(If you are stumbling across this for the first time, you may want to start at the beginning of the series and work your way through the links at the end of each post. Or check out the index for this entire series of posts. We’ve learned so much about the psalmists and their relationship with God. I hope today’s is no exception.)
God is My Shepherd
Psalm 28:9 says: “Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.”
Psalm 80:1 says: “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!”
However, the psalm we think of the most when it comes to shepherding is Psalm 23.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
But what does it mean to be a shepherd. I love Phillip Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. (Yes, that is an affiliate link. Help a guy out, click the link and buy the book.) I encourage you to get this book for a deep study of this relationship.
However, for our brief purposes, we see a shepherd as a leader, a provider, a protector and a restorer.
1. God is My Leader
As my shepherd, I follow God’s lead. As Americans, we don’t like this much. We like to strike out on our own. We like to go it on our own. We want to blaze a trail. We want to lead the way. We want to find and discover new things for ourselves. Sadly, when we sheep try to do this, we get ourselves in trouble. We burrow into brambles from which we cannot escape. We discover fields with poisonous weeds and diseased grounds. We actually don’t really go anywhere, we just trample our own little circle until it is useless.
As long as we see ourselves as our own leaders, we are going to be in trouble. We have to see God as our leader, our shepherd. When we, like the psalmists, become excited about God as our shepherd, we change. We don’t strike out on our own. We follow the leader. We know we can trust Him. His leadership is beside quiet, still waters, not trampled, disturbed, diseased waters. He makes us lie down in green pastures. He leads us in paths of righteousness. We know that He will lead us on to the higher ground, the greener pastures.
How could we not pray like the psalmists when we understand the only leader we can trust is God?
2. God is My Provider
He prepares a table. Some suggest this sections changes the metaphor from shepherd to host at a banquet. Perhaps that is the case. However, I am not completely convinced. But in either case we learn about our God. He provides for us. He feeds us.
He sets the table for my spiritual feast. He anoints my head with oil. My cup overflows. I’ll never thirst while under His care. Therefore, I can expect goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life.
Oh, I know that I can’t sit on my hands and just expect God to drop food down from heaven. But, in the end, I understand that every good gift I have comes from the Father above. How could we not pray like the psalmists when we understand that the only true source of all good gifts is God our Shepherd.
3. God is My Protector
Our enemies roam about us. The path we walk is the valley of the shadow of death. Predators and dangers loom large on all sides. We are but sheep. We have no defenses. If we did try to defend ourselves, the most we could accomplish is to run in circles, bleating helplessly until we collapse from exhaustion only making ourselves easier targets. While we rely on ourselves from protection, our only hope is death.
However, our God is the good shepherd. He protects us from the enemy. We need fear no evil. God, with His rod and staff, will protect us. Yes, we can’t help but see discipline in that rod. But we know our God’s discipline is for our good. We can trust Him, even if we don’t always understand it at the time. The enemies may look on, but they cannot overpower us. No matter what we face, we know our Shepherd will carry us through and bring us out on the other side.
That doesn’t mean we will never face hard times. That doesn’t mean we’ll never face flash floods, rock slides, predatory attacks on our journey to the table top grazing lands. It simply means our Shepherd will lead us through. If we will only follow Him.
How can we not pray like the psalmists when we know our only hope against the enemy that attacks is our Shepherd?
4. God is My Restorer
Perhaps this is the most important. We are sheep. Even when we love our Shepherd, we go astray at times. That is just what we do. We wander on to a ledge to get a little scrub of grass and then can’t find our way back. We get caught in a thicket from which we cannot escape. We wander out of the prepared field into dangerous regions. Sometimes we just get lazy, lay down, roll over, and can’t get up.
We thrash about. We bleat and holler. We kick and scream. We run in circles. Eventually, we stop, exhausted, downcast, distressed. There is nothing we can do. All seems lost. Our only hope is a quick and painless death, but we know it will be a slow and painful process.
However, we do not have to fear, our ever watchful Shepherd is there. Instead of disinheriting us for acting like sheep. He restores us. He refreshes us. He provides for us. He comforts us. He sets us back on the path of righteousness and leads us onward.
What a great shepherd we have.
How can we not pray like the psalmists when we know our Shepherd wants to restore us, lifting us up on His shoulders, carrying us back to the clear streams and green pastures, comforting us?
If we want to pray like the psalmists, we must be as sheep and let God be our Shepherd. He is the great God who loves, leads, provides, protects, and restores.
(Come back next week as we learn that the Psalmists saw God as near.)