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Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Lord is my shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. (Psalm 23:1-3 NLT)
What does a shepherd do? How is it he goes about his daily work? Isn't his whole purpose in life to watch over the flock he shepherds? As he "watches over", doesn't this entail an unwavering commitment to focus on their needs, often above his own? When is it the shepherd is "on duty"? Isn't it all the time? Isn't the shepherd "on duty" when the sheep are not as "focused" on their surroundings? I think maybe the shepherd has the hardest job, for his work never ends, his vigilance can never cease, and his provision must always be renewed.
We have all that we need - not always all we want. For many a child (and even an adult or two I know), this concept of want and need get a little confused. We want a lot of things, but not all we want is always the best thing for us, nor are the conditions right for us to receive what it is we may want. The shepherd of our lives has a great deal of "work" where it comes to getting us to focus more on our needs and less on our wants - even though both of these matter very much to him. We need rest, but does it always come at the beach? We need refreshing, but does it always come with a massage? Even the provision that meets our need may differ depending on the time and place - right?
God's promise to his children is fourfold:
- He will be our shepherd. As such, he watches out for us and is keenly aware of our every need (as well as our every want). He knows us intimately - not just in a cursory way - because he spends time with us.
- He provides for us. We focus on the things he provides, but we must never forget the "conditions" he provides, such as the peaceful rest at night when our bodies are wearied by the day. He does more for us than just give us "stuff" - he gives us the rest of spirit and soul that refreshes our inner man and renews our energies (physical and spiritual).
- He promotes our success. When he leads us, guiding us as we "grow through the things we go through", it isn't without a focus in mind. His aim is our movement from one level to the next - so we don't just "stay put" where we are. Sheep are kind of goofy that way - they will stay put, never even noticing their pasture has been diminished, eating until the nubs of the grass are even gone. So, the shepherd encourages them to move on - to not be content to stay put. Sometimes our needs are best met not in standing still to receive them, but in moving forward to the next place where our provision will come.
- He desires nothing more than our best. In the end, the shepherd is known by the flocks he shepherds. It isn't that he just fulfills the part of a shepherd - he must produce the "quality" or "integrity" of sheep that produce a great deal of rich wool. Sickly or undernourished sheep don't produce good wool. Sheep run ragged by moving hither and yon without any real chance to rest are not going to produce great offspring. As God shepherds our lives, he is always taking us to where we will have renewed energies and the chance to produce only the best from within our lives. In the end, his name is known by the sheep he shepherds. The quality and integrity of our lives become the testimony of his great and continual care! Just sayin!