The Shepherd's Care
January 18, 2023
Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”- Psalm 23:1
Today, we take a fresh look at the most familiar words in the Bible. Yahweh, the God of Israel, is my very own shepherd. He has many sheep, but He is MY shepherd who knows me, cares for me, leads me, and speaks in a voice I recognize. He can differentiate me from all other sheep and always knows whether I am walking with His flock or wandering away. When I do wander, He seeks me because I am His. He is jealous for me and will not tolerate anything that would harm me. I can trust Him.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” – Psalm 23:2
Sheep are not very good at locating their own grazing lands. They tend to wander aimlessly, following this patch of grass to another until they are lost. The Shepherd knows the places of abundant food and pure, sweet water. Worry and care are redundant exercises if one is a member of Yahweh’s flock; He already has our needs in His heart and plans. His care is complete. His provision is sure. Are you wearing your life and patience thin trying to duplicate His efforts? Stop. It is futile. Trust Him.
“ He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” - Psalm 23:3
The care that God gives us restores something that has been lacking in our lives. His desire is not simply to keep us going or maintain our existence, but do a deep work of grace in us that places us back on the path of righteousness – right relationships with Him and others and right living that nourishes our souls. As He works profoundly in us, His purposes are accomplished and His Name is glorified. We cannot divorce the glory and love of God as opposing realities. When we prosper, He is exalted.
“ Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4
This valley was a real place of danger in the psalmist’s time and it is any place of danger and despair in our own where we feel alone and vulnerable. But neither the valley nor death itself are the essential and fearful evils that we shun. Evil overtakes us as we grow frightful and discouraged in the valley and it is that evil that the Shepherd confronts with His rod and staff to comfort our souls. Sometimes it is the rod and staff of discipline, but more often, of protection that reminds us that we are not alone.
“ Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” – Psalm 23:5
We are guests of God, honored and prized. So far, the psalmist has portrayed God as a shepherd. Then, he has added the role of friend to the Lord’s description. Now, He is also our host. As we see more of who God is in our lives, our self-image is expanded. We have been invited to sit at the head table and partake of a feast of love, joy, and abundance. Looking on with jealous rage are our impotent enemies – forces that endanger our souls. They are powerless to interrupt this celebration for God is in charge.
“ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” – Psalm 23:6
Wherever we go, goodness and love follow. Our journey is a temporal transition leading to an eternal home, but throughout it all, we are accompanied by the presence of God. His Shepherding friendship and hospitality cause us to reinterpret every event of our lives in the light of His purposes and providence. Nothing has meaning apart from Him once we have trusted Him and known His covenant love. Everything prior to our coming to Him was a cruel illusion. But now, we live in a constant state of grace. Amen.