THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD…
In November, a few of us attended a women’s retreat that focused
on the Psalms. A Psalm that was brought up during one of the sessions
was Psalm 23. We all loved the retreat and felt we gained new insights
and deeper love for the Psalms. In order to keep the spirit of this retreat,
we decided that we would covenant to memorizing the Psalms, perhaps
one Psalm per week. Well, we have been at it for a few weeks now and
we are still on the first Psalm … Psalm 23.
As I meditated and tried to commit this Psalm to memory, I came to a
deeper understanding of the relationship between sheep and shepherd.
In the Psalm, the shepherd leads and the sheep follow. Because sheep
are helpless without a shepherd, it is important they follow him closely.
The sheep depends on the shepherd for everything; their lives depend
totally on the provision and protection of the shepherd… life can only
get better if theirs is a good shepherd!
A good shepherd knows everything about the sheep. He knows that
sheep cannot relax when feeding. They are always on the lookout for
wild animals that can appear out of nowhere. They can’t run very fast
so they won’t lie down when feeding. In order for them to truly feast,
the shepherd makes them lie down, allowing them to rest and relax
while feeding. As long as the shepherd is with them, they have nothing to fear, for his rod and his staff will protect them. The shepherd will not let harm come to them on his watch!
A shepherd who knows his sheep will also lead them to still waters because it is the only way to get them to drink. Sheep are easily frightened and will not drink from running waters. A good shepherd knows his sheep and knows they need water in order to restore or replenish their thirsty bodies. A good shepherd knows exactly what to do, and he knows what to give them in order to keep them full and content.
It is not a coincidence the bible uses the analogy of sheep and shepherd to refer to our relationship with God. We are the sheep of his flock and the Lord is our Good Shepherd! Under his provision and protection, we will not be afraid, for we lack nothing. The Lord knows us individually, he knows our needs, our wants … and he knows our fear and frustration. He is a Good Shepherd who will lead us, and at times, even make us do things that might seem too difficult or even impossible. But we must know that it is always to our benefit that we do them. He does this to give us rest and to relax our anxious nerves. The Good Shepherd restores our souls with his presence, and he affirms us with his word to comfort and to settle our fears of the unknown.
As we are now in the Advent and Christmas Season, besides our busy lives, there are challenges that can instill fear into all of us. Some of you might be facing a financial crisis… you may not know where your next meal will come from; some of you may lack emotional support, and some may be dealing with health issues that you can do without. There are challenges that we face daily and decisions that must be made. It is easy to become fearful of life’s challenges.
As we move into the New Year, it is my prayer that you would follow closely behind the Good Shepherd who came to us over 2000 years ago in a meager manger. Our Lord Jesus promised that he will provide for all of our needs and he will protect us from unforeseen dangers. But of course, we must follow him closely. If we wander off the beaten path … if we should decide that we know better and walk away from him … it is only to our peril… for we are walking away from the Good Shepherd’s provision and protection. Without his presence, you and I are up for grabs; we are in danger of wolves … wolves in sheep clothing, and it will be impossible to escape their sharp teeth and strong jaws without the help of the Good Shepherd. Therefore, stay calm and close to the Good Shepherd … and may our Good Lord Jesus watch over you this season and many, many more seasons to come!
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Mao Her, Pastor
Christ United Methodist Church