Stephen Caswell © 2004
Butcher Drives Sheep
A party of tourists was on its way to Palestine and its guide was describing some of the quaint customs of the East. He said, you are accustomed to seeing the shepherd following his sheep through the English lanes and byways. Here in the East things are different. The shepherd always leads the way, going on before the flock. And the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
The party reached Palestine, and, to the amusement of the tourists, almost the first sight to meet their eyes was that of a flock of sheep being driven along by a man. The guide was astonished and immediately made it his business to reprimand the shepherd. How is it that you are driving these sheep? he asked. I have always been told that the Eastern shepherd leads his sheep. You are quite right, sir, replied the man. The shepherd does lead his sheep. But you see, I’m not the shepherd, I’m the butcher.
The 23rd Psalm is a comfort to the sick and those who are grieving. It gives us great hope. The Lord is also the Good Shepherd described in John chapter 10. Yet I believe that this Psalm says much more about our Shepherd's care for us in life than in death. Verse 6 says that goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. Truly we need the Good Shepherd’s guidance and care all the days of our life, not just at the end. 7 different Hebrew words describe the Shepherd’s care for His sheep.
1. Jehovah Rohi - The Lord My Shepherd
Psalm 23:1: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The Lord cares for His children like a shepherd cares for his sheep. The word Lord, יהוה describes God in a covenant relationship with His people. David, who wrote the Psalm had a close relationship with God. He mentions the Lord 13 times and himself 17 times. David knew God intimately. He was his best friend. The Lord wants to have a personal relationship with all of us. In the Middle East Shepherd's take much greater care of their flocks. Sheep are more like pets than beasts to be slain. They were valuable and kept for their wool. The chief responsibility of a shepherd was to provide for the sheep's welfare. He was concerned about the health of his sheep. He loved them individually and took care of them. He knew each one.
Every child of God can testify that the Lord meets our needs. We know Him and He knows us personally. John 10:3-4: To him (the Good Shepherd) the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
Girl At Sunday School
After a Sunday-school lesson one week, a little girl was heard quoting Psalm 23:1, a familiar Bible verse that many children have memorized. Although the child did not quote it quite right, she had the right idea when she said, The Lord is my shepherd; I’ve got all I want.
Is the Lord your Shepherd? Do you know Him personally? Has He called you by name? Have you followed Him? Does He lead you through life? He wants to be your Shepherd! Will you let Him? Will you follow the Good Shepherd? How will you respond to the Shepherd’s call?
2. Jehovah Shalom - The Lord My Peace
Psalm 23:2: He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
Part of the Shepherd's care is to provide peace for the sheep. Sheep don't like to be hurried along. They like to graze quietly in the fields. In this busy life it's so easy to become unsettled. So the Good Shepherd provides a peaceful place where we can share fellowship with Him. In verse 1 we read how the Lord meets all of our needs. In verse 2 we find that He provides clear cool water and lush green pastures. Sheep won't drink from fast flowing rivers. Sheep will never lie down to rest unless their thirst and hunger have been satisfied first. John 10:9: I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
The Shepherd And Flock
In our country we do not realize the intimacy of a shepherd with his flock as they do in Syria and in parts of Southern Europe. If you were to visit there you would see a shepherd has this incredibly close communion with his flock. You would see Him accompany them through the green pastures and by the stream. If the shepherd wished to lead his sheep from one pasture to another, he went before them, and he was usually singing.
He led them with a song or with a sweet, low, wooing whistle like the call of a bird, and the sheep raised their heads from the grass, looked at their guardian and guide, and followed on. He sang and went before; and the sheep followed his course over the rocky boulders to the still waters, where they were refreshed. At noon he would sit down in a place of shadows, and all his flock crowded around him for rest. At night, when the darkness was falling, he gathered them into the fold. In the same way, God's sheep enjoy perfect peace because they're not concerned about their basic needs. The Good Shepherd provides these. Our only concern is to follow Him.
Matthew 6:31-33: Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Do you know God’s peace or are you anxious? Does the Good Shepherd meet all your needs? Is He leading you day by day?
