Our Shepherd And Host
The Lord is my shepherd;I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures;He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul;He leads me in the paths of righteousnessFor His name’s sake. Yea, 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 runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow meAll the days of my life;And I will dwell in the house of the LordForever.
Psalm 23: 1-6
Often quoted in times of trouble, found on funeral home memorial folders, this psalm comforts us through sorrow. Yet, it is also a psalm whose truth should dominate our everyday life.
“The Lord is my shepherd.” I live in a universe where God is. But He is not a remote regent, the unmoved mover, or the disinterested deity. He personally interfaces my life in the occupational role of shepherd: provider, guider, protector, healer, keeper, shearer, searcher, nurturer, and defender.
When the Lord is our Shepherd, we will not be in want.
Our appetites and thirsts for happiness, plenty, health, fulfilling relationships, and things may prompt us to say: “I want,” “I must have,” “I can not do without.” Only the Good Shepherd, however, can meet our deepest needs. David shows the process Jesus uses to bring us contentment.
In the desert, hundreds have perished because of mirages. No one is sure how they occur but they often appear as lakes filled with refreshing water. The unwary, thirsty travelers begin to chase them, getting farther and farther from safety only to find more sand and no water. The cravings of life may compel us to seek such shimmering oasis which appear to be pools of refreshments but instead are dry holes filled with disappointment, despair, and difficulty. When God sees us exhausted from all our efforts to find fulfillment, what’s His reaction? “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Even though we are often helpless and powerless, we do not want to lie down. We want to find our own solutions to our problems. We want it our way. But God brings us to green pastures to disconnect us from everything except His grace and care. When we choose to lie down we are choosing to be actively, inwardly trusting in the One who takes us off our feet if independence. This is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the Christian life- total reliance upon Christ.
George Wood says, “He rescues us from the wilderness of self-destructive behavior and brings us into green pastures where life is restored. The quiet streams of His presence quench our thirst as we drink from His Word, pray, worship, and do His will everyday.
However, God doesn’t intend for us to just be nourished in green pastures, lying down the rest of our lives. They are places to regain our strength so that He can lead us out from the pasture onto the trail of life- the “paths of righteousness.”
We are to walk “for His name’s sake.” He leads us on the straight path, the narrow, grooved trail of right rather than wrong. He leads us into obedience rather than disobedience and service rather than self-absorption, discipline rather than impulse, and cross-bearing rather than indulgence. We know the difference because as Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.”
As we travel through life with the Shepherd- through “green pastures,” “besides still waters” and on “paths of righteousness,” we sometimes pass through dark ravines where danger lurks.
George Wood says, “The longest shadows are cast in the late afternoon even as the heaviest burdens often come at life’s sunset- when we must go through “the valley of the shadow of death.” A wise person by that time will have chosen his Shepherd. On the narrow trail, the Shepherd led, but in the most difficult hour of all He is alongside: “you are with me. In trials friends and family can only accompany us so far…..and then we are alone. But He will never leave us.”
His rod protects us from the attacks of the enemy and His staff pulls us near when we are frightened and on the other side of the valley, He is there waiting as well.
David had experienced a table spread for him in the wilderness as he fled from Absalom so no doubt borrowing from that experience, He testifies with assurance of God’s generous and consistent provision.
The Lord has gone ahead to prepare a lavish welcome for us. In John 14 Jesus told us that. We are also told that there will be a table spread for us as Christ’s invited guests. But even now He knows our inner and outer dryness so He provides anointing and an overflowing cup.
We can eat from His table in the presence of our enemies (the devil, death, sin, adversaries, problems). The are powerless and are now only witnesses to God’s abundant provision.
Because of all these incredible experiencing God as our Shepherd and Host, we can chime in with David and say, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” And when all of this life is over we can say, “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Do have this confidence? Have you made the Lord your Shepherd? Is He leading and guiding you in His ways? Are you weary from life? Let Him cause you to lie down in green pastures so your soul can be restored. Are you hungry and thirsty? Come to His table and feast. Are you afraid of what is before you? Remember that He is with you. Uncertain about your future? Trust that you will dwell in His house forever. Wondering how you are going to make it? Trust that His goodness and mercy are following right behind you and they will always be sufficient for every situation.
Those who follow the Shepherd have three affirmations: I shall not want, I will fear no evil, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Dr. John Thompson