Psalm 23: 1 – 6 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
In The Heart Of The Good Shepherd, Part One. We stopped at, He guides me in paths of righteousness. There are many spiritual truths God desires by His Spirit for us to 'see,' Who He is and what He continues doing, I must return to:
He restores my soul
What does this mean in spiritual terms to our Lord? The first would be putting our hope in God and in dwelling Spirit when cast down, Jesus is our Hope.
Psalm 42:5 – 8 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
The Good Shepherd, ever vigilant to protect His flock from predators, does so to the point of laying down His very life.
John 10: 14, 15, 17 "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 ... They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
One of the greatest concerns of a shepherd is 'cast' down sheep. Not merely monetary reasons but through tender care and love. Constantly watching and rescuing, our Good Shepherd lifts and places us 'right,' regardless of the amount of times down cast - out of infinite love. Death from predators or lack of understanding can happen. Only desiring to rest in lying down, tipping over never to arise again.
A ewe cast down, The Good Shepherd interest is in not only her but seeing the life birthed forth in the Spirit, yielding fruit in its time.
I Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us ( birthing – word mine) everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Finally, many cast sheep have wool which has become too much, becoming matted with mud, manure, rubble, etc. This additional weight makes it more vulnerable to becoming cast. A reminder our old man can pull us down too. We must continually offer ourselves to The Good Shepherd for cleansing and purification through the Holy Spirit.
I Peter 1:22 – Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,
He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
We saw in Part One, our iniquity fell on Christ. How do we apprehend the meaning of His name's sake?
What is required of us as the sheep of His pasture?
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;
In North America, the time to drive sheep to high meadows is summer. Sheep move slowly and snow begins to recede. Remote feeding grounds of lush nourishment wait above timberline in the Rocky Mountains. As autumn approaches, light snow begins to dust the peaks. The journey home begins against the backdrop of majestic peaks, sublime meadows, and roaring rivers.
This verse is the halfway point of the Psalm and takes on a most intimate and affectionate language. The use of I and You (or Thou) indicates a level of trust and closeness between sheep and Master. During the summer drive, the sheep are alone with the Shepherd, while he is ever vigilant watching for dangers. Flooding rivers, rock slides, predators, poisonous plants, and ominous weather.
There are few things of note to bear in mind reading this verse:
We are now at a crucial juncture, I fear no evil, for You are with me. We are in the valley of the shadow of death. The Good Shepherd is with us through every pitch black trial, distress, and seemingly hopeless impasse. Though we desire mountain top experiences, health, wealth, and prosperity; even healing, signs, miracles, and wonders. We sometimes see none.
Living with the fallacious notion all is to be well, on to higher ground. We must pass through the valleys to get to God's higher ground. Every mountain has them with deep ravines, draws, and gulches. The best route to the top of the mountains, most often goes through the valleys. The flock is gently and with persistence lead on paths up through the valley. We walk through the valley knowing lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:20).
Though our situation may be horribly difficult, the Comforter gently moves us to higher ground. A closer relationship with The Good Shepherd, we rest knowing all things are under His control.
The final reasons the flock is taken to the mountains through the valleys, they provide the gentlest grades, most watered routes and richest food. As we go through storms of life, we are able to come along side of those afraid, frightened, and even panicked - to encourage. All the while exuding a silent confidence The Lord as our Shepherd has instilled a security even in adversity and dark valleys, He has conquered all. Through Christ, we can also.
Rev 1:17, 18 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
The final verses will be covered in an epilogue.
Psalm 95:6, 7 Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Come Let Us Worship And Bow Down - Copyright Respective Owners - all rights reserved
Attributions: A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller - Copyright 1970 Zondervan Publishing House
My soul rejoices that you are continuing with this study - thank you Lord.
[quote] Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, [b][i]for thou art with me[/i][/b]."
I have often thought about those beautiful words, especially over the past seven years in regards to things I have faced in my own life. I am thinking about them at the moment as a dear friend and brother lies in ICU battling for his life with his wife sitting beside him.
God never promised us we would not have to endure sorrow and suffering; that we would not ever travel on a "dark path". In fact, Jesus told us otherwise. He told us we would. For anyone to ever suggest otherwise flat out contradicts the Word of God! What we must remember though, is that we do not walk that path alone. The Good Shepherd goes before us. He chooses the path that is best for us to travel. He is ever mindful of us and cares for us.
[quote]All the while exuding a silent confidence The Lord as our Shepherd has instilled a security even in adversity and dark valleys, He has conquered all.[/quote]
A beautiful, beautiful blog. Thank you for your obedience and your diligence in writing this.
[quote]Though our situation may be horribly difficult, the Comforter gently moves us to higher ground. A closer relationship with The Good Shepherd, we rest knowing all things are under His control.[/quote]
Well said. Thanks for sharing.
This is a treasure-trove of enlightenment regarding "the heart of the good Shepherd." Thank you for the thoughtfulness and care that went in to the penning of it.
If I may, I would like to share a poem from the English poet and essayist Joseph Addison (1672-1719). It so lovely underscores what you've written. It is entitled [i]The Lord My Pasture Shall Prepare.[/i] His inspiration was from the 23rd Psalm.
[b]THE LORD MY PASTURE SHALL PREPARE.[/b]
THE Lord my pasture shall prepare,
And feed me with a shepherd's care;
His presence shall my wants supply,
And guard me with a watchful eye;
My noonday walks he shall attend,
And all my midnight hours defend.
When in the sultry glebe I faint,
Or on the thirsty mountains pant,
To fertile vales and dewy meads,
My weary, wandering steps he leads,
Where peaceful rivers soft and slow
Amid the verdant landscape flow.
Though in the paths of death I tread,
With gloomy horrors overspread,
My steadfast heart shall fear no ill;
For thou, O Lord, art with me still:
Thy friendly crook shall give me aid,
And guide me through the dreadful shade.
Though in a bare and rugged way,
Through devious lonely wilds I stray,
Thy bounty shall my pains beguile;
The barren wilderness shall smile,
With sudden greens and herbage crowned,
Amid streams shall murmur all around.