The Good Shepherd
Updated: Apr 23, 2018
What does it mean to live a life amidst the rhythm of someone greater, of someone who might know the right paths? This is the first instalment of a three part series looking at Psalm 23. Read part two here.
Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved passages in the entire canon of Scripture. Indeed, it is one of the most beautiful pieces of Hebrew literature which for thousands of years has been a solace for many believers. Martin Luther, the fiery German reformer called it one of the most "exceedingly sweet and comforting" passages in all Scripture.
The psalm begins of course, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." In John 10, Jesus reveals himself as 'the Good Shepherd,' a shepherd so devoted that he even 'lays down his life for his sheep.' Within this metaphor, I believe there is much goodness and wisdom which we can unpack. Join me friends, in a life pursuing the direction of the Good Shepherd, bending and swaying to the rhythm of his rod and staff.
Now, a sheep must live entirely by its shepherds care. Despite having dwelt in Israel for as long as people have, sheep are rather helpless creatures in the harsh environments of the Holy Land's wilderness.
They have a terrible sense of orientation and direction - without their shepherd they become hopelessly lost - and are defenceless against bears or wolves. They struggled to navigate the harsh terrain and therefore struggle to find pasture or water on their own.
Yet when a sheep was in the care of its shepherd, they were entirely at ease. However small and weak these creatures might be, they were very careful to remain close to their own shepherd. If the sheep is simply close to its master, it fears nothing, worries about nothing, and is entirely cared for. This sheep takes great comfort in the flock of its own shepherd and will follow that shepherd wherever they may lead.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15
And a shepherd's knowledge of their individual sheep was remarkable. When one Lebanese shepherd was asked if he counted his sheep each night to check none were lost, he replied that he didn't. When pressed further, he said, "Master, if you were to put a cloth over my eyes, and bring me any sheep and only let me put hands on its face, I could tell in a moment if it was mine or not."
In darkness or light, the shepherds had such intimate knowledge of their sheep that even the sounds or size of their flock would indicate to them whether any were missing. How much more then, does your Father in heaven, alongside the Good Shepherd, know and care for you!
Whether your own direction in life seems foggy, the road ahead covered in mist, or whether you're not really sure anyones cares or even knows you exist, let me tell you that there is One above all others who does! And what does this Good Shepherd want in return? Simply: you - your love and submission, realising that by in large, we are helpless and lost sheep, seeking a master who knows us best.
Our culture is adverse to authorities and not without reason. More and more we grow skeptical of authority and leadership; in Hollywood, politics, and even the church, covered up scandal and unacceptable abuse seems to erupt from the authorities we used to trust.
Yet, dear reader, we are but sheep. Miserable, helpless, disoriented sheep. Certainly, that is how I feel in most areas of my life when I am truly honest. The good news is that we submit to no human authority, to no broken leadership, but instead to a perfect, beautiful, and risen-again King, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. He knows us, guides us, leads us, and draws us into Himself to enjoy the eternal love and grace which flows in abundance from our God.
What a wonderful image that is indeed.
Andrew is currently studying to become a Youth Pastor at Carey Baptist College. He loves coffee and loves to chat - if any of this stirs something inside or you have thoughts to contribute, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.