Thursday, August 2, 2007

Reflections of Yahweh in the Psalms: Shepherd

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

David uses a very common and well-known metaphor of his day to tell us something wonderful about our relationship with God. When you read the psalm, the first thing you will notice is the perspective of the speaker. David is writing the psalm through the eyes of a sheep. Out of all the animals that David could have used, he decided to put himself in the wool of a sheep. They are not the smartest animals. Actually they are quite dumb. When they get lost, they cannot find their way home. They will wander and will not return unless the shepherd rescues them.

After thinking about the characteristics of a sheep, I want to ask, “David, what were you thinking? Couldn’t you have picked another animal?” But I would not have been surprised by his answer because I am like that sheep who continues to wander from my Master. David could have easily camped on all the negative features of sheep, but he chose to change the angle of the camera. He focuses on the shepherd, the Great Shepherd.

It is the job of the shepherd to protect, guide, care, and direct his flock. Unless sheep have a good shepherd who will care for them, they are totally helpless and defenseless. David knew the tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of a shepherd. A shepherd lived under some strenuous and rigorous conditions. He was exposed to the extreme weather conditions, faced the challenges of the rugged terrain, lived off the land, and faced many dangers like insects which plagued the sheep, people who tried to steal his sheep or predators that preyed on his flock. The shepherd knew that the welfare of his sheep were in his hands alone.

Though it was a huge responsibility for the shepherd to care for his flock, his duty gave him a sense of delight and utmost joy. He would go to any extreme to provide for them and give them the necessities of life. David is saying, “This is a picture of our God.” He cares for us, He protects us, He provides for us, He longs for us, and He loves us. The Shepherd does not prevent the bad things happening to his sheep, but he teaches them to trust in him and to follow him. So it is with our God. Though He has absolute power to prevent evil occurring in our lives, He allows things to come into our lives. Why? So that we will experience dependence on Him and allow Him to be glorified through our circumstances.

Martha Washington once remarked, “I've learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.” In Psalm 23, David is showing us that the outcome of our lives is based upon our perspective. When we recognize that the Lord is our Shepherd, indeed we will have it all.

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