Summary: We are called sheep, but we tend to get into some wooly situations simply because we aren’t sheepish. It is time to learn to be sheep and to follow The Shepherd.
Pt. 2 - The Shepherd
500 times. More than any other animal mentioned in Scripture. So engrained in the mindset and culture of the Bible that they instantly understood and comprehended the meaning associated with the comparison throughout the Old and then into the New Testament. Jesus, the Son of God, the King, the Messiah, is understandable to us as the Lion but to the people of His day the description made sense when He is described as the Lamb of God. The problem is we aren't as familiar with the idea of sheep and shepherds so we struggle to be as sheepish as we should be. And yet, for most of us the text today resonates at such a deep level that it is used at almost every funeral. However, I am convinced that although it resonates deep within us we don't really understand it and therefore we don't apply it to our daily walk and then we find ourselves in some wooly situations. We simply aren't sheepish enough. So over the next few weeks I want us to dive into this passage and learn to be sheepish again.
I said last week that this Psalm that we tend to think is all about us is really isn't as much about us as it is about the Shepherd. This Psalm gives us one of the most clear and thorough glimpses of who we are following when we come into the flock/field/body of Christ. I think in order for us to be as sheepish as we can be we must have a clear revelation of our shepherd and the role He plays in our lives. So as we read pay special attention to the info we get about our shepherd.
Text: Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Although we are going to focus on the Shepherd let me mention that Christians are like sheep in that:
Sheep have to be led;
Sheep are helpless in the face of predators; they are weak and defenseless;
Sheep have trouble getting along with other sheep;
Sheep are totally dependent for their well being upon the shepherd;
Sheep are stubborn and have a tendency to wander away from the shepherd.
When you recognize those tendencies then we can understand just how valuable what the Shepherd does for us really is.
Let me state from the beginning that when we read this Psalm all reluctance to be sheepish should be removed because it is easy to determine that we have a good, gracious, sufficient shepherd. Loving Jesus is easy!
Since we are like sheep let's list what we discover about our Shepherd.
He guides. He provides. He restores. He protects. He corrects. He connects.
Why are we so reluctant to be sheepish when we have a shepherd that does all of this? May I say it about me and you apply it to you if it fits. Why after reading this list am I reluctant. Because I'm stupid! Sheep aren't the smartest animal in the kingdom. We have the opportunity to be lead by a great shepherd and we fight Him.
Let's take a second and look over this list again and see if we grasp His greatness until we will allow Him to be the shepherd He desires to be in our lives.
1. He Provides and Guides.
I have heard it said that God will never take you where the grace of God can't keep you. I think the Psalmist would say it like this . . . The Shepherd won't guide you to a place where He won't provide what you need! He guides us into provision two ways:
Green Pastures - It is apparent that we read over that so quickly that we have no real frame of reference. When we read that we picture in our mind our own environment. However, it is essential to remember this is being written in the land around Israel. It is a bunch of rocks. Barren. Very little rain between May and October. Dry is an understatement. When the Psalmist declares that our Shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures we fail to also recognize the work involved to get us there. Green pastures don't just happen they are created! That means the Shepherd rolls up His sleeves and works to provide us a place of rest/nourishment. Somebody has to clear the rocks, plant send, irrigate in order for their to be green pastures. What is the Psalmist saying about our Shepherd? He is working behind the scenes when we aren't even aware. He worked to get this body ready for you. He worked to get you the right song, the right sermon, the right friend, the right word, the lull, the break. If we are not careful we have a tendency to overlook the handiwork of our Shepherd. He has been toiling for us and for our good. He works for us. He tends His flocks.