“The Lord is my Shepherd…”
The familiar words of Psalm 23 breathe life into my weary soul. It’s a standby for anytime I need to recharge my spiritual batteries because of something profound: It’s one of the few passages in scripture where we can see each of the Old Testament names for God:
- Jehovah Jireh (Provider),
- Jehovah Mekaddishkem (Sanctifier),
- Jehovah Nissi (Banner),
- Jehovah Rapha (Healer),
- Jehovah Rohi (Shepherd),
- Jehovah Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts),
- Jehovah Shalom (Peace),
- Jehovah Shammah (Companion), and
- Jehovah Tsidkenu (Righteousness).
As you read through the verses, some of the references are obvious but others take a little pondering, which I enjoy. Something else worth pondering is the humility of the Lord Jesus, and that He would refer to Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-16).
One of the lowliest of all jobs, shepherding was a 24-7 vocation. Their accommodations were simple, sparse, and smelly, and they were considered outcasts, the dregs of society. But a good shepherd was invaluable.
A good shepherd devoted his life to the care of his flock.
He made sure they had food, a supply of fresh water and green grass.
He kept them healthy, tending and handling each one individually to make sure they didn’t have parasites.
He protected them from predators, providing a safe and comfortable place to rest.
Because he stayed in such close contact with them, he named each one and they learned to recognize his voice.
Doesn’t Jesus fit that description?
And don’t we fit the description of sheep:
Helpless, defenseless, easily distracted, prone to wander, poor eyesight, easily frightened, and afraid of the dark. When they’re injured, sheep often roll over on their backs and can’t get up! But when the hurt sheep hears the tender voice of its shepherd, it relaxes under his gentle touch and allows him to care for it.
Sometimes that gentle touch can seem harsh. I can’t verify this, but I’ve heard it several times and think it’s worth sharing:
When a sheep is perpetually wayward, it’s believed that the shepherd would swaddle the sheep, draw it close and break its leg. After he sets it, the shepherd drapes the sheep across his shoulders and carries it until it heals.
During that time the sheep learns to recognize the shepherd’s voice and, through his gentle care, learns to trust and obey him. It sounds cruel, but the good shepherd knows this relationship can’t happen any other way.
Hopefully we aren’t so stubborn we need to have our legs broken, but I know from personal experience that my Shepherd allows trials in my life so I can tune my spirit to hear His voice. (Care to tweet that?) And He is always trustworthy. I want to allow Him to
- “Fleece” me to reveal any parasites in my life and help me get rid of them.
- Lead me along an unfamiliar path to protect me from dangers I can’t see.
- Guide me into a new field that better provides for me.
- Redirect me with His rod.
- Rescue me with His staff.
Don’t you? Because our good and trustworthy Shepherd ALWAYS has our well being in mind and ALWAYS works in our lives to draw us closer to Him.
Did you ever consider this —
In the Old Testament, the sheep died as a sacrifice for the shepherd.
In the New Testament, the Shepherd died as a sacrifice for His sheep.
As if that wasn’t enough, He sent His Spirit to live within us and be our constant Comforter. I love the outline Canadian evangelist J.R. Littleproud gave this psalm:
The Secret of a Happy –
- Life: every need supplied
- Death: every fear removed
- Eternity: every desire fulfilled
An oldie but goodie, check out “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Philip Keller.
Psalm 23 is familiar to many of us. Do you have a memorable insight?