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The Lord is My Shepherd: Safe in the Son

‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me’

- Psalm 23:4 -

 

The Lord Jesus Christ says many profound things at the last supper. Top of the list is His answer to Philip’s request to see the Father: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9). What’s amazing about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is that He came to show us what the Father is like, but that He identifies with us having lived in a fallen world. This wasn’t merely optional. Hebrews says ‘it was necessary for Him to be made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High priest before God...Since He himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested’ (2:17-18).


 

We all want to feel safe and cared for in this sinful world. Life’s just too hard to make it on our own, so take comfort knowing Christ, the understanding God-man, is by our side. As David says: ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want’ (Ps. 23:1). Scripture often depicts God’s children as sheep: ‘We are His people and the sheep of His pasture’ (Ps. 100:3). A flock needs a shepherd to guide and protect them, and Jesus isn’t just any shepherd. He is “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:14) as He provides all His sheep need. When David says, ‘I shall not want,’ the word ‘want’ means ‘lack’ and as Bible students we know that ‘no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly’ (Ps. 84:11). But the only reason that we lack no good thing is because the Good Shepherd causes us to walk uprightly by clothing us with His own righteousness. Praise God!

 

A shepherd does more than stand under a hot sun all day keeping an eye on his sheep. He is a manager, protector, and provider. Having bought us at the cross with His own blood (1 Cor. 6:20), Christ now manages our life and cares for us. As David says of God: ‘You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings’ (Ps. 61:3-4). Sheep need almost endless care. They’re prone to disease and parasites just as we’re prone to sin. They’re fearful, timid, stupid, and stubborn. Yet despite the faults of sheep, shepherds still love, guard, and delight in caring for them. Just so, Christ loves us unconditionally and everlastingly, so we ought to heed Peter’s call to ‘give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you’ (1 Pet. 5:7).



We are to do what’s possible, then cast all our cares on God and He’ll do the impossible. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He has His eye on us at all times. Remember God’s promise to Jacob: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (Gen. 28:15). The Lord is with us whether we feel His presence or not. We are not to judge reality by our fickle feelings. Therefore, Moses tells Joshua: “And this Lord, He is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8).

 

Shepherds mark their sheep so that strangers know their protector. We are marked by God at salvation, as Paul writes: ‘When you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago’ (Eph. 1:13). We were set apart for the Master’s use so the Good Shepherd puts His mark on us. Now His will is our will. We are under Christ’s care and safe from enemy attacks. The devil ‘prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour’ (1 Pet. 5:8), but he can only devour those who leave the Good Shepherd’s sheepfold. Those who stay close to Christ are well protected. The enemy sees Christ’s seal and knows he has no chance to do them harm.



The Good Shepherd offers us peace and contentment. He makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters (Ps. 23:2). The more we feed on God’s Word, the less we will worry and the more we will rest. This is not rest from activity. In fact, it’s rest in the midst of activity. Yes, there’s always something we should be doing in our walk with the Lord. But rest comes when we know what to do and what not to do. After all, ‘we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose’ (Rom 8:28). We love God and we know He loves us. He has all the answers, so casting our care on Him allows us to lie down in green pastures beside the still waters, entirely safe in Christ.

 

Resting in the Lord lets us enjoy life as we pursue God’s will. Jesus came to pursue a unique calling, and once He fulfilled it, the Father told Him: “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus did His part. Now He’s waiting for the Father to do His. So a wonderful life awaits us if we learn to work while resting in God. Some people miss God’s plan for their life because they’re so driven by their own dreams that they don’t enjoy everyday life. They burden themselves with trying to get what they think they need instead of trusting God and submitting to His perfect will and timing. But the rest of God may be entered by those who have believed (Heb. 4:3).


David says the Good Shepherd restores our souls and leads us in ‘paths of righteousness for His name’s sake’ (Ps. 23:3). Our feelings often dominate us. They can be good or bad, but they’re fickle and shift like the wind. We must not trust them or be led by them. It is God’s desire for us to choose to do His will. Free will is a wonderful gift, but it comes with great responsibility. There’s power in our free will choices: life or death, blessing or cursing, etc. Will we do things God’s way or ours? If we’ll have Him direct our steps, the Good Shepherd will correct our mistakes and lead us in righteous paths all because He loves us and our holy walk gives Him the glory He is due.



Don’t ask yourself how you feel. Tell yourself how you feel. Use free will to follow the direction of the Lord, knowing that your feelings can change at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t matter how you feel as long as you’re doing what God says. There is power in being committed to God’s will for your life. This power enables us to press ahead even when we don’t feel like it. Become like Christ who says to the Father: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). Lay feelings aside to run the race and finish the course. Trust that Christ will correct us when we step off the beaten path. This is how God loves, by disciplining and educating His children as our preeminent parent (Heb. 12:5-8).

 

Think about it. God is running the universe yet He takes the time to lead us in paths of righteousness. This shows how much we mean to Him. We ought to thank Him for this loving concern and submit to His correction. As the Living Christ says: “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference” (Rev. 3:19). Great change has to come in our redeemed lives if we are to do great things for God’s kingdom. We can’t straddle the fence, with one foot in the kingdom and the other in the world. We are to be hot or cold (Rev. 3:15-16), never lukewarm about the Lord’s work.

 

When we were born again, we got an open invitation to get intimate with God. Christ’s work on the cross means we have ‘become the righteousness of God in Him’ (2 Cor. 5:21), so take advantage of that blessed status. Solomon writes: ‘But the path of the just is like the shining sun that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day’ (Prov. 4:18). Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). God’s sanctification of us means we shouldn’t be satisfied with the life we’re now living. God is dynamic and purifying. He blesses us each day, but blessings are only found on the righteous paths that Scripture lays out. The big question is: how do we live this abundant Christian life?



Paul tells the Galatians: ‘The just shall live by faith’ (3:11). The Greek says: ‘The righteous by faith shall live.’ So when we have faith that we now have right standing with God, we will begin to live the abundant life. Don’t use this faith to try to get a new house or new car. No, use the gift of faith to believe that we are loved and welcomed by our Heavenly Father. We must treasure the reality of what Jesus did on the cross. We must go before the throne of grace and take tremendous pleasure in addressing the God of the universe as our loving Father. It’s what He longs for and so should we.

 

To be found righteous, we’ve got to abandon the idea that it’s based on our good works. Too many Christians are performance conscious, not faith conscious. They feel good driving home from church on Sunday because they just did a good deed. Yes, it’s good to assemble with fellow believers, but this isn’t what makes us righteous. We’re made righteous by faith and faith alone. Peter calls Christ “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14) and only by repentance and faith is anyone brