March 2

The Lord is my ShepherdMy husband and I have had a very hard week.  I am thinking and meditating on the Lord, My Shepherd and remembering things I learned about Him many years ago and just needed to journal.  Please be reminded these are the simple thoughts from my own experience.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.]
3     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 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.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

The first thing I learned about the Shepherd I memorized when I was a child. That was long before I understood what a shepherd did for his sheep. As a child, I did not really care what a shepherd did for his sheep. I am certain I did not understand or care about what the Lord did for me either. Before I became a believer, I know for a fact that I never ever compared myself to a sheep. But, all my thoughts changed when I became a believer. I learned to think of the Lord as a shepherd. Not only that, but as The Ultimate Shepherd (which He certainly is). And, since I began to think of the Lord as a Shepherd, I had to begin to think of myself as a sheep.

The first thing I learned about myself as a sheep was that I had gone my own way. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;” Isaiah 53:6. In going my own way, I had never been much of a follower. It has taken me years to learn to follow my shepherd. I am not certain that, even after all these years, I still know how to follow Him daily. The best way is minute by minute. It’s the best way, but it is hard and I have not mastered it. That is why I need the Shepherd. He is always faithful, always here to lead me no matter what I do, where I go,  or what kind of a mess I get myself into.

The second thing I learned about the Shepherd was that He makes me to lie down in green pastures. Sheep frighten easily and predators frighten them. With that said, sheep will never eat or lie down(in green pastures) when a predator or enemy is close. They’d rather run! As His sheep, My Shepherd makes everything safe enough for me that I can eat, lie down, rest and go to sleep. I never need be afraid. There is tremendous freedom in knowing the Shepherd.

The 23rd Psalm tells me that He leads me beside still waters. Isn’t that interesting? Why? Why does that matter? I can tell you that it doesn’t matter to me too terribly unless those waters are raging rapids. But, Sheep do not like to drink from running water. Running water of any sort frightens sheep. Also, sheep will run from what frightens them. My Shepherd cares so much for me, that He would never lead me beside water that is running. He knows where the still waters are and He takes me there to drink. That’s love and care! Just knowing the Shepherd and how he cares for His sheep, I know that He loves me and cares for me, His sheep.

Sheep will follow each other. As I’ve grown I’ve learned to follow the Shepherd. It’s so much easier to follow other sheep rather than the Shepherd. It’s easier to read their books and meditate on their words but it won’t restore my soul or lead me in the path of righteousness. Verse three of the 23rd Psalm says, “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” If I read what someone else says about the Bible, my soul won’t be restored in the same way as it is when I read what The Shepherd says. The Bible is the record of the Shepherd’s very words. These words restore my very soul. These are the words that will lead me into righteousness. These are the words that bring glory to His name when I lead a righteous life. 4 “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.”

In Bible times, shepherds used a “rod” to fight off predators and a “staff” to rescue their sheep. The “rod” was the blunt end and the “staff” was the hook end of the tool the shepherd carried. The blunt end was for protection and the hook end was for rescue if a sheep was caught in a bramble or in running water, or any frightening situation, really. Sheep are easily frightened. So, in a very literal way, a rod and a staff were very comforting to sheep. Knowing this about the Shepherd, helps me to know that His rod and staff are there for me. His protection and comfort are real. He protects me. He comforts me. When the world is frightening (and it is at times) He protects me even when I can’t see what He is protecting from(“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). He comforts me when I meditate on His word and ask Him to “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 5 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

Shepherds in Bible times rubbed olive oil on sheep’s cuts and scratches to help them heal. I know that during this lifetime I will not sit down at a banquet table in the presence of my enemies where I will be honored with an overflowing cup and anointed with oil. Nope, that’s not going to happen. But, my Shepherd assures me that it will happen. As long as I am one of the sheep of His pasture, He will see to it that my place at the banquet is secure. Actually, He has already seen to it. Just as the Bible tells me in Matthew 22:1-14 that the King prepared the banquet for His Son and even though I may not have been one of the original invitees, I will sit at the banquet table. My enemy, the devil, will end up on the outside looking in.

These are the things I’ve been meditating on during the past week that has been so very difficult for me. I’ve been repeating the 23rd Psalm over and over. It has been very comforting. When I repeat these words, the hurt and upset subsides in my soul. I know the Shepherd is in control and is leading, protecting, comforting and loving.

Thank you, Heavenly Father for your leading when I do not see the path (“for we walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7).  Thank you for protecting when I try to fight the wrong enemy. Thank you for comforting when the enemy strikes a blow, when those blows hurt, when those blows take me backward (physically, emotionally, spiritually). Thank you for being my hope, my all-in-all.  Amen.