sheep gets comfortable. It finds a nice soft spot, and it relaxes and stretches. Suddenly, its body shifts, and its feet no longer touch the ground. It ends up on its back with no chance of getting back on its feet. Second, this can happen when a sheep has too much wool. The third way is when a sheep is overweight. These situations are dangerous to the well-being of a sheep and require the intervention of the Shepherd.

As a Christian, I can entertain the false notion that Jesus is my heavenly porter, here to provide me with a life of comfort and ease. Suddenly I find myself helplessly alone, on my back spiritually, and down for the count. I forget the warning to:

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8, ESV

Second, I can get burdened with life’s problems and challenges, doing things in my strength and wisdom, and like a wooly sheep, it will roll me over and I am no longer standing. Third, I become a fat sheep. I go to church expecting to be spoon-fed like an infant, but I don’t exercise myself in godly living and service. Paul cautioned Timothy:

“Rather train (KJV “exercise”) yourself for godliness.”

1 Timothy 4:7, ESV

A cast-down sheep can perish in a matter of hours or days, depending on the weather. A cast-down Christian may not perish, but they are of no benefit to the Shepherd in their fallen condition. But the Shepherd cares for the sheep and is waiting to hear the bleating call of distress. When I am on my back because I got comfortable, the Shepherd will lift me up and rescue me so that I can follow Him. If the cares and burdens of this world are pressing me down, and perhaps even sin is binding me up, the Shepherd will respond to my repentance and take the shears of forgiveness to loosen the cords that bind me. If I find myself spiritually overweight, the Shepherd will set me on a path of service to get me to my fighting weight.

While a shepherd must search the pastures to find the cast-down sheep, the Good Shepherd is close at hand. He is waiting to hear the pitiful bleating of a sheep who has realized it needs the Shepherd to get them on their feet. If you find yourself cast down in soul and spirit today, call to the Shepherd. B-a-a-a-h-h-h!

What say you, Man of Valor.

Adapted from Men of Valor Devotional by Ron Helle, 2 February 2024

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