3. Jehovah Ropheka - The Lord My Health
Psalm 23:3: He restores my soul;
Why do we need the Shepherd to restore our soul? Because it is the nature of sheep to go astray. Like sheep we have wandered off into the wilderness of sin. 1 Peter 2:25: For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Only the shepherd can restore our souls from the ravages of sin. Only He can make us right with God again. The restoration He gives is forgiveness of sin and peace with God. We can’t restore our own souls. Only He can. This is why Jesus the Good Shepherd came to earth. How can lost sheep be restored to the fold? Through repentance and faith. To repent means that we stop going our own way and return to the Shepherd. We trust Him to save us from our sin. Isaiah 53:6: All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. We must ask Jesus Christ to restore our souls.
The Parable Of The Lost Sheep
Jesus told a parable of a Shepherd who had 100 sheep. One afternoon he counted the sheep as they returned to the sheepfold and found there were only 99. So he left the 99 safely in the fold and went searching for the lost sheep. He called out to him by name and didn’t stop searching till He found the lost sheep. Then He took the lost sheep home rejoicing. Are you lost in the wilderness of sin? Is the Good Shepherd calling your name this morning? Why not go to Him?
How can we be restored by the Good Shepherd? By believing that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again to give us new life. By asking Him to come into our lives and save us. John 10:11: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. I will never forget the peace that came into my heart when Christ saved me. Do you know Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd? Why not repent and believe in Him today? Why not ask Him to save your soul?
4. Jehovah Tsidkenu - The Lord My Righteousness
Psalm 23:4: He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Sick Sheep Follows Anyone
An American, traveling in Syria, saw three native shepherds bring their flocks to the same brook, and the flocks drank there together. After a while one shepherd arose and called out, Men-ah! men-ah! This is the Arabic for follow me. His sheep came out of the common herd and followed him up the hillside. The next shepherd did the same, and his sheep went away with him, and the man did not even stop to count them.
The traveler said to the remaining shepherd, Give me your turban and crook, and see if they will not follow me as well as you. So he put on the shepherd’s dress and called out, Men-ah! men-ah! Not a sheep moved. They know not a voice of a stranger. Will your flock never follow anybody but you? inquired the gentleman. The Syrian shepherd replied, Oh, yes; sometimes a sheep gets sick, and then he will follow any one.
The shepherd was responsible to lead his flock along safe pathways. He called his sheep by name. So too, the Good Shepherd calls us and we follow Him. John 10:4 says the sheep know his voice and won’t follow a stranger. Firstly, Christ saves us from our sin. He does this by restoring us to His flock. Secondly, He enables us to keep on the right track. He leads us and strengthens us within to overcome sinful temptations.
This is something we can't do for ourselves. When we respond to the Good Shepherd He comes into our lives and helps us to walk God's way. He leads us in the paths of righteousness. On our own we would simply wander off into the wilderness again. Therefore the Shepherd restores us to His flock and also keeps us in the right way. Is the Good Shepherd leading you in right pathway? Are you following His voice, keeping his word? Do you enjoy your living in His flock?
5. Jehovah Shammah - The Lord My Companion
Psalm 23:4: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Watching Over The Flock
During World War I, some Turkish soldiers tried to steal a flock of sheep from a hillside near Jerusalem. The shepherd, who had been sleeping, suddenly awakened to see his sheep being driven off on the other side of the ravine. He could not hope to recapture his flock by force single-handedly, but suddenly he had a thought. Standing up on his side of the ravine, he put his hands to his mouth and gave his own peculiar call, which he used each day to gather his sheep to him. The sheep heard the familiar sound. For a moment they listened and then, hearing it again, they turned and rushed down one side of the ravine and up the other toward their shepherd. It was quite impossible for the soldiers to stop the animals. The shepherd was away with them to a place of safety before the soldiers could make up their minds to pursue them — and all because his sheep knew their master’s voice.
As I already mentioned, the shepherd didn't drive his sheep but went before them. The Shepherd led the sheep safely through the dangerous valleys that sometimes had to be passed. He called them and they followed him. He was their constant companion and guide. The Good Shepherd does so even more. John 10:27-28: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. The Lord is with His sheep through out their lives. He comforts them in trials. When death casts its shadow upon us, the Good Shepherd is right beside us. He protects us from all danger with His staff. Death itself cannot separate us from the Good Shepherd’s love. I feared death till Christ saved my soul. The Good Shepherd has promised to lead His sheep safely home.
Moody More Alive
D.L. Moody said to a friend, someday soon you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that is all — out of this old clay tent into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned into His glorious body. I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.
Is the Good Shepherd your Companion and Guide in life? Does He comfort you in your trials? Does He protect you along the way? Can you face death with confidence? I can!
6. Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Victory
Psalm 23:5: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
The word Table refers to a mountain plateau where there was rich pasture watered by the frequent rains. In such places the sheep needed protection from predators. As the door to the sheep fold He guarded them by night. The shepherd went before them by day and fought against the lions and bears.
I Am The Door
A tourist in Syria observed with interest how a shepherd drove all his sheep into a sheepfold one evening. The fold was an enclosing wall with only one opening. On that opening he noticed that there was neither door nor gate. He remarked to the shepherd: Can’t wild beasts get inside there? No, answered the shepherd, because I am the door. When the sheep are in for the night, I lie down across that doorway. No sheep can get out except over my body, and no wolf or thief can get in except over me. Jesus said this in John 10:9: I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The Good Shepherd watches over His flock. He protects the sheep from the Devil who wants to destroy the sheep. The Good Shepherd escorts His sheep safely home to the heavenly pasture.
The Lord provides a lavish feast for the flock before their enemies. Oil was used to heal open wounds. While an overflowing cup speaks of abundant provision. When the Lord is your shepherd you will finish your life in victory. Death is but a door way to the heavenly fold, where abundant blessing awaits God's precious sheep. But those who don't know the shepherd will end life in sorrow and defeat. Will you experience victory or defeat when your life is over? What awaits you beyond death’s door? Eternal life or the second death? God’s Blessing or eternal suffering? Heaven or Hell?
Beware Of Wandering From The Fold
Phillip Keller in his book on the 23rd Psalm relates a story from his own experience as a shepherd. On several occasions Mountain Lions came amongst the sheep at night working terrible havoc in the flock. Yet despite the damage, despite the dead sheep, despite the injuries, and fear instilled in the flock, he never actually saw a cougar on his range. So cunning and skillful were the raids that they defy description. However it was always the distant sheep, the roamers, the wanderers that were picked off by the predators in an unsuspecting moment. Generally the attackers were gone before the shepherd was alerted by their cry for help.
Satan seeks to destroy the souls of men. 1 Peter 5:8: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Only the Good Shepherd can protect you from such attacks. Are you looking out for Satan’s attacks? Have you taken refuge from this roaring lion who seeks to destroy your soul? Is the Good Shepherd watching over you? Are you staying close the Good Shepherd? Are you walking close to Him?
7. Jehovah Jireh - The Lord My Provider
Psalm 23:6: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
The Good Shepherd provides for his sheep through out all of their lives, not just at the end. His goodness and mercy will be the constant companions of God’s sheep. The word surely means only. Only goodness and mercy will follow us all of our lives. God's sheep lack for nothing even as we read at the beginning of the Psalm. God’s sheep have received every possible blessing both in time and in eternity. He faithfully cares for His sheep all of their lives and into eternity. The Good Shepherd’s great mercy, love and concern for His sheep should compel us to praise Him. The Psalmist responds with thanksgiving, praise and worship.
Psalm 100:1-5: Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.
Finally, God’s sheep will dwell in the Lord's house forever. This of course speaks of heaven not an earthly temple. Forever means just that. The wonderful relationship commenced on earth will become even richer in glory. The Lord will continue to richly provide for His sheep in Heaven. He is our Shepherd for both time and eternity.
Revelation 7:15-17: Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
The Good Shepherd will care for His sheep forever and ever. Have you experienced the Shepherd’s goodness and mercy? Has He been your companion and guide through out your life? Will you dwell in the House of the Lord forever? Do you know the Shepherd?
I Know the Psalm, But He Knows The Shepherd
An entertainer once recited the 23rd Psalm in a performance. A large audience filled the huge auditorium. Everyone gave him a generous round of applause. After this an old man was asked to present the same Psalm. When he finished there wasn't a dry eye in the place. Everyone was touched by his devotion to the Shepherd. The entertainer came back to continue the program. Before starting the program he said, I know the Psalm, ….. but he knows the Shepherd!
This morning we have looked at a Psalm so well known, the 23rd Psalm. You may know the Psalm, but do you know the Shepherd? Has the Good Shepherd restored your soul? Have you believed in the Shepherd, Jesus Christ who gave His life for you on the cross? Has He brought peace into your life? Can you face death and eternity with confidence? Will you live in the Lord's house forever? Is the Shepherd calling you now? Why not receive Him? Ask Him to save you and dwell in His house forever?
Hebrews 13:20-21: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.