“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” Psalm 23:1
How many times have you heard this verse and just skimmed over it? Have you ever let it sink in that this verse is saying there is nothing God cannot provide? What other things, outside of God, do you look to for fulfillment of your needs? I know there are times I am guilty of looking to other things to fulfill my needs. Just this week I was dealing with feeling stressed and overwhelmed and my answer was “I need to get out of the house alone for just an hour” so I went to the store. I don’t think there is anything wrong with finding solace in a solo shopping trip or going to a coffee shop to just have some “me time”, but are we allowing these things to superficially fill us up when God says that he will provide all of our needs? When I really think about it, the shopping trip was nice, but it’s temporary. God’s provisions go deeper to my soul, not to mention it is something I can tap into every day.
Several months ago I began unpacking this idea of God as my shepherd – someone who provides all of my needs. I decided I wanted to do a little research on the life of a shepherd and why God chose to label himself this way. As I read through scripture and the description of the role of a shepherd, it really began to make sense to me and was eye opening.
Shepherds are the keeper of sheep. It was typical for the owner of the sheep to tend to his flock, but often he would delegate the work to his children or relatives. In this manner God has given us, Christians, the responsibility to tend to his sheep as sons and daughters. We are called to minister to the flock and take care of one another. He wants us to care for His people and love them.
“I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:4
A shepherd works 24 hours a day / 7 days a week with his main responsibility being to provide food, water, and protection to his flock. In Middle Eastern countries finding food, and especially water, could take several hours as they would walk through some of the driest lands to reach a spring or a shallow well. They usually carried a staff and rod as well as a sling to be used to protect the flock from wild beasts while they ate, drank, and slept.
“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3
If one sheep gets away from the flock the shepherd will go out looking for that one, lone sheep until he found it.
In the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:12-13, Jesus is speaking about the souls that are lost, but find salvation and how God rejoices over that one soul that once was lost. “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.”
The shepherd will also guard a mother sheep in her helpless times of pregnancy, labor, and after while, also carrying the newborn to the flock until it can walk on its own. God clearly says that we are to allow Him to carry our burdens. When we don’t feel like we can go on due to life’s circumstances, He will carry us.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11
Every day the shepherd’s job is to guide the sheep to the food and water. They spend their days eating, drinking, and resting in the pastures. The sheep follow their shepherd knowing he will not lead them astray, but will take care of them. They can rest peacefully in the presence of the shepherd. God does not lead me to chaos, destruction, or conflict. I do that on my own. As I allow God to change me, He brings about a calm spirit within me. He helps me handle whatever comes my way knowing that He is my peace amongst the chaos. He restores my soul when I begin to feel weary and tired. I have tried to find rest in other things, but it never lasts as long as when I find my rest in the Lord.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-4
Many times several flocks would be in the same field grazing and resting and they know the call of their shepherd. As followers of Christ we know the voice of our Father. It may not be something you recognize at first, but as you develop a deeper relationship with Him, His voice becomes very evident. One thing I know about the voice of God is that it will never tell me to do something that is contrary to His Word. I know His Word by spending time in it, by meditating on it, and by memorizing it.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
As I read through the roles and responsibilities of a shepherd, I began to understand why God chose to name himself the “Good Shepherd”. He is always providing my needs, protecting me, and taking care of me. God’s provisions are evident in my life everywhere I turn. When we have been faithful and obedient to Him, He has taken care of us. It could be so easy to find comfort in the paycheck, my spouse, and my friends; but the truth is, I would not have any of it if it were not for God, The Good Shepherd. He never leads me astray and when I walk with Him, He gives me rest, peace, and comfort. Danger sets in when I distance myself from the Shepherd. That’s when I am at my weakest and the Enemy finds me as an easier target.
I pray you will lean in to God as your shepherd. I pray you will allow Him to take care of you as He says He will. Trusting the Good Shepherd starts by building a relationship with Him. Get to know His voice and allow Him to lead and guide you. I pray that for you and for me. We try so hard to take on this life on our own, but we were never intended to walk alone. We were intended to walk with the flock and be guided by our Shepherd.
~ Mandy Edwards