Journey with the Shepherd Part One

When you think of God, what image comes to mind? Is it the Righteous Judge sitting on His throne? Is it the King ruling in power and glory? Or maybe, it is the image of a Father loving His children. Perhaps, the most familiar and most loved image of the Lord is that of a Shepherd. Have you ever considered why? Maybe the thought that the Almighty God who created heaven and earth would care and tend to His people like a shepherd does is astounding. But that is what is found in the lines of the 23rd Psalm, penned by King David, a shepherd himself.
“The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1a) is a personal and profound statement. It portrays an intimate relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep. It is a relationship that anyone in the Jewish culture would recognize because they were a nomadic people. But what is the significance for us in our culture today?
The first implication of the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep is ownership. The shepherd uses his own personal resources to buy his sheep. Paul says, “For you are not your own…you were bought with a price…” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We were purchased with something far more precious than money; we were bought with the blood of Jesus. Now we belong to Him. And we know we belong to Him when we recognize His voice. Jesus said, “My sheep know My voice and I know them, and they follow Me.”(John 10:27). Just as the sheep know the voice of their shepherd, so we learn the voice of our Shepherd by spending time in His Word. For the Lord Himself asks, “Give ear O my people to My law; Incline your ears to the words of My mouth.”(Psalm 78:1).
David continues his opening thought by saying, “I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1b). If we truly belong to the Lord, He, as our Shepherd, has the primary responsibility to provide and protect us, his sheep. He promises to meet each and every need in our lives, whether it be physical or spiritual, temporal or eternal. Paul is as confident about this truth as David is. Listen to what he says in Philippians 4:19: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” What a blessing it is to know that our Shepherd knows our needs even before we ask, and that we can be content in His care no matter what need may arise.
As if to illustrate his point further, David says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures…” (Psalm 23:3a). It is important to remember that Israel is in the midst of the desert and vegetation is scarce. The result is that the sheep are totally dependent on the shepherd to find suitable sustenance for them. Often a pasture is only sufficient to feed sheep for one day, and thus the shepherd leads them to another the next. What a picture of the importance of daily feeding on God’s Word.
The shepherd not only knows the nature of the landscape but also the nature of His sheep. Sheep, like their human counterparts, are typically anxious creatures. They will lie down only if all their needs are satisfied and they feel safe. Sheep in a prone position are vulnerable to attack, and it is in the presence and protection of the shepherd that they are able to rest free from worry and fear. How often do the worries of the day rob us from sleep at night? It is in the secure knowledge that our Shepherd is alert and aware of our needs, even when we are not, that we can say with David, “I will both lie down in peace and sleep; For you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8).
David completes the pastoral couplet in Psalm 23:3b by saying, “He leads me beside still waters.” Thirsty sheep can present a dangerous situation because they will wander until they quench their thirst. And, as you may know, sheep were not blessed with a great amount of intelligence. They can very easily get lost, stuck on a ledge, or even drown in search of water. Stagnant or stormy water could be fatal. Sheep need fresh, still, peaceful water. This water allows sheep to come freely and drink. And only the shepherd knows where to find such water. Our source is the Shepherd Himself. Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37). He alone is the living water.
Yet, despite the knowledge that all our needs will be met, there are times we get discouraged. Our feet get tired and our load heavy. The Lord knows, and speaks through His Word to encourage us. And we can say with David, “He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3a).
Finally, without proper direction and guidance, sheep left to their own devices will wander off. Therefore, a good shepherd will walk in front of them, leading them in the paths that are good and safe. So it is with the Lord. As David says, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3b). He directs us in His ways so that, in following Him, we become as perfect as He is and bring glory to Him. He guides us, not because of our goodness, but because of His grace.
What a privilege to belong to a Shepherd who bought us with His own blood, provides for our each and every daily need, and leads us in the paths in which we should go. But the best part of the journey with the Shepherd is yet to come. Until then, we as His sheep, can rest in His loving arms and be content.

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About Katherine Wacker

Katherine Wacker is currently a reviewer for Bethany House Publishers, and Howard Books. She is a Craftsman graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild. She holds a B.A in History from San Diego State-Imperial Valley Campus. In her spare time she likes to read books, watch sports, and do jigsaw puzzles. She lives at home with her parents and three dogs, Charlie, Roscoe and Daisy.
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