Summary: With the Lord as our Shepherd we will not be in want.
“Go in Peace: A Companion for the Way”
Ps. 23:1 (Jn. 10:11-15)
Who is responsible for your life? Who is responsible for your welfare, your safety, your direction in life? It’s important to know because whoever it is needs to have control of your life to carry out the responsibility. So who is responsible?
Your answer may well depend on your life stage. We enter life totally dependent on parents, or some other adults. We can do nothing for ourselves. But as we grow older we strive to become independent, to be in charge of our own affairs. Yet we still have basic needs that only others can meet – intimacy, family, friends, and social experiences. Then we hit a period where we are very dependent upon experts – doctors, lawyers, CPA’s, teachers, pastors. And once older age sets in, we become dependent again on others to help care for us as our bodies and minds weaken. So I ask again – through it all, who is responsible for your life? It’s easy to say “I am.” But are you, really?
In Psalm 23 David points us in the right direction. He had thought about his life and come to the conclusion that he was not ultimately responsible for it. David did not want to be totally responsible or independent; so he settled on an image. As he thought about whom he would want in charge of his life, he claimed that A SHEPHERD TAKES FULL RESPONSIBILITY. David was a warrior, a commander, and a king. Yet when it came to taking responsibility for his life, he used the image of the shepherd – an image that was very familiar to him since he had been a shepherd. As he had taken responsibility for the life of his sheep, he wanted someone to do so for him.
To desire a shepherd is to ACKNOWLEDGE WE NEED SOMEONE ELSE. While we like to be in control and think we can handle life by ourselves, we must face the reality that we cannot plan tomorrow, we cannot control the events of today or tomorrow, and we cannot meet all of our needs without help. If we’re honest, we admit that we are often helpless.
WE ARE, IN FACT, LIKE SHEEP. Sheep require more care than any other livestock. They have no sense of direction and go anywhere but the right way. They will leave good pasture for bad. They are prone to wander, and not run away from other animals that seek their life. They conform to the mob mentality and often follow other sheep into danger. They are stubborn and often refuse the shepherd’s direction. They are prone to illness and disease and are dirty animals. Sheep have many deep- seated fears, develop bad and harmful habits, and are basically defenseless. If sheep are to survive they must be dependent upon a good shepherd. To help put it in perspective compare a sheep with a horse. Put a horse out to pasture and it can survive for years; put a sheep out to pasture and it will soon either die of starvation or thirst, or be killed.
Like it or not, we are like sheep. We are sheep. God repeatedly calls His people sheep. Jesus makes repeated references to people as sheep. We are sheep. We are insecure and extremely dependent. WE ARE NEEDY AND CANNOT GO IT ALONE. We do follow the crowd, and try to conform. We do fear many things. We are stubborn and selfish. We do have bad and harmful habits. We worry about being defenseless. We don’t like to be told what to do, where to go. That’s why, in Mark 6:34, Mark said Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were “like sheep without a shepherd.” As an old hymn puts it, we are prone to leave the God we love. We can identify with Isaiah 53:6 - “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” If left totally to yourself, where would you be? Are you willing this morning to claim your identity as a sheep, to acknowledge your dependence? Say with me, “I am a sheep.”
That means WE NEED A SHEPHERD. We need someone to lead us, provide for us, protect us, heal us, and to bring us safely home. In Psalm 23, David was reflecting upon Israel’s relationship with God. Israel was the sheep and God the shepherd. The Israelites didn’t need to know the way through the desert; it was enough that their Shepherd knew. They didn’t need to know where the resting places were or where the food and water would come from; their Shepherd knew. And having been a shepherd himself, David knew that IT’S THE SHEPHERD WHO MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE SHEEP’S SAFETY AND DESTINY. WE need a shepherd who will take full responsibility for our lives, 24/7.