Our Loving Shepherd Provides All That We Need
4th Sunday of Easter
Our Loving Shepherd Provides All That We Need
Text: Psalm 23
Sheep are really, really needy creatures. Sheep need water. Sheep need grass to graze on. They need a place where they can find water and grass. Usually they need someone to lead them there too. Sheep need protection. They have no special talents, no special abilities. Sheep can’t shoot quills like a porcupine or run like a cheetah or envenom like a snake. They are slow. They are defenseless. They are weak. Sheep are really, really needy creatures.
Sheep are really, really dumb creatures. They aren’t especially smart like monkeys or gorillas. They don’t do tricks like dogs. They eat, they sleep, they wander around, and that’s about it. Sometimes sheep don’t even know where they are going. Many times they aimlessly wander from the pack. They stray from the care of their shepherd. Or, they follow the sheep in front of them thinking that they are being led safely. Sheep have even been known to move in a pack while looking for food or running from danger and accidentally fall right off a cliff. Sheep are not only needy, they are really, really dumb creatures.
I am a sheep. I am so very needy. I need food. I need drink. I need to be nourished and fed. I need shelter. Sometimes I think I need more than I really do. Sometimes I think I need to have the same kinds of food or drink as other sheep. Sometimes I think my shelter could be a little bigger or a little nicer, like other sheep have. Sometimes I even see what the goats have and I want that. I also need protection. I have no special talents or powers or abilities. When danger comes my way, I need help—and lots of it! I’m slow. I’m weak. I’m defenseless. I am a sheep and I am so very needy.
I am a sheep. I am also not very smart. Sometimes I don’t really know where I am going. Sometimes I don’t really know what I’m doing. Other times I think I know where I am going or I think I know what I’m doing, but I really have no clue at all.
Too often I wander from the pack. I go off on my own. I try to go it alone. Worse, I stray from the watch and care of my loving Shepherd. I stray from what my good Shepherd wants me to do. I stray from where my good Shepherd wants me to be. And when I stray, I put myself in harm’s way. There is a roaring lion out there seeking sheep to devour, a slithering snake who wants to lead me right off the cliff. He wants me to fall. He wants me to leave the other sheep and my Shepherd behind. He wants me to be like the goats instead—following my own desires, filling my stomach with everything that seems appealing, recklessly wandering amongst my enemies.
Many times I have strayed. Many times I ignore my good Shepherd. I don’t listen to his voice or his loving call. I don’t listen to the bleating voices of other sheep. Rather I do what I want. I do what I like. I do what I think feels good and what I like best. I stray from my shepherd so often.
I am a sheep. I am so very needy. I am not very smart. I’m not very special. I am a sheep.
But let me tell you about my Shepherd. The Lord is my Shepherd. Because the Lord is my Shepherd I shall not be in want. There is nothing that I need that I will ever lack. He will always provide everything necessary for my daily living. When I am in need of rest, he leads me to green pastures where I can lie down. When I am in need of peace and solace, he leads me beside quiet waters.
My Shepherd is a wise shepherd. He knows what I want. He knows what I need. He also knows that sometimes, in order to get to the green pastures and the quiet waters, I first need to pass through the wilderness and the desert. He knows that when I pass through troubled times and troubled places, then I will truly appreciate the peace and quiet that he has to offer. So when my life is troubled and when the times are turbulent he restores my soul. This is my Shepherd.
My Shepherd knows more about me. He doesn’t just know my physical needs. He also knows my spiritual needs. He is such a good Shepherd because he is a watchful shepherd, which is also rather scary at times. He sees everything I do. He knows the times that I’ve strayed. He knows when I’ve wandered from his flock. He knows when I don’t act like I’m a part of his flock. He knows those times I don’t even want to be a part of his flock.
My Shepherd knows that there is nothing righteous or good within me. I’m more of a goat than I am a sheep. But my Shepherd is so loving that he did the unthinkable. My Shepherd made himself a Lamb. He left behind his role of Shepherd and King. He left behind his power and authority. He became a humble, silent, suffering Lamb. He became a Lamb that was sacrificed and shed his blood. My Shepherd laid down his life to save mine. He gave up his righteous life to forgive my unrighteous one.
So now he guides me in paths of righteousness for his own name’s sake. He took me off the unrighteous path and put me on his righteous path. Now he teaches me the way to go. He keeps me in his fold and in his flock. All this he does for the sake of his own name, which speaks for itself—Shepherd, King, Savior.
With all my wrongs washed away, I now have nothing to fear. Nothing can truly harm me. No evil can beset or bedevil me. Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Whatever I walk through in life—sickness, trouble, trial, problems, poverty, cancer, even death—whatever I walk through I will fear no evil. For my Shepherd is with me. His rod and his staff comfort me. They are symbols of his power. They are symbols of his protection. Even if that roaring lion, that slithering snake, comes near me, I will not be afraid. My Shepherd has crushed the head of that serpent.
I have so much confidence in my Shepherd’s love and protection and power that I can be at complete peace at all times. It’s like he prepares a table for me to sit at in the presence of my enemies. I can wine and dine. I can eat and relax, even with trouble and with enemies all around me. But I will not ever fear them, for my Shepherd is with me.
Surely every day of my life is a blessing because my loving Shepherd is with me. His goodness and his faithful love are with me every day of my life. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. Sometimes I don’t feel very loved. Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m being taken care of. Sometimes I feel like I’m all alone. Sometimes I feel like my Shepherd isn’t doing much shepherding.
But he is, because he knows. He knows what is best for me. He knows that troubles will bring me closer to his fold. He knows that problems will cause me to trust in him alone. He knows that suffering reminds me that he, my Shepherd, is more important than anything.
Yes, even though I personally go through troubles in this life, I know that his goodness and faithful love will follow me everywhere I go. They will always be there for me. They have to be. For he is my loving and divine Shepherd, and he will always love me because that is who he is and what he does.
In fact, he will love me into eternity. Not only will his goodness and love follow me all the days of my life, but I will also always be with him. For he has prepared another sheep pen. He has prepared another home, a home just for me. I know that I will dwell there in that house forever. I know I will live there because he now lives. The Lamb that was slain is no longer dead. He is now living and is again the Shepherd. Because he lives to rule and reign, I too will live to rule and reign forever. That is his loving gift to me, his dear sheep.
I am a sheep. I am nothing special. I am nothing great. I’m needy. I’m greedy. I’m selfish. I’m sheepish. I wander. I stray. I am a sheep. But,
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will 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 anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.