Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.”
“George Muller, the great man of prayer and faith, had placed his hope and trust in God for sixty-eight years when he made the declaration that he had read considerably more than one hundred times through the whole of the Old and New Testaments, with prayer and meditation. Through faith and prayer, Mr. Muller provided and cared for 10,000 orphans, at Ashley Down, Bristol, England. He was once asked how he could manage this. He replied with great confidence, ‘I hope in God.’”
Streams In The Desert
Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
Today’s Study Text:
“The Lord is my Shepherd, to feed, guide and shield me.”
Psalm 23 – Part 5
“My Shepherding Lord”
“The Good Shepherd will lead you to a discovery of yourself and of the person you can become.”
What characteristics of a “lamb” do I possess in the way I choose to live my life?
How can the guidance of my “Shepherd” benefit me each day?
“Sheep cannot survive making their own way. Sheep are absolutely dependent upon the shepherd for life. Sheep can trust the shepherd. Knowing the dependence sheep have on the shepherd brings into focus the central testimony of Psalm 23: the shepherd is faithful.”
Tom Are, Jr., Pastor
Feasting On The Word
Year B. Volume 3
“Utter reliance and dependence mark the sheep’s demeanor. Passionate care for the sheep, coupled with strength to protect them, is the mark of the shepherd.”
W. C. Turner
Duke University School of Divinity
This past year, I surprised my husband Jim with three small antique sheep formed out of metal. I was able to find these cute looking creatures on ebay for a very reasonable price and knowing how fond Jim is of sheep, I couldn’t resist the urge to purchase these little creatures which are now displayed on his small desk.
As Jim has said more than once, “There’s something about the innocence of sheep that strikes a nerve within me.” I agree wholeheartedly. Having visited many farms and fairs in my younger years, I’ll freely admit that I always wanted to go and see the “lambs,” just as Jim did.
However, through the years, the more I have learned about these wooly creatures, the more I’ve come to recognize that sheep don’t do too well when left to their own devices.
Author David Roper, in his book, Psalm 23: The Song of a Passionate Heart, identifies two distinct characteristics in sheep which may well have been something David recognized that led him to come to the conclusion that sheep need a shepherd – a guide – a caretaker: “One day as David was watching his sheep, the idea came to him that God was like a shepherd. He thought of the incessant care that sheep require – their helplessness and defenselessness.” Then David Roper beautifully continues by describing how David, himself, may have perceived the flock that was within his care: “(David) recalled (the sheep) foolishly straying from safe paths and their constant need for a guide. He thought of the time and patience it took for them to trust him before they would follow. He remembered the times when he led them through danger and they huddled close at his heels. He pondered the fact that he must think for his sheep, fight for them, guard them, and find their pasture and quiet pools. He remembered their bruises and scratches which he bound up, and he marveled at how frequently he had to rescue them from harm. Yet not one of his sheep was aware of how well it was watched. Yes, he mused, God is very much like a good shepherd.”
After reading a variety of books and commentaries on Psalm 23, I did not find anything that came close to David Roper’s descriptive passage above. As I read his portrayal of the sheep, I thought to myself how much I resemble in my own behavior, one of these dependent creatures.
While I’d like to think that I can take care of myself just fine, thank you, so frequently throughout my own life, I’ve found the valleys too deep and the mountains too high. The result was that by misjudging my own strength, I ended up stuck outside the fold, injured and lost, desperately needing my Shepherd to rescue me. You may have found yourself in the same position. But our Shepherd isn’t only a rescuer.
There is even more for us to learn from the phrase, “my Shepherd,” than just recognizing the fact that sheep need someone to watch over them. As Mary E. Shields shares in her perspective on Psalm 23, “the primary metaphor of the Psalm is that of the Deity as Shepherd and psalmist as a sheep. In the Hebrew Scriptures and the ancient Near East, the shepherd was a common metaphor for royalty.” In Jeremiah 23, the prophet foretells, in these words “Thus saith the Lord,” that the Lord God of Israel, ‘will gather the remnant of the flock…and I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking,’ saith the Lord. ‘Behold, the days come,’ saith the Lord, ‘that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jeremiah 23: 3-5, K.J.V.). Commenting on this passage in Jeremiah, Matthew Henry observes that “Jesus Christ is the branch God raised up. “He is the righteous branch, for He is righteous himself, and through Him, all that are His are made righteous.” What a promise that “the Lord, my Shepherd” is in truth, Jehovah, my guide and my protector and through the gift of Christ, I am made whole – righteous.
Several months ago, I came upon a treasure of a book called Wisdom Stories, written and compiled by Margaret Silf. As I read through the book, I came upon a particular story that was worth the cost of the entire little volume for it touchingly illustrates the eternal message contained in the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Here’s how the story was told:
“It was a special occasion in the life of the church. The community had been in that place for two hundred years, and the church was celebrating its special anniversary in grand style.
The congregation had prepared a great feast, and everyone in the neighbourhood was invited to come along. The pastor welcomed them all, and invited them to enjoy the party. He was a good man, and everyone loved him, whether they went to church or not. Everyone recognized the man’s humility and godliness, and respected him deeply.
When the feasting was over, the entertainment began. The pastor had invited a well-known television personality along, to make a speech. The crowd waited, expectantly, to hear what this famous and popular actor would say. To their surprise, he began by reciting the familiar words of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd’.
Everyone sat quietly, very moved by the actor’s rendering of their favourite psalm, and when he finished, they applauded him with great enthusiasm. But he had not quite finished. As the applause died away, he turned to the pastor, and asked him to recite the same psalm himself, for the people.
The pastor was embarrassed. ‘Oh dear,’ he stuttered, ‘it will sound so weak and feeble after your fine rendering. I’m not a public speaker. The folk will laugh at me, after hearing you.’ But the actor insisted, and reluctantly the pastor rose to his feet and began to recite the psalm.
The people fell silent, as the familiar words carried through the night air. The pastor clearly forgot where he was and what he was doing, as he put his heart and soul into the recitation of the beloved psalm. When he came to the end, there was a stunned silence for a few seconds, and many of the people had tears in their eyes and a lump in their throats. And only after this sacred space of wonder did they respond with tumultuous applause.
The pastor sat down and the actor addressed them again. ‘You see, my friends,’ he told them, ‘I know the psalm. But this man here – he knows the shepherd!”
Do you know the Shepherd? One thing I want to assure you of today – He knows you. And He’ll never let anything hinder Him from loving you…from searching for you…and from bringing you home into His fold. All He wants us to do is say, “Yes, Lord, You are my Shepherd.”
“Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream,
All the fitness He requireth,
Is to feel your need of Him.”
“”The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all. Bless and affectionately, gratefully, praise the Lord…All His works in all places of His dominion.”
Because You Are In Control
“You are my Shepherd, I have no need –
You lead me by peaceful streams,
and You refresh my life.
You hold my hand and You guide my steps,
I can walk through the valley of death and
I won’t be afraid…
Because You are in control, You are in control
Yes, Lord, You are in control.
You cause everything to work together,
You truly have a sovereign plan,
Because You know who I am,
And You made who I am,
And You love who I am…
Because YOU are in control…”
Dawie de Villiers
The words above were penned by Dawie de Villiers, one of the worship
Leaders in our Garden friend, Myrt Grimm’s, brother’s church where he is Senior Pastor in South Africa. Thank you for sharing this beautiful message.
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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