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Psalms 23

It is one of the most well-known and comforting passages of all Scripture. Read often at funerals, the twenty-third psalm brings comfort at times of death. Yet, there is so much more to this psalm that truly brings hope and comfort not only for the bereaved, but also for the living, who trust Jesus as a shepherd to guide them in their lives.

In Bible times, shepherds were common to those who lived in the Middle East, as sheep and goats were depended upon for survival. The clothing they wore, the tents they made, much of the meat they ate, were tied to shepherds and shepherding the flock. Family honor would depend on defending the flock.

The comparison of God and Jesus being a shepherd is a well known throughout Scripture. There are over five hundred references in Scripture to shepherds found in the Bible, and this becomes an example, a metaphor, of the leadership in the church.

Isaiah 40:10-11 states about God, “Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Do we hear the care and concern that God has for his people?

Imagine sheep that are being led by a shepherd that they trust! Imagine, as some paintings depict, a lamb being carried by the shepherd until it is restored to its mother. Imagine the idea that when the shepherd call his sheep, they all come rushing to him because they know he is going to lead them to fresh, still water and greener pastures? 

The sheep trust the shepherd. Sometimes, as with all of us, there are moments when we rebel against the shepherd, and the shepherd has to “discipline” the sheep. In some accounts I have read, if a sheep wanders off and gets lost repeatedly, the shepherd will break a leg of the sheep, and then nurse it and carry it until the leg is well. The sheep and the shepherd form a bond, and the sheep will never go astray again. We as God’s sheep, need discipline at times, and need to learn our lesson the hard way. In Hebrews 12:11 Scripture says, For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Can we see God sending his Son, who calls himself the Good Shepherd, proving that He cares and is deeply concerned about all of us that strive to follow him? Notice John 10:1-5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

            Jesus emphasizes that the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. This means that the sheep listen for the shepherd’s voice and commands. He knows us by name – and he knows our “quirks, our faults, our disobedience as well as obedience.” The sheep have a relationship of trust in the shepherd. Child of God, do you trust the Father, Son and Spirit to help you to make it to the sheepfold in eternity?

The Psalmist said that “all we, like sheep, have gone astray.” Thank God that we have a loving shepherd, a loving, caring God, that helps us correct our lives and become what he knows we are capable of being!

How closely do you follow the shepherd? Do you pick up His word and listen to His voice? Has God allowed a time of discipline in the church now so as to wake up the sheep to our failings? Is he offering a call for his wandering ones to come back?

Think on these things – more next week, God willing.



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