“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1)
The suggestion of Psalm 23, written by the former shepherd boy, David, who later became a king, is that in the sight of God, we are like sheep. Though we may try to pretend, even to ourselves, that we are self sufficient, we aren’t. We don’t know what the lion, the tiger and other meat eaters were originally intended to be, but after the fall of mankind, they became predators, plundering other, gentler creatures. God’s intention for us is not like that - we are to become domesticated, gentle beings, looking to our Shepherd for protection, increasingly harmless in relation to the other sheep.
Dwight L. Moody wrote about a conversation with Dr. Andrew Bonar, who told Moody how, in the Highlands of Scotland, a sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places they couldn't get out of. Moody reported, “The grass on the mountains is very sweet; the sheep like it. They will jump down ten or twelve feet, and when they can't jump back again, the shepherd will hear them bleating in distress. They may be there for days until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand and then put a rope around himself and go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death. ‘Why don't they go down there when the sheep first gets there?’" Moody asked. "’Ah!’ Dr. Bonar replied, ‘They are so very foolish they would dash right over the precipice and be killed if they did!’ And that is the way with men; they won't go back to God ‘till they have no friends and have lost everything. If you are a wanderer I tell you that the Good Shepherd will bring you back the moment you have given up trying to save yourself and are willing to let Him save you His own way.’”
The animal kingdom, along with everything else in this world and universe, is carefully designed to reveal who and what we are. Predators attack other creatures. So do we! Earthquakes shake the land, just as harsh words can shake the soul and destroy relationships. We might think, “I am safe and secure,” and then an economic or emotional tsunami comes into our lives and sweeps us away. The earth glides around the sun at a predictable rate, so smooth that it is almost unnoticeable, and then an asteroid hits and everything changes. That’s the way it is with people. We are supposed to be gentle like sheep, but we can be harsh predators instead.
In what are called the “Beatitudes,” within the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus told us clearly the way we are supposed to be in relation to God and to one another. We are to be “poor in spirit… those who mourn… meek… those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… merciful… pure in heart… peacemakers… and persecuted (because we seek) righteousness” (Matthew 5:3 & forward). Those characteristics, those ways of approaching life, seem alien, even offensive to most in this world.
It’s important, when you read words, such as “poor… mourn… (and) meek,” to note that they are not merely human characteristics at all. In presenting the Beatitudes to us and in His life, Jesus Christ showed us the Character of God. Those who lack the Lord in their hearts and lives may sometimes seem to be meek people, but without the Lord in them, it’s like a mask worn to seem to be something they are not.
Paul the Apostle spoke of “the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed…” which he went on to explain is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27). Many try to have the external characteristics of religion, not realizing that what we need is something inside. Rather than merely changed behavior, we need the Lord, just as surely as sheep need a shepherd. Have you trusted in Him?
Just like those sheep in the Highlands of Scotland, we, each in our own way, have gone to a place we should not go and then found we were trapped, unable to return. At that point, we are ashamed to be seen by our Lord and Savior in His Holiness, but He intends to rescue you and me. In the Book of John, Chapter Ten, Jesus spoke to His disciples about what it means to respond to the Great Shepherd.
In the preceding chapter, John Nine, the disciples had just witnessed an episode in which a man born blind had been given the ability to see. Jesus had touched him, spoke to him, and the man was sent to wash. When he responded to the words of Jesus, the man “came back seeing” (John 9:7). The formerly blind man was brought to some of the religious leaders of the place and time. Instead of rejoicing that God healed him, they became angry and eventually threw the man out of their presence; out of the Jewish religion. The religious leaders wore the mask of religious meekness, but Christ, “the hope of glory,” was not in those leaders.
Some of the Pharisees stayed and heard some of Jesus' words. He said, “For this reason I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” A religious leaders asked, “Are we also blind?” Jesus responded, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains” (John 9:40-41).
Sheep are far less intelligent than the shepherd. They lack his understanding of the dangers surrounding them. They do not have his upright posture, which enables him to see further from a better vantage point. Sheep are not strong at all, lacking the fangs, claws and even the will to properly defend themselves. David, the former shepherd boy, had used weapons to defend his sheep on many occasions and recognized that the shepherd could do for the sheep what they could not do for themselves. David saw correctly that the office of king he now held, the food he ate, the palace he slept in, even the air he breathed – it was all from the Lord. He saw the weakness of humanity and he understood the greatness of God.
Our greatest need in life is to look to our Shepherd and trust in Him. The man who had been born blind now had eyes that could see and it was wonderful! But something, Someone much greater was also offered to him by the Lord Jesus, and the man responded again, this time saying, “Lord, I believe,” to the offer of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus continued, …“I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…” (John 10:1-11). Our Shepherd gave His life for you and for me.
Jesus gave this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:3-7). Jesus IS your Shepherd and because of Him, you “shall not want.”
Lord, thank You that You have sought me and found me. Forgive me for running away from Your love. I trust in You now. Thank You that now I see and will not want. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Ron Beckham, Pastor