Friday, April 29, 2011

Psalm 23, Verse 1

Psalm 23:1  A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Who better than David to write about shepherds?  That's how he started working for his family.  And he doesn't start by saying "my dad is my shepherd" or "the king of Israel is my shepherd".  He says the Lord is his shepherd.  We can love, respect and trust almost anyone.  But no one can lead and guide us safely, in the same way that God can.

There have been negative connotations to religious movements that do what is called "shepherding".  A movement in the '70s and '80s took on that connotation.  The originators felt there was a lack of personal accountability.  The extreme of their efforts was that some church leaders required accountability directly and only to themselves.  From listening only to what people thought God was telling them, to listening only to what a particular leader said.  From one extreme to another.  None of it truly balanced by the Word. And that's not what David was describing.  We know that, with a few exceptions, David had a close personal relationship with God. And that relationship included following those in leadership over you. Not to the exclusion of personally hearing from God, not to the extent of a leader's personal interpretation of the Word when it opposed proper interpretation.

And what of the sheep?  Well, sheep are not very bright.  They tend to follow the crowd, even if the crowd is headed toward cliff's edge. That's why the shepherd, sheepdogs and hirelings are there -- to guide the sheep in the right direction.  Even though sheep would go in one direction together, that isn't necessarily the best direction for them.  So, guidance is essential.  

And that's why Jesus says in Luke 15:4, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?". Because individual sheep sometimes get separated from the flock -- with no flock, no sheepdog or no shepherd to guide them.  A good shepherd will always go find the lost sheep.  He knows that the hirelings, sheepdogs and the flock itself will keep the rest of the sheep together, going in the right direction.  But the sheep that got separated from the rest is prey to all the problems of becoming trapped in the wrong place or becoming prey. The shepherd knows this and goes to protect him and bring him back to the flock.  Have you sometimes wondered why your pastor sometimes preaches on subjects that don't seem to be a problem in the congregation?  He could be getting the flock closer together before there's a straying problem or he may be going after that lost sheep.

The end result is, as Matthew 6:33 tells us, "all these things shall be added unto you."  "I shall not want."  I will be spiritually fed and protected from the elements and the predators.  Having worked as a shepherd, David knew how to be a shepherd and how to follow a shepherd.  Follow a man who follows God, but never just follow a man.  And definitely follow God.  Then you can lead others, because we all influence someone, if only briefly.  And we always want to give God's influence, not our own.  And we shall not want.

Be guided by God, guide others to Him.  And don't forget to pray for Libby.

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