In our last episode, the good, cooperative sheep of Roger’s flock turned surly, striking out on their own. They recognized their folly when they met up with a disreputable lamb and mutton monger who tried to steal them from their shepherd. It is that mutton monger, Norlan Scrudder, who concerns us today.
Ever since Eustis had rescued the sheep from him, the evil Mr. Scrudder had burned with embarrassment, rage and a desire for revenge. The sheep would be his, he determined, if only to teach that smug, punk-of-a shepherd a lesson.
So he hatched a plan.
In the territories of Roger’s Flock, sheep pens didn’t have gates. The shepherd himself formed the gate by lying across the opening to sleep. One night, Scrudder sent his dog, a scruffy mongrel with a bad temper, to go and kill a few sheep, just to stir things up a little.
The dog sniffed around. The smell of sheep was overwhelming, but he couldn’t find a way to get at them. He kept following the fence, figuring there had to be a gate somewhere. Imagine his surprise when, upon finding an opening, he also found the shepherd lying across it. If he wanted to attack the sheep, he would have to first attack the shepherd.
The dog realized this shepherd was protecting his sheep by literally laying down his life for them. Scrudder had never offered any such loyalty to him, so he promptly took up with the kindly shepherd Eustis, and almost without thinking about it, the sheep. It wasn’t long before he considered himself a sheepdog and even began answering to the name Caleb.
Scrudder the Schmoozer
Foiled, Scrudder had to figure out another method of wrestling the sheep from their keeper. One night, he crept up to the fence and began to speak to the sheep in low, caressing tones.
He suggested that the shepherd was keeping them from living life to its fullest, and that they should stop heeding his advice on such matters as how much grass to eat and when.
“Don’t trust that dumb, old shepherd,” he schmoozed. “He doesn’t care about you. Eat up! Grass is good for you!”
It doesn’t take much to convince a sheep of something, especially if it’s not true. So the next day, the flock ate as if their lives depended on it. They stuffed themselves to such a degree that the shepherd began to try to drag them away from the pastures. But as soon as he would get one or two to quit eating, those he had dragged away would break loose and start gorging themselves.
Scrudder watched, anticipating the moment when the sheep would collapse from their gluttony, that he might make off with a few of them unseen. But it didn’t work.
The sheep did indeed collapse, but Eustis patiently dragged them back into the pen. Scrudder watched the shepherd at work while a dog paced about, keeping an eye on stragglers, watching for trouble. He looked like the nameless cur that had taken up with Scrudder some time ago, but this dog exhibited not only loyalty, but talent and even initiative. Little did Scrudder realize he could have elicited the same performance with a kind word and a few morsels of wholesome food.
About a week later, Scrudder approached the flock again. As he began to speak, the sheep groaned, “We’re not listening to you anymore! We were miserable for days after we ate all that grass! You said eating a bunch of grass was going to make us feel good!”
You have to hand it to Scrudder, for he was quick: “I’m sorry you misunderstood me. What I meant was, if you eat a whole lot of grass, it will make you suffer. And suffering is good for you. The more you suffer, the more you show you really care. All I meant was that eating a lot of grass is one of many ways to suffer and improve yourself.”
“Oh,” said the sheep. “When you put it that way, we get it.”
The next day, the sheep spared no effort in causing themselves to suffer. They threw themselves from craggy steeps. They rammed their heads into trees and boulders. They flung themselves into patches of thorns. They walked with a purpose into swarms of stinging insects.
The newly minted shepherding team of Eustis and Caleb ran themselves ragged rescuing sheep. By the end of the day, they were exhausted. Virtually every sheep had suffered numerous self-inflicted injuries, and patching everybody up lasted far into the night. It was in the midst of all this when Caleb heard something.
It was a voice, and it was familiar, but not pleasingly familiar. He ran as fast as his four legs would carry him to find — as if you didn’t already know — Norlan Scrudder giving his evil counsel to the sheep.
Jaws of Justice
Enraged, Caleb ran along the fence, leapt at his former master’s throat, and did everything he could to rip him to ribbons for all he had done — to him, to the sheep he had come to care for, and especially to Eustis, the shepherd who had been so good to him.
As Scrudder ran screaming into the night, a mess of dog bites and shredded clothing, Caleb turned to the sheep.
“Now you listen here!” he said. “You can’t smell trouble the way I can, and there’s plenty of it all around. There’s a bear to the north, wolves to the east and jackals all around! Don’t you understand the way the world is? I know what it’s like to live out there without someone to love you and care for you, and I can tell you, it’s miserable! So I want every one of you wool-brains to shape up and live the way the shepherd wants you to live. Because he loves you and wants what is best for you.”
Then the dog paused and looked away for a moment, instantly sorry for calling the sheep wool-brains and a little embarrassed to hear the words he said next.
“And I love you, too. Now let’s hear no more of this.”
The Facts are Clear
Evil counselors spend time and effort telling us things that aren’t true, are bad for us, or rob us of our peace and security. That’s just the way evil counselors are.
Sheep do silly things. That’s just the way sheep are.
Shepherds give their charges an almost unlimited supply of second chances and go to great lengths to save them from themselves. That’s just the way shepherds are.
The word of God comes from strange places, like the mouths of babes, beggars, sinners and sheepdogs. That’s just the way the word of God is.
All those who believed in the shepherd remained together and had all things in common. And day by day, continuing with one mind in the pastures of the Lord and eating grass meadow to meadow, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God. They had favor with all people, all sheep and all dogs. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him in order that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.