The Lord is My Shepherd
Fall is my favorite season. The colors and the crops, the cool temps and shorter days, and our family birthdays are all reminders of God’s provision. After a summer of long hours investing in lives at camp, tending the gardens, and caring for animals, fall is a culmination of fruit for all of our labors, and it is a promise of rest as we head into the winter months. This is the season of giving thanks, and this year I am thanking God that He is mine and I am His.
I am writing twelve days of reflections on Psalm 23, guided by “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,” by W. Phillip Keller 1.
Psalm 23 is one of the first chapters I give my children to memorize, usually between the age of 6 and 9 (depending on their ability). Memorizing full chapters, or chunks of chapters, is actually easier than trying to keep track of random verses because all of the verses belong together and flow in a theme that can be followed.
A universally loved chapter, Psalm 23 is full of meaning, but many of us do not grasp the full treasure that it represents because we do not tend sheep. Understanding the nature of the relationship between shepherd and sheep gives us a deeper appreciation for the care our Savior constantly gives to us when we entrust ourselves to Him.
Sheep need more care and guidance than any other livestock animal. They are always needing rescued. It is no accident that God uses this analogy. I need constant care.
King David is called “Shepherd King” of Israel because he was a shepherd himself, before he became a warrior and Israel’s champion. He had intimate knowledge of the sheep’s dependence upon their caretaker and the extremes that the shepherd went through to keep the sheep safe and healthy. As a shepherd, David had gone out against bears and lions, risking his own life to protect his sheep.
David wrote Psalm 23 about his relationship with the Lord. He penned, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Years later, Jesus himself said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, ESV)
In his book, Keller wrote,
Before God created the heavens and the earth, He knew you. He planned out every detail of your being. God designed the Father-Child relationship and the Shepherd-Sheep analogy for you to understand the intimate relationship He desires to have with you, and to help you understand your need for His care. Jesus created you according to His Father’s plan, and the Holy Spirit brings this knowledge for you to understand His incomparable love for you.
Just like a husband and wife vow to have and to hold in sickness and in health, God desires to have and to hold, to heal and provide, care for and protect you today and forever. Not even death can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38, 39).
Jesus is the good shepherd who did lay down his life for you and for me. He did not only lay down His life to become our sacrifice when the time came for Him to die; instead, He laid down His life every day He lived upon the earth, from conception forward. He put aside his heavenly kingship, for a time, to become the Savior. Every single moment he walked the earth was part of His gift to us.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” Jesus said, “and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15, ESV)
♥ He made us.
♥ He lived and died to redeem us.
♥ He continually gives of Himself, even now, to care for us. He intercedes for us, guides us by His Spirit, and works on our behalf.
He knows his sheep and his sheep know him.
For each person to evaluate their heart and motives and personal relationship to Jesus, Keller encourages us to ask ourselves a few questions.
- Have I surrendered myself to truly belong to Him?
- Do I really recognize His right to me?
- Do I respond to His authority and acknowledge His ownership?
- Do I find freedom and complete fulfillment in this arrangement?
- Do I sense a purpose and deep contentment because I am under His direction?
- Do I know rest and repose, besides a definite sense of exciting adventure, in belonging to Him?
If so, then I can say with confidence, gratitude and worship that the Lord is my Shepherd. My heart will exalt in Him (Psalm 145:1-2).
1 Keller, W. Phillip. A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. Print.