Summary: A Study on how we are provided for
In the Shepherds Care
It’s tragic to know Psalm 23 but not know the Shepherd.
The frostbitten shepherd
In Elizabethton, Tennessee, lived an aged schoolteacher named Beula Thomas, who was raised on the Colorado prairie. Before her death, she recorded her childhood recollections, including the vivid incident that brought her to faith in Jesus Christ.
An early blizzard hit the Rockies during the winter of 1912, and a local shepherd, Mr. Woods, was caught with his flock in the mountains near the Thomas homestead. He desperately tried to herd his sheep into a hollow space close together so they could keep warm. Woods knew the thick snow would provide a protective covering for his sheep, saving them from the bitter wind; and the warm breath from the sheep would melt the snow near their faces, allowing them to breathe.
But instead of listening to their shepherd, the sheep bolted after the lead sheep and ran into a thick snowdrift where they perished. The despondent, half-frozen shepherd showed up at the Thomas house, seeking refuge from the storm. Mrs. Thomas heated water for the poor man’s hands and feet while her husband rubbed them vigorously to ward off frostbite. Over a supper of salmon patties, the man told his sad story.
“I’ll come back after the blizzard and skin the sheep,” said Mr. Woods. “The birds and coyotes will take care of the meat.”
The three Thomas children were gripped by this unexpected visitor. Shortly afterward, while they discussed it all with their mother, she quoted Psalm 23, explaining that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for us, though all we like sheep have gone astray.
“Some people are stubborn and refuse to follow Christ and are lost forever. But Jesus came to lead his sheep to eternal safety.”
Psalms 23 KJV
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
I own a marvelous little book written nearly a quarter of a century ago by a former shepherd, Philip Keller. He titled the book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm Twenty-Three, He tells about his experience as a shepherd in east Africa.
The land adjacent to his was rented out to a tenant shepherd who didn’t take very good care of his sheep: his land was overgrazed, eaten down to the ground; the sheep were thin, diseased by parasites, and attacked by wild animals.
Keller especially remembered how the neighbor’s sheep would line up at the fence and blankly stare in the direction of his green grass and his healthy sheep, almost as if they yearned to be delivered from their abusive shepherd. They longed to come to the other side of the fence and belong to him.
Christians understand that the identity of the shepherd is everything. It is wonderful to be able to say, "The Lord is my shepherd."
There’s a line in the Old Testament written by Isaiah that tells the result of God’s gamble, Isaiah 53:6: "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way."
Although God has a right to own us because he created us, he gave us the option of freedom, and we all left. We chose sin and did not love him as he wanted to be loved. In response, he chose to send out his own son to look for us, to hunt us down, to find and redeem us at a terrible cost--the cost of his own life.
A shepherd notches the ear of a lamb born to his flock and has rightful ownership. That lamb deliberately walks away. The shepherd searches near and far to get that lamb back. A long time later, he finds not a baby lamb but a grown sheep for sale at an animal auction. The shepherd recognizes his mark on that sheep’s ear. He goes to the auctioneer and says, "I can see the mark. That sheep is mine."
The auctioneer says, "Listen, you must bid and pay just like anybody else."
The shepherd bids and pays an outrageous price, far above any reasonable market value in order to get his lamb. He now has a double right to own this sheep: from birth, from redemption.
God has a right to own us as creator and because he has paid the blood of his own Son--an outrageous price far above our market value--in order to redeem us back again.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
There is a beautiful figure in one of Wordsworth’s poems of a bird that is swept from Norway by a storm. And it battles against the storm with desperate effort, eager to wing back again to Norway. But all is vain, and so at last it yields, thinking that the gale will carry it to death--and the gale carries it to sunny England, with its green meadows and its forest glades.