Stephen Caswell © 2004
A Shepherd Understands His Sheep
Philip Keller, once a shepherd shares some very interesting insights about the make up of sheep in his book, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23. It is impossible for sheep to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met. Firstly, due to their timidity they must be free from all fear. Next, they must not have any friction with the other sheep, they must be at peace with each other. Third, they must be free from flies or parasites if they are to relax. Lastly, they will not lie down unless free from hunger. Shepherd's care for all these needs. As our Good Shepherd, the Lord meets all these needs for us. He makes it so that we can lie down in green pastures.
The 23 rd Psalm is a comfort the sick and sorrowing. It offers great hope for the suffering. The Lord is the Good Shepherd who watches over His sheep. Yet I believe that this Psalm says much more about the Shepherd's care in life than in death. Truly we need the Good Shepherds guidance and care through out all of our life, not just at the end of it. I want to look at seven wonderful provisions that the Lord gives to His sheep. 7 Hebrew words describe God'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. In the Middle East Shepherd's take much greater care than they do in Australia. Sheep are more like pets than beasts to be slain. Sheep were valuable and kept them for their wool. The chief responsibility of a shepherd was to provide for the sheep's welfare. A Shepherd is concerned about the health of his sheep. He loves them and individually takes care of them. He knows each one personally. Every child of God can testify that the Lord meets our needs. We know Him and He knows us personally. We can say that we want for nothing. Do you know the Good Shepherd? Does He provide for your needs? He wants to be your shepherd too! Will you let Him?
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. God's sheep enjoy perfect peace because they're not concerned about the basic necessities of life.
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 His peace? Has He brought meaning and tranquility to your life?
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 wander away from the safety of the fold. Like sheep we have wandered 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 cannot restore our own souls. Only the Good Shepherd can do this. 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 way and return to the Shepherd. Isaiah 53:6 says: 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 to restore our souls. We must believe that He died for our sins and that He rose again to give us new life. John 10:11: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. Do you know the Good Shepherd? Has He restored your soul? If not! Will you repent & believe in Him? Will you let Him 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.
The shepherd was responsible to lead his flock along safe pathways. He protected them from the rough paths that lead to death. He kept the sheep from trouble. The Good Shepherd gives us a right standing with God. As we saw He does this by restoring our relationship with God. But then He enables us to keep on the right track. He leads us and gives us the strength within to overcome sin. This is something we can't do for ourselves. When we obey the Good Shepherd He comes into our lives and helps us walk God's way. He leads us in the paths of righteousness. On our own we would simply wander off into the wilderness again. But when the Shepherd restores us to God He also keeps us in the His ways. Is the Good Shepherd leading you in the paths of righteousness? Is He helping you to live a holy life?
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.
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 even more so. 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. Even death itself cannot separate us from the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd can lead you home. All you have to do is follow him.
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?
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 shepherd was responsible to protect his flock from these dangerous predators. Sheep need protection from wolves and lions. The Good Shepherd watches over His flock. He protects the sheep from the Devil who roams around looking to devour lost sheep. The Good Shepherd escorts His sheep safely home to the heavenly pasture. There he provides a lavish feast. 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? Blessing or suffering?
Beware Of Wandering From The Fold
Phillip Keller in his book on the 23 rd 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.
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. God's sheep lack for nothing even as we read at the beginning of the Psalm. Finally, they will dwell in the Lord's house forever. Is the Good Shepherd meeting your needs each day? Will you dwell in the House of the Lord forever? You can know these things if you know the Good Shepherd.
I Know the Psalm, But He Knows The Shepherd
A famous entertainer was once asked to recite the 23rd Psalm in a performance. A large audience filled the huge auditorium. After he finished 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 23 rd Psalm. You may know the Psalm, but do you know the Shepherd? Has the Good Shepherd restored your soul? Have you believed in the Good Shepherd who gave His life for you on the cross? Has He brought peace into your life? Does He provide for your needs? Is the Good Shepherd your constant companion? Is He leading you to victory? Will you live in the Lord's house forever? If not, why don't you receive Him today? Is He calling you now? Why don't you go to Him? Why not let Him restore your weary soul? Why not give your life to Him and dwell in His house forever?
Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.