April 16, 2013
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.—David the Psalmist1
Hudson Taylor once said: “The Lord is my Shepherd; is on Sunday, is on Monday, and is through every day of the week; is in January, is in December, and every month of the year. Is at home, and is in China; is in peace, and is in war; in abundance, and in penury!”
At another time he wrote: “All God’s dealings are full of blessing: He is good, and doeth good, good only, and continually. The believer who has taken the Lord as his shepherd can assuredly say in the words of the psalmist: ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’ Hence we may be sure that the days of adversity, as well as days of prosperity, are full of blessing. The believer does not need to wait until he sees the reason of God’s afflictive dealings with him ere he is satisfied; he knows ‘that all things work together for good to them that love God.’”
The shepherd is responsible for the sheep; not the sheep for the shepherd. The worst of it is that we sometimes think we are both the shepherd and the sheep, and that we have both to guide and follow. Happy are we when we realize that He is responsible; that He goes before; and goodness and mercy shall follow us.
This devotional thought may be read by someone who is being severely tested almost to the breaking point. Someone wondering about the tomorrows. He knows all about your tomorrows, and is thinking in advance for you. Yes, for you. For you He careth. Hide away in your heart the gracious promise: “How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God!”—Mrs. Charles E. Cowman2
The Eastern shepherd was always ahead of his sheep. He was down in front. Any attack upon them had to take him into account. Now God is down in front, He is in the tomorrow. It is tomorrow that fills men with dread. God is there already. The tomorrows of our life have to pass Him before they can get to us.—F. B. Meyer
Jesus was patient, loving, kind, sympathetic, and forgiving, always leading and feeding and encouraging and strengthening His little lambs. He was the greatest of all examples of love, humility, and mercy. May Jesus help us to be like Him.—David Brandt Berg3
The shepherds of Palestine will tell you the purpose for their staff. One such shepherd was asked in what sense the staff could be said to be a comfort for his sheep. The experienced leader of his flock proceeded to explain that in daylight he always carried the staff across his shoulder, and when the sheep saw it, it spoke of the presence of the shepherd (to guide), and thus it was a means of comfort. On the other hand, if night overtook him with the sheep on the mountainside, or if they were caught in a heavy mountain mist so that the sheep could no longer see the staff, then he would lower it, and as he walked he would tap with it on the ground, so that by hearing if not by sight the staff (to guide) comforted the sheep by speaking the presence of the shepherd. If wild animals would prey upon his flock, he could use the rod (to protect) and ward them off. On occasion the lambs would fall into ravines and among brambles. The shepherd would use the crook on the end of the staff for lifting the fallen one to safety. The person who is carrying the rod is the leader or ruler of his flock. The sheep know their shepherd by his rod and they follow him, not any other person who may pass by or attempt to lead them astray.
David remembered these things and said in effect to himself, “It would be unreasonable to suppose that God has less care for me than I had for the sheep!”
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”4
We are Thine—do
Thou befriend us,
Be the Guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us,
Seek us when we go astray.—Dorothy A. Thrupp
The Valley of the Shadow of Death, I came to learn while studying the passage, is an actual valley outside Jerusalem. It is treacherous terrain, and shepherds once herded sheep through this valley to move them to green pastures and fresh water. There were crags in the rocks, ditches, and thorn bushes that sheep, simple as they are, would fall into, so shepherds had to use their staffs, those big sticks with their rounded hooks on the end, to reach into the crags and ditches to rescue the sheep. And the shepherd also had a rod he would use to scare off wild animals, keeping the sheep safe in the passage. In the Twenty-third Psalm, David says, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (v.4 KJV), and when I think of myself as a sheep, looking up at Jesus, who has a staff to rescue me and a rod to protect me, it makes me feel that this passage is quite endearing, that basically I am a simple sheep, having very little idea of what is right and wrong, and Jesus is going to pull me out of the ditches when I screw up, and protect me from spiritual enemies who roam about like lions.—Donald Miller5
The bird whose pinion was once broken, by the grace of God will fly even higher than before, and the straying sheep whose leg had to be broken will have to remain in the Shepherd’s bosom so long he will never stray again!—David Brandt Berg
[A story is] told of a lady summering in Switzerland who went for a stroll and came to a shepherd's fold. She looked in at the door. There sat the shepherd and nearby on a pile of straw lay a single sheep seemingly in suffering. Asking what was the trouble, she was told that the lamb's leg was broken. The shepherd said that he himself had broken it. It was a most wayward animal and would not follow, not obey, and misled the others. He had had experience with sheep of this kind, so he broke one of its legs. The first day when he took it food, it tried to bite him. He let it lie for a couple of days, then went back to it. It not only took the food but licked his hand, showing every sign of submission and affection. He said when it was well, it would be the model sheep of the flock. It had learned obedience through suffering. Many times out of our very agony of heart, the God of love seeks to bring into our lives the supreme blessing that can enrich and glorify our lives—the blessing of a human will yielded to the will of God. Scripture assures God's children that afflictions are for their profit “that we might be partakers of his holiness” and that we might “yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”—Keith L. Brooks
Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can he then understand his own way? It’s a blow to human pride to say that man is not capable of choosing his own way, that he has to have divine guidance, but it’s so true.
An experienced guide of many years in the jungles of Africa once said, “It’s hard to lead one who is willful. It’s very difficult to guide them. They don’t trust their guide. They’re always wanting to have their own way, and I’ve seen many such people in my days of guiding that ran into dangerous situations and serious accidents because they wouldn’t follow the guide.”
Is it strange, then, that God’s people, the sheep of His pasture, need a shepherd to guide them?—Virginia Brandt Berg6
My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus. When you put the crown on His head, you will only crown Him with silver when He deserves gold. My Master has riches of happiness to bestow upon you now. He can make you to lie down in green pastures, and lead you beside still waters. There is no music like the music of His pipe, when He is the Shepherd and you are the sheep, and you lie down at His feet. There is no love like His; neither earth nor heaven can match it. To know Christ and to be found in Him—oh! This is life, this is joy, this is marrow and fatness, wine on the lees well refined.—Charles Spurgeon
Published on Anchor April 2013. Read by Jerry Paladino.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Psalm 23 KJV.
2 Streams in the Desert, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1977).
3 Daily Might (Aurora Production, 2004).
4 Psalm 23:4 KJV.
5 Searching for God Knows What (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010).
6 From http://virginiabrandtberg.org/meditation-moments/mm069_divine-guidance.html.
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