Author Timothy Keller in his book, “Walking with God through Suffering” wrote about the British shepherds dipping of their sheep. It reminded me of the first time I saw the Shona in Zimbabwe dipping their cattle – a monthly ritual.
The cattle were herded into a pen which was closed at one end but on the far end was a ramp that led to a 40 foot long, six feet deep, four foot wide pit filled with dip. The herds men would then force the mooing mass toward the narrow opening with each beast entering one at a time due to the narrowness of the opening. When the first cow got to the drop off into the dip it would stop and try to look back only to be pushed by the one behind into the foul smelling mixture. Cows don’t like to swim but they can so it would begin to make its way to the other side. That is when one of the herdsmen would take a long forked pole and force the cows head under. Now the cow was frightened – though in rare cases furious – and it would cry out and frantically try to leap out. At the time I thought that it was cruel, however, I learned that without the dip the cattle would be subject to ticks and many diseases.
As Keller writes, “As I watched the struggling sheep I thought, ‘If only there were some way to explain! But such knowledge is too wonderful for them—it is high, they cannot attain unto it’ (Ps 139:6). We too have a Good Shepherd who is committed to his sheep, though he often does things to us that frighten us and that we cannot, at the moment, understand.”