Psalm 79 (Psalms on the Trail)

Psalm 79:13

For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture;

we will give you thanks forever and

show forth your praise from age to age.  Psalm 79:13

Yes, these ponies are certainly not the sheep the psalmist was talking about.  These lovely animals are technically feral ponies whose ancestors several hundred years ago were once domesticated.  They have never been ridden and they graze on their own all year in Grayson Highlands State Park.  One source said they are supplemented with salt licks and that they receive once-a-year veterinarian checks.  But for the most part they are on their own, sheltering among the volcanic rocks in summer and lower hollows with thick alpine trees in the fierce winters.  This windblown area is in the highest terrain of Virginia and snows are deep and ruthless.

These ponies have a purpose in life that they know nothing about.  This herd was brought to Grayson Highlands in 1974 probably from the Assateague Island feral herd, although sources about this are sketchy.  Their purpose is simply to graze on the highland arctic “balds,” eat their fill and thus cut down on forest fire hazard and keep the terrain open for the park’s activities, hiking and stunning scenery.  The ponies don’t know it, but they do their job well.  Hikers are allowed to watch them–no feeding, no touching.  One hiker we met a few days outside Grayson told us about sitting silently for a long while watching a pony giving birth, too awed even to take photos. Days later when he was telling us about this,  he was still profoundly moved by the experience.

Sometimes I think I know my purpose in life; it has something to do with faith, hope and love. Other times I’m sure I don’t have a clue what God’s ultimate purpose for me is, and I can only hope I’ve somehow stumbled into what God wants to accomplish through me.  Still on one of my worse days, I’m sure I make it quite a challenge for God to do anything with me.  Nevertheless, here I am—wandering through the pasture God has placed me.  I, for one, am thankful to be here in the ordinary but pleasant corner of the pasture/planet where God has turned me loose.  I don’t have to be somewhere else, somewhere more spectacular (like Grayson Highlands), somewhere more important in order to accomplish whatever God’s purpose is.  The pasture where I am is just fine.  And in that sense I am a bit like one of the ponies (or sheep) after all.


1. Take this verse with you and ponder its meaning for you throughout the day.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  When have you guessed at a purpose God has for you?

2. Or read all of Psalm 79 to discover how this verse fits into this psalm. (For example: who are the “they”?)

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that is a window of this verse’s meaning for you.

The next psalm after a pause for holy week will be Psalm 80.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting a daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.