Summary: The Great Shepherd: 1. Provides 2. Guides 3. Protects
Journals is a new book which is coming out about the life of Kurt Cobain, who was the leader of “Nirvana,” a post-punk band with a series of crunching, screaming songs that defined grunge music. The book gives a glimpse of Cobain’s tortured life. He was obsessed with heaven and looked to the eastern religion of Janism, with its seven heavens and seven hells, to provide answers for him. But evidently his religion brought him no peace, for he shot himself to death in his Seattle home at the age of 27. Cobain was at the top of his industry and had married Courtney Love. Their daughter was only 19-months-old at the time of his death. As famous and successful as he was, his mind was tormented and his body was addicted to heroin.
Cobain is perhaps an extreme example, but he represents countless numbers of lost people in this world who lead tortured and addicted lives. They may have attained success, wealth and even fame, but they have no peace or joy in life. There are countless numbers just like him among the Hollywood set as well as ordinary suburbanites. They may have some kind of religion, but they have not found the God who made them and the world in which they live. You cannot find peace while living away from the God who formed you. And you cannot have peace living against the laws of this God which are built into the universe. “‘There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 48:22). Peace is found in knowing God and living for him.
People are looking for peace today. I think this is why the 23rd Psalm is so popular. Just reading it breathes a kind of peace and reassurance into our souls. The 23rd Psalm is talking about the Great Shepherd of our souls, and how he cares for us. The first thing that the psalm says about the Great Shepherd is that: He provides. David is saying that God is the Great Shepherd. And because the Lord is his Shepherd, he will not be in want. He has the sense that God is watching over him and providing for him. The Lord is always beside him and looking after his needs. There is great peace that has come into David’s life, in spite of his many problems, because he has this overwhelming sense that God loves him and cares about him. He has enormous interest in him. God wants the best for him and leads his life in ways so that he will find God’s best. The Bible says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Imagine what it would be like to live and not be aware on a daily basis that God loves you and wants the best for you David had that assurance, and it was what kept him going through all the problems he faced in life.
David said that God was like a good shepherd that took his sheep to green pastures and led them to quiet waters. Human shepherds may be quite different. There are various personality types. There are those who don’t really care for the sheep and are rough with them. They don’t care for the sheep, they only care about themselves. They don’t make life pleasant for the sheep, they only make life easy for themselves. It is disastrous when that happens, because sheep are rather slow-witted. They wander off and get lost. They are in need of constant care. Let’s just say they are not the brightest animals in the food chain. They cannot take care of themselves. If they walk head first into the corner of a fence, they are not smart enough to back up. The shepherd has to come and lead them out. You can see that if they were left alone they would die. I remember visiting a member of one of my churches who had sheep. One of the sheep had laid down in the pasture and rolled on its side. The sheep was helpless and could not get up. This shepherd had to go out and get the sheep back on its feet or else it would have laid there and died, suffocated by its own weight.
Remember the story that Jesus told about the lost sheep? He said, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” (Matthew 18:12). This was not just an offhand statement by Jesus, it was a real life situation that shepherds faced on a daily basis. Sheep, like us, are dependent creatures and demand constant care, because they are forever running into trouble. Like us we need the Shepherd to come after us and rescue us. But we have the assurance that we are being watched and cared for by the Great Shepherd. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:11-14).