Eat like a sheep!
A sheep has four stomachs. Now, while that may sound great to a gourmand, what I’m about to explain next is much less appetizing.
The sheep’s first stomach is called the “rumen.” When a sheep ingests food it goes first to this “rumen” where bacteria, protozoa and microbes begin to digest it. But then the sheep “regurgitates” (causes to flow backwards) the food into its mouth again to re-chew it and swallow it several times! This is called “ruminating.” In this manner the food eaten by the sheep is broken down and its nutrients are absorbed.
We also use the word “ruminate” to mean to think deeply about a thing. Merriam-Webster suggests synonyms such as consider, contemplate, deliberate, meditate, mull (over), ponder, and wrestle (with).
We can take wisdom from this. Jesus likened believers to sheep, and His teaching and the scriptures to food for our souls. We are not properly “nourished” spiritually if we take in this food but do not “digest” it… cause it to take root in us and change us (see James 1:25). The Bible is filled with reminders of this fact:
Joshua, faced with the great task of filling Moses sandals, was warned multiple times what was expected of him: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it….” (Josh. 1:8)
David, himself a shepherd, must have learned well from the habits of his charge. He wrote of the righteous man: “…his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Ps. 1:2). “I will meditate on your precepts.” (Ps. 119:78 ) he determined. “I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” (Ps. 77:12; see also 143:5).
Paul wrote the Galatians “…I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Gal. 4:19), and urged the Colossian believers to ”Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…“ (Col. 3:16). He taught the Philippian Christians to train their minds to focus on that which will promote a Christ-like spirit within them: “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8). And to Timothy, “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Tim. 4:15)
Yesterday, here in New Brunswick, many church services were cancelled due to freezing rain and ice pellets. But just as a sheep has the ability to ruminate, to pull back from its resources the nourishment needed, so do we. Jesus once said, “…every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matt. 13:52). In Acts, Luke noted of the Berean believers, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11). Likewise Paul urged Timothy “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Be a ruminator. Eat like a sheep!