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The Lord is My Shepherd...Whee!

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  Psalm 23

Nearly two hundred times in the Bible, we who are GOD's people, are called sheep. We could have been referred to as some other animal, but GOD chose to call us sheep. Why is that?  Sheep are just not that smart.  Many animals are easily trainable.  Sheep are not.they need a keeper.a shepherd.  Does that mean we are not as smart as we think we are?

Besides the fact that sheep are not that smart they are also very dirty. Believe it or not, they are even dirtier than pigs. Cats and raccoons and even flies clean themselves. Sheep are filthy. They need someone else to clean them. That's why they need a shepherd. Do we need someone else to clean us?

Sheep are defenseless. They have no defense mechanisms to protect them from predators. No sharp teeth.  No armor plating. They have no odor like a skunk. They can't bark like a dog. They have no claws like a lion. There are accounts of birds flying down and plucking out the eyes of sheep. Sheep are in a baaaahd way!  Sheep are unable to defend themselves. Are we able to defend ourselves?  Defend ourselves against who.what ?

The scripture seen above is written from the perspective of a sheep. A particular sheep is looking at his shepherd and is describing what he is like.  Everyone has some sort of shepherd, but not everyone can say, "The Lord is my shepherd." For some, their shepherd is success, money, possessions, social status, music, some hobby, or being at the top of the corporate ladder. Many people know about the shepherd, but they don't know the shepherd.

In Israel, sheep from various flocks would often feed in the same area. Perhaps there would be thousands grazing collectively, intermingling with each other. When it was time to move to another pasture, how did they shepherd get them all together?  Very simply, he just called out to his sheep. They knew his voice and they responded. They heard his voice and they followed.

How do we hear the voice of THE Shepherd today? We can hear The Shepherd by reading and studying His Word, by listening for the Holy Spirit's prompting, by spending time, on a regular basis, in prayer and by fellowshipping with other believers.  What is the most important voice you hear in your life right now?  Is it The Shepherd's?  Or is it something else?

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  John 10:27-28

The words above explain why it doesn't matter what kind of setback you may experience in life. You're in His hands. You're safe and secure.  The shepherd is there.

" The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ."  If the Lord is your shepherd, then every area and activity of your life is under His direction. It is under His protection. It is under His control. Every other verse in the Psalm above emphasizes this truth.

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:" The Shepherd provides rest along the trail.

Sheep are a lot like little children. They won't admit they are tired. Picture a parent applying a little pressure to a child's head to keep it on the mattress so that he can't keep fighting the rest. He doesn't want to go to sleep, but he desperately needs to rest. So you have to make him lie down.

The Shepherd, our Lord, has to do that sometimes. He makes us lie down. We get busy, over-committed, and worn to complete exhaustion. Sometimes GOD uses some circumstance or an event to compel us to rest in Him.  The pastures He makes us like down in are green. You may think they are brown. You may think that GOD is against you, that He is fighting you.  GOD is not against you! GOD is always rebuilding you, sometimes teaching you some very difficult lessons in life. If you look back on your difficult times, you will see the hand of GOD at work. Stay on the path GOD has for you. Submit to His loving hand and plan.  Trust the Shepherd.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

"...he leadeth me beside the still waters."  The Shepherd provides refreshment along the trail.

There are differing methods of how to lead sheep.  Sheep can be driven or sheep can be led.  The shepherd in Israel walks ahead of his sheep. The sheep follow him

If danger is ahead, the shepherd meets the peril before the sheep do. As we go through difficult trials, we must remember that our Shepherd is not driving us.He is leading us! Jesus is the great Shepherd. Are you worried about the future? He's already in the future. Are you worried about your health, job, or your family? Your future is secure because Jesus is already there.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?  Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.  Matthew 6:25-34

The shepherd leads beside still waters.  Why still waters?  Sheep are scared to death of running water. They will actually die from thirst before drinking from a running stream.  Sheep have reason to fear the running water; they can't swim very well. If a sheep falls in a deep running stream, the chances are good that it will drown. The water soaks up into that thick coat of wool, weighing it down so much that the sheep is usually not strong enough to survive. The loving shepherd will divert water by using stones in order to make a small pool or pond of water so that the sheep may drink.  

What's the running water in your life? Are you to scared to drink?  In the midst of your stormy waters you have a Shepherd who really does care for you.  You may wonder why He doesn't still your waters. He will-at exactly the right time.  You might get wet or even soaked. But you won't drown. The Shepherd will lead you to still waters at the right time.

"He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." The Shepherd provides restoration along the trail.  Sheep need to be restored because they tend to stray.

Sheep are very strong-willed and stubborn creatures. The shepherd must restore them to the right path. Sheep wander. Sheep are just not that smart and don't realize the grave danger they may be in. They may be headed toward a rocky ledge or in the path of a wild beast.

