Jesus As Our Shepherd

The 23rd Psalm has been a favorite among many believers for centuries.  Many of us the learned this passage when we were a child.  I remember quoting this verse as a young boy in public school as our daily prayer before class began. 

There is just something calming about this passage of Scripture that speaks to the longing of our soul to be connected with our Creator.  It’s not just a coincidence that David, a shepherd boy soon to become the greatest king Israel has even known, would pin this unique passage of Scripture.  His firsthand account of how a shepherd loves, cares and disciplines his sheep is a perfect picture of how the Good Shepherd (Jesus) loves and cares for us.

When you observe the 23rd Psalm from a shepherd’s point of view there is depth to the passage that ascends normal human understanding. It becomes a picture of our Savior’s unique but complete care of His children.  Each phrase tells of a different level of care and love that Jesus has for His children.

In this passage Jesus is the Shepherd and the sheep are His children. Because each phrase in this Psalm is packed with a unique truth I want touch on just a couple of phrases that are especially meaningful to me. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

 The Lord is my Shepherd”This speaks of the believers submission to God’s ownership, guidance and care.  Many want to claim Jesus as their Shepherd but they are far from full submission. They want to live their life without accountability to His will.   It’s like a sheep who keeps wandering off from the flock and starts grazing among poisonous weeds.  Or the sheep who wanders from the flock and becomes easy prey for the wolves and coyotes. A sheep on his own puts himself in danger that he doesn’t have the wisdom to foresee or discern.

The same is true in our life.  Anything but full submission to the Lord Jesus puts us in danger of  going down a road we never intended. Submission is not following certain rules or regulations but living in a state of daily dependence  upon the Savior for every aspect of our lives.  It’s having such confidence in the Good Shepherd’s care that whatever comes in our life we know  our Sovereign God is fully aware and in control, even though we may feel out of control. 

I shall not want”   This phrase is connected to the first phrase.  Because the Lord is my Shepherd then I live in a condition of wanting nothing.  It’s a phrase of contentment.  When we are utterly dependent upon Him for our provision, care and love then our life is complete.

  • He is our provision – ” And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19)
  • He is our care – “Casting all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
  • We are the beneficiary of His unconditional love –  “For I am convinced that…nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God’s plan of complete dependence upon Him allows us to find our contentment in Him, not in things, status, or acceptance by the culture.  We are to be so dependent upon Him that when loss occurs we know our Shepherd is in control and has our back.  We don’t crave or desire anything more.  It frees us from the trap that satan sets to ensnare us into believing that we need more to be truly happy and content.  As a follower of Jesus, contentment is truly the key to our happiness.

Bottom Line

Is the Lord Jesus truly the Shepherd of your life, or are you trying to live life in two worlds?  Can you say that you are content by resting in His love and care?

A partial surrender is not surrender at all.  A shepherd cannot care and protect a sheep who thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.  Without true contentment we will live a life of always needing more. 

 Our life has a destiny and it can only be found as we give our life in full surrender to His control and leadership.  As the Scripture declares, “He knows the plans He has for us.” (Jeremiah. 28:11)

Philip Keller in his classic book “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23”  writes the following words: 

As I have moved among men and women from all strata of society as both a lay pastor and a scientist I have become increasingly aware of one thing.  It is the boss/master in peoples lives who makes the difference in their destiny.”

Who is the boss/master of your life?       

Thankful Heart

“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

The church I was raised in was in the city limits, but our worship style was far from the typical city church. I guess you could say that we were a “country church” in the city. I learned a lot about being a Christian in that church.

One of the things that sticks out in my memory are the testimony meetings. At least once a month, the entire church service would be given to “testifying”. As a boy, I have to admit, that I often viewed it as more entertaining than inspirational, especially when certain “emotional leaning” personalities would take their turn to testify. I would set on the side of my bench wondering what they were going to say or do next.

As I grew older I began to see the value of testimony meetings. I now see that it gave the congregation the opportunity to publicly participate in the service, fulfilling 1 Corinthians 14:26 “…when you assemble each has a psalm, has a teaching, a revelation…” It was an opportunity for each person to tell how God had become practical in their daily life. To a young Christian this was a valuable experience that helped me get over the fright of publicly sharing my faith. As I look back on this experience, I think these meetings were one of the most important activities in my development of walking out my faith in my younger years.

However, with all the benefit derived from this experience there was also a downside. Now that I am older and more mature in my faith, there were a few glaring doctrinal errors I picked up in those meetings. One of the most prevalent errors was the one concerning thankfulness. As I recall, being thankful was reserved for salvation, the health of your family, the raise you got on the job, and your new car. In other words, it was perceived that thankfulness only related to being thankful for the good things, and the answered prayers. Don’t get me wrong, those are areas where we should be thankful.

But having a thankful heart is not just related to the good things that God gives us. Equally important is being thankful for all the other things that come our way. No one desires to have illness, marriage problems, relational issues, and financial reversals. But as growing and maturing believers we understand that our most significant growth comes when we are plucked from our comfort zone and placed in a state of unrest and brokenness.

Brokenness means coming to the “end of yourself.” I have been asked many times, “Which comes first, brokenness or coming to the end of yourself?” I usually respond, “I think they are most often simultaneous.” When we spend time in the valley, unable to help ourselves, we are forced to depend on God’s sufficiency. The result is we get to know God at a deeper level. Our faith has grown and we now trust God like never before.

So this Thanksgiving season, lets be careful to remember that having a thankful heart also includes being thankful for the pain, the suffering and those uncomfortable situations that God has seen us through.

So if you have the opportunity to tell what you are thankful for this season, how about telling how you are thankful for the valleys that He has seen you through? Then tell how the valleys has strengthened your faith. Maybe someone may need to hear how God has led you through the valley.

I am thankful for the valleys that God has led Brenda and me through this year. We have learned that God is faithful in and through the valley. We are also thankful for you, our friends. May your Thanksgiving holiday be blessed with wonderful memories and plenty of good food.

Larry Bennett