The Lord is my shepherd… (Psalm 23:1a)
The Good Shepherd
My grandfather was a shepherd, on a little farm on the outskirts of Metamora, MI. My dad recalled seeing his father leading the sheep through the fields, carrying a bucket of saltwater. He would walk slowly in front of the flock, flinging the tasty, salty elixir behind him. As my dad described it, the sheep in the back didn’t even know why they were following, while the ones closer to the front would get an occasional taste of the saltwater. But the sheep that followed closest—on the heels of the shepherd—would get the best treats, lapping the coveted treats directly off the shepherd’s hand.
There is probably no passage of scripture that is more familiar than our psalm today. Psalm 23 is recited at baptisms and funerals and all points between. For that reason, some of us “seasoned” Bible geeks might be tempted to gloss over it dismissively as we read through the psalms. But this song is famous for a good reason. It not only describes what a shepherd does, and why that’s an appropriate metaphor to describe God. It also seems to capture every aspect of what it feels like to be a sheep…what it means to follow a really good shepherd.
Before he was Israel’s most famous king, David was a shepherd. He knew that life. It was a hard life—lonely, sacrificial, and often dangerous. Like the slogan says, it was “More than a job…it’s an adventure!” To be a good shepherd, you had to not only love a good adventure, you had to really love your sheep…you had to really know your sheep.
And the closer the sheep get to their shepherd, the more they discovered how really loved they are.
Jesus too, uses this shepherd metaphor to describe his relationship with us. He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd—I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:11,14) It’s a helpful metaphor to understand who Jesus is. He is the Lord, and “The Lord is my Shepherd.” But it’s so much more than that. It also describes who we are, and what it means for us as the sheep of that Good Shepherd! We are not only cared for, protected, sheltered, led, healed, and fed, we are loved and we are known.
The shepherd delights in us, He would lay down his life for us. In fact, He did. The Good Shepherd became the spotless, sacrificial Lamb who died in our place. And now he sits enthroned in heavenly glory, and he continues to shepherd us into joy and real life. “The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.” (Revelation 7:17)
“Living water…” Doesn’t that sound good? We can know that living water if we know that Shepherd. We can taste it if we stay close to him. Sure, you can follow aimlessly from the back and still end up going where we you are supposed to go. OR…you can follow close on His heels and lap up every bit of the real life He is offering us…every day. Why not do THAT? Stay close…and stay thirsty for that living water…stay thirst for him!
PRAYING PSALM 23 (one line at a time):
The Lord is my Shepherd –Thank you Lord, for Your Relationship!
I shall not want – Thank you Lord, for Your Supply!
He makes me to lie down in green pastures – Thank you Lord, for Your Rest!
He leads me beside the still waters – Thank you Lord, for Your Refreshment!
He restores my soul – Thank you Lord, for Your Healing!
He leads me in the paths of righteousness – Thank you Lord, for Your Guidance!
For His name sake – Thank you Lord, for Your Purpose!
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – Thank you Lord, for Testing!
I will fear no evil – Thank you Lord, for Your Protection!
For You are with me – Thank you Lord, for Your Faithfulness!
Your rod and Your staff they comfort me – Thank you Lord, for Your Discipline!
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies – Thank you Lord, for Your Hope!
You anoint my head with oil – Thank you Lord, for Your Consecration!
My cup runs over – Thank you Lord, for Your Abundance!
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me every day of my life – Thank you Lord, for Blessing!
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord – Thank you Lord, for Your Security!
Forever – Thank you Lord, for Eternity!