At twilight, in the evening, the shepherd always counts his sheep. If one is missing, he goes out to find it and restore it to the flock.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?  And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.  Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.  Matthew 18:12-14

If the sheep continues to wander, the shepherd takes his staff and breaks one of the legs of the sheep. That sounds cruel; but look at the shepherd's heart.  He does not want to lose even one of his sheep. He makes a splint. He carries the crippled sheep in his arms. He gradually places him on the ground at his side until he can move on his own again. Chances are he will not wander again. That sheep has learned his lesson.

Sometimes GOD must break our hearts to learn the lesson of staying close to the Shepherd. Many trails entice us to stray. We choose them and end up wandering from GOD's trail. Some of these luring trails bring temporary pleasures, but the Shepherd loves us too much to let us stay there. That's when He breaks our legs (our hearts). He wants us to stay on the paths of righteousness. The only way we can stay of the right paths is to stay close to the Shepherd.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." The Shepherd provides protection along the trail. Sheep are defenseless and have reason to be afraid. They need a strong shepherd.  Our GOD is a strong shepherd. He walks with us through every step of any dark valley. He doesn't take us around the valley. He doesn't fly us over it or tunnel us under it. He doesn't just miraculously remove the valley. He takes us through it.

Scripture indicates that His rod and staff comforts us. We can't see GOD. And we can't see His rod and staff. But they are there and they are there for our protection. It's not just any rod and staff. They are His. And it is great comfort to know that they are in the right hands.

While GOD leads us through the dark places of life, He made provision to lead us through the dark places of eternity, as well.  Without Him we would lost forever.  Jesus went through the "valley of the shadow of death" so we would not have to do the same. 

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 6:23

Our Shepherd faced death for us, so we could inherit the gift of eternal life.  Makes leg breaking seem not so bad, doesn't it.  Jesus knew exactly why He was here and what he came to do for His sheep as he braved the valley of the shadow of death.

"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil;" The Shepherd provides food along the trail. Eating is about the only thing that sheep do. While grazing, the shepherd is already mapping out where the next meal will come from.

Jesus always provides what we need when we need it. A lot of our trouble is accepting GOD's timetable. We'd like our needs met in advance.

The shepherd carefully examined any field before letting the sheep graze. There could be many hazards.  The shepherd searched for poisonous plants that might hurt the sheep.  Another hazard to be avoided were viper holes. Vipers were known to shoot out of their holes and bite the sheep on their noses. Another enemy was the nose fly. Nose flies drove sheep wild in the summertime. The sheep would go berserk. They frantically stomped their feet and hid in the bushes. As long as the flies were around, they would not graze. The tender shepherd would apply an ointment on the sheep, which kept the flies away. The sheep's character immediately changed whenever the oil was applied.

Who are your enemies? Who is trying to ambush you? Who's talking behind your back? Who's hassling you? Who's trying to destroy your reputation?

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.  Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.  For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.  And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.  Psalm 27:1-6

We have a Shepherd who is almighty and omnipotent. He provides for our needs.  Completely!

" cup runneth over."  The Shepherd provides water along the trail.

There is a difference between a shepherd and a hired hand. Summertime, in Israel, was often accompanied by drought. Water could be hard to find. Wells were essential but the water may have been a hundred feet down. Think about the time required to give a drink to 100 sheep using a three-quart bucket. It would take a couple of hours to satisfy their thirst. The hired hand would fill the bucket halfway. The sun was too overbearing for the hired hand. Sheep need a shepherd, not a hired hand.

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.  John 10:11-15

The shepherd not only provides for the sheep; he cares for the sheep. Because the True Shepherd cares, the extent of His provision is endless. There is no greater example than Jesus Christ. Because He cares, He provides us with cups that are overflowing.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." The Shepherd provides contentment along the trail.

Contentment is something that is very rare in our society today . Many people are wealthy, successful, and famous, but they are not content at all. Actually, contentment is easy to find. Focus on what GOD has given you, not on what you don't have. Count your blessings, instead of your wish list. Contentment is easy to lose if you start comparing.  Sheep are content with warmth and food.  We are encouraged to be content in a similar state.

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.  Titus 6:6

.be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  Hebrews 13:5b

You cannot find contentment without knowing and following the Shepherd. Jesus is the door to complete satisfaction. Only He can give you inner peace. It doesn't come from money. It comes from serving Christ. It comes from trusting him and being obedient.

Jesus is very serious about His sheep. That's why you can have contentment on the trail. You have a Shepherd. He knows where you are going. And He is taking you with Him. Contentment is tagging along next to the Shepherd as you trail through mountains and valleys. He is the reason you can count on getting to your destination.

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Hebrews 13:20-21

Be blessed and meditate or meditate and be blessed, the choice is yours!
Lessons From the Shepherd, Ken Kelly, 2004
Nationmaster Encyclodedeia
Abide in Christ,
The Christian Resource Institute,
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