Currently, on the farm, we are dealing with maggots because of fly strike on a few ewes. Flystrike happens in sheep when parasitic flies lay their eggs on dirty wool or cuts. After the eggs hatch into maggots, they bury themselves in the sheep's wool and eventually under the sheep's skin, feeding off their flesh.
I can see the tell-tail signs such as the tail twitching and small patches of discoloured fleeces. It has meant extra work, as the flock has to be brought in and the affected ewes dealt with. We do this by clipping away the wool in the infected areas and the application of some ‘blue’ spray. Hopefully the ewes will recover again to normal health.
It could have been prevented
Sheep farmers will know and I know, that I could have prevented the fly strike and its consequences if I had sheared the ewes sooner, or dipped them, or used a suitable spray-on product - but I was busy with other things, it wasn’t convenient!
This experience with the four-legged sheep has a lot of relevance to us as humans. In the Bible, we are sometimes referred to as ‘two-legged sheep’ because both the sheep and us have some things in common. David was a shepherd and he reminds us in Psalm 100:3 “Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of his pasture.”
The prophet Isaiah, who experienced life in rural Israel, wrote, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6.)
Iniquity is a word used in the Bible for sin and we usually think of it as bringing discolouration to our lives as we refer to the darkness of sin. Just as the maggots can flourish in the ideal conditions so sin can flourish in our lives. Sin in its various forms eats away at us.
Sometimes sinful habits eat away at our physical health but the constant effect of sin when undealt with is that it gets worse, and it separates us from God who is the Good Shepherd. How does the Bible tell us to deal with our sin? “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9.)
Maggots cause pain and suffering in sheep and God doesn’t want us to suffer pain because of our sin. We are to act and seek the salvation of Jesus Christ who can take away our sins, as confirmed in Acts 2:21, which says, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
I put off taking action to avoid maggots on the sheep and we can be guilty of putting off dealing with our sin. We can easily fall into the trap of the Governor Felix in Acts 24:25 and say, “When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” We need to act now to call on God to deal with our sin today. We are warned of the consequences in Hebrews 2:3, when we read, “how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” Don’t delay, seek the salvation of Jesus Christ who offers to cleanse us of our sin and make us clean and acceptable to God.
Trevor Boyd is the minister of Draperstown and Tobermore Presbyterian Churches in the shadow of the Sperrin Mountains in County Londonderry. Married to Barbara, the father of three is a sheep breeder and previously sold animal health products across Northern Ireland.
His blog appeared in a fortnightly column entitled ‘Good News For the Countryside’, in today’s Farming Life, where people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life.
You can look at other blogs in this series here.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI’s Rural Chaplain at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 07938 488 372.