Monday, September 29, 2008

My Shepherd

Psalm 23:1
"The Lord's my shepherd, I shall not want."

This precious portion of Scripture speaks of a depth of matter which we could never fathom, and such as we will never, in all eternity. Here are two statements, penned by the sweet psalmist of Israel, David. Here, David wrote as he was carried by the Holy Spirit. David was inspired to write this as the Lord revealed it to him.

As a shepherd himself, when still a boy, he understood what a shepherd was. He understood their role and purpose. He understood the different motivations and the difficulties. He understood the dangers and the commitment and vigilance required. David himself often went after a lion or bear that was endangering the flock, and the Lord delivered the bear and lion into his hands. David knew that a shepherd's role was to look after his sheep. How well a shepherd performs this role is measured by two factors - the shepherd's motivation and ability.

In this verse, David has come to realise that the Lord is his shepherd. To begin with, David has first acknowledged that he is a sheep, not only so, but the Lord's sheep. A sheep who knows the Lord and is known by Him. A sheep who hears His voice and follows. He acknowledges that he is not in control but that God is - therein lies his comfort and ours in this Psalm. The shepherd guides the sheep and keeps the sheep on the right path. The shepherd guards and protects the sheep and makes sure nothing can attack the sheep.

Often the shepherd will have to use forceful measures, the staff and rod to keep the sheep on the right path and away from danger. But this is for their good. Here we see the comfort also, which David recognises - the comfort of discipline keeping him on the right path and away from danger. In this David recognises also that he is stubborn and prone to wander. He delights in this discipline because he dare not imagine where he would be without it.

Secondly, that as David is a sheep, he declares that the Lord is his shepherd. It is one thing to have good friends and family to help look after you and keep you on the right path, but it is entirely another to have the Lord watching over you. As it says, "the Lord who watches over Israel does not slumber nor sleep." Even the best of earthly shepherds must sleep, but not God - God never loses sight of His sheep, they are always before Him and He will not cease to watch them and will not sleep. This is the care of the Lord.

There is no danger ahead, which the Lord has not seen and will not protect His sheep from. Indeed, in His sovereignty, He has ordained these dangers to show His sheep how much the length to which He would go to protect them, and the almighty power of His protection. An earthly shepherd may occasionally come across dangers unforeseen and too great and lose his precious sheep. Not so, with the Lord. "He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth."

Not only does the Lord never tire of watching over His sheep, He also delights to watch over them. Some shepherds may be hired men, working only for money, and for others it may be their livelihood. One cares not for the sheep because he does not need them and is only interested in money, and the other cares for them only because he needs them. God is a shepherd unlike either of the two - He cares for His sheep not because He needs them; He cares for them despite not needing them. God cares for His sheep unconditionally. He needs nothing from them, and yet His care is greater than any other. He needs no reason from them to care for them, He is content to bestow His almighty care on them merely by His sole delight and choice.

How deep and rich is this care that the Lord has for His sheep? Immeasurable. If the Lord is unchangeable and infinite, then so too is His care for His sheep. God is not a man that He should relent. If God has decreed an unconditional promise to be David's shepherd, then He will "hasten His word to perform it." "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." God has not said to David, "I will be your shepherd unless you wander from me." He has said, "I am your shepherd, and when you wander, I will bring you back, I will fight for you, I will not let you go, I will be jealous for you, I will discipline you, I will keep you on the right path, I will speak my word to you, I will cure you of your wanderings." Otherwise, David would have found no comfort and could not have said, "I shall not want."

David has, in this opening statement of this Psalm, in short, realised that God has chosen to be his shepherd. David has realised that he belongs to the sheep-flock of God. He has realised he has found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He has realised that he belongs to the Lord eternally. In response to this revelation, "The Lord is my shepherd", David says, "I shall not want."

"I shall not want."

This should be the response of all who call upon the name of the Lord. All who the Lord has called His own and ransomed by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. If the Lord has bought us with His blood, He will not, cannot, forsake us. If his sheep wander, He will search high and low to bring them back. Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. The Lord God Almighty's decree has not failed, the precious blood of Jesus has not failed, the power of the Holy Spirit has not failed. "I will hasten my word to perform it." If Jesus Christ has died and risen again for His sheep, that sovereign unconditional promise of the Lord come to pass, then believe on Christ as one of His sheep and you will say: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

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