I’m going to spend some time on Wednesdays for this month looking at the most popular of the psalms – Psalm 23. It’s popular because it says much, and speaks to our heart. I hope you enjoy the devotionals.
Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.” (Emphasis mine).
Bill White, former pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison, shared an experience he had while on a trip to Israel in 1982. The tour bus he was on stopped at a small stream just outside of Jericho one morning. The guide said, “I’m going to let you off here. If we are fortunate we’ll see some things that are identical to the ways things were during the time of Jesus.”
They waited by a stream that ran parallel to the road. After a number of minutes, they saw a man coming down the hill towards them. The man jumped into the stream, skipping from rock to rock. Right behind him came thirty or forty sheep. A few minutes later another flock about the same size. led by another shepherd arrived on the scene. Five minutes later a third group of sheep led by a young girl joined in. A total of eighty to a hundred sheep were drinking from the stream.
One of the folks in the group said to the guide, “If sheep are as dumb as we’ve been led to believe, it will be interesting to see how they sort out these animals. I don’t see any brand marks.”
The guide smiled, “The shepherds don’t look too worried, do they?”
Twenty minutes later the first shepherd was ready to go back to the pasture. He walked to the top of the hill and let out a loud whistle that ended with a trill. Suddenly thirty or forty animals ran after their leader.
Back on the bus, the guide explained that the whistle they heard was often referred to as “The shepherd’s voice.” He explained that, “Sheep have a reputation as being stupid, but that is because people try to herd them like cows. You can lead cows from the rear. A dog can nip at their heels and they will go whichever way they are driven. Not so with sheep. They want to be led. If you drive them from the rear they panic. If you walk ahead of them they will follow. And unlike cows, you can mix hundreds of sheep together, because they recognize their shepherd’s call, or voice, and will follow it when they are signaled.”
The sheep know the shepherd is good. They know the shepherd is their protection and they know that the shepherd always has their best interests at heart. Therefore, they will follow the shepherd with undivided hearts, and without a care in the world.
When we read the words from the ancient Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd … he leads me,” we instantly think of Jesus. We do this because we know Jesus has an unending, undivided, and unconditional love for us. We know we can follow him with undivided hearts, and leave our cares with him.
Jesus is not only the good shepherd; he is the perfect shepherd. He is not only willing to lay down his life for his sheep, he did! And out of that death we have been given the promise that no matter what we face, or have to endure, the good shepherd will always be there and always get us through it.
Today is a good day to be a sheep!
~ God bless, Dan