PSALM 23: Sheep & Shepherds

“A Psalm of David. 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 forever.”
                                                                                                   Psalm 23
What a pleasant thought? The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. Who wouldn’t want a life free from wanting? It’s impossible not to feel a peculiar comfort and security as you read this passage and consider what it might truly mean to be a sheep in the shepherds crook. However, this passage contains some fairly strange and startling imagery. If the Lord is then shepherd, then we must be the sheep; if we are the sheep, I’m afraid this passage speaks lowly of you and me. It probably is no surprise that sheep are not smart animals. In fact, some go so far as to say that sheep in a herd would likely die from starvation were it not for the guiding hand of a shepherd to lead them. You might have heard of one man in Turkey whose entire herd of sheep walked off a cliff to their death because they were too shortsighted to see the danger ahead. To put it bluntly, sheep are dumb animals. They are totally unable to sustain themselves and need a shepherd to guide them. Psalm 23 says the same is true of us.
Despite what a blow this might be to our ego, we should feel all the more confident in our Shepherd. Not because of our own abilities, self-sufficiency and determination will we have what we need, but only because of our Father do we live our lives free from wanting. It is God who leads us to the water. It is God who restores our soul. He leads us on a path of righteousness and gives our legs the strength to walk it. What should it mean for us that we have so great a Shepherd? Even in suffering, trial and famine, we have no need for fear; God is abundantly able and he cares for His sheep. If not by our merit or ability that we have been chosen by our Shepherd, then neither by these things will be remain in his steadfast love that endures forever (Lamentations 3:22). We are simply called to be the sheep and let the Shepherd be the shepherd.  Sit with me, then, friends, at the feast that has been prepared for us.

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