It’s been awhile since I hung out with sheep. After trading a childhood in Ohio farmland for adulthood in Los Angeles, my opportunities to interact with livestock are limited. This makes it a little tough to connect with Scripture featuring animals and their keepers. However, the details of shepherding reveal some of God’s character, drawing us closer to His heart as we know Him better.
Before he was a war hero and king, David spent a lot of time herding sheep. I imagine sitting in quiet fields, watching the animals slowly graze, and looking up at wispy clouds pushed across the sky by a gentle breeze provided David with time to listen to God. Maybe David heard His voice as clearly as he heard birds sing and tree leaves rustle. David understood the Lord as the ultimate Shepherd, protecting and nurturing His beloved children much like David tended his flock with care. Divinely inspired, he penned a song to share God’s goodness with all the people.
The lyrics of Psalm 23 take us to green pastures and still waters. We look to the Lord for guidance, provision, and security just like a lamb to her shepherd. In order to follow God this way, we must trust Him completely. After all, sheep are pretty helpless creatures. They require someone to take them to drink and eat. They need protection from predators, and if they’re sick or hurt, they can’t help themselves. Relying on a shepherd is essential. We also need the Lord desperately, whether we realize it or not. So many things are out of our control and abilities, and a shepherding God is essential.
We can trust Him completely because He’s good and loving. David wrote, “The Lord is good to everyone; His compassion rests on all He has made.” (Psalm 145:9) The Lord is not merely A shepherd, He’s the GOOD Shepherd. David sings his psalms to tell us why. In the original Hebrew, Psalm 23 begins with David’s declaration of “Jehovah Rohi,” which means “the Lord my Shepherd.” The verses that follow explain a very personal relationship between David as a beloved sheep and God who tenderly cares for him.
Though the original listeners would immediately relate to a life of tending flocks, we might need a bit of assistance. I’ve never walked in the sandals of an ancient Israelite, but God certainly demonstrates the care of a Shepherd in my modern life. Perhaps you see Him in yours, too. If we tried to write David’s psalm today, it might sound like this:
The Lord is my King and Guardian Caretaker; I have everything I need.
Even when I despair, He comes through and takes care of it all.
He leads me to His good blessings, whether they are basics like good food and clean water, or more complex as a loving community and purpose in Him.
He gives me rest and eases anxiety.
God guides every step and shows me the way to His goodness.
With His help, everyday decisions are stepping stones to fuller plans He has for me to proclaim His glory.
Even in difficulty and pain, I’m not afraid because God is right beside me. I know He will always protect me, therefore I feel safe.
This is how the Lord demonstrates His love for me, and everyone can see it’s true. His kind generosity encourages me so much my heart feels like it will overflow.
I’m confident God’s goodness and love will be with me forever,
and I will worship Him all the days of my life.
How has the Lord been a Good Shepherd to you?
Are you listening for His voice as David did?
In John 10, Jesus explained that His sheep know His voice. Back in the pasture, actual sheep know their shepherd so well they will follow his voice even if they are grazing among other flocks with other shepherds! The sheep spend so much time with the one who cares for them, they stick close by his side.
Yet, Jesus goes even farther to express His love. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) Unlike the limited devotion of a human shepherd, Christ died on the cross to cover the cost of our sin, then resurrected so we could be rescued from the power of sin and death, inviting us to eternity with Him. Imagine if a celebrated king walked out of his palace and into the fields to spend time with sheep because He was so concerned for their well-being. God is Jehovah Rohi– Lord Shepherd- the King of Kings who dwells among His children and covers us with His grace, mercy, and compassion.
God’s character is richly complex, a multi-faceted tapestry beyond our comprehension. Yet, His love is also as simple as a Good Shepherd tending His flock, treasuring each precious sheep with great care. You are not merely one in a crowd, dear friend. You are uniquely cherished and beloved by the Good Shepherd. He will never leave you, and His goodness and faithful love will follow you, all the days of your life.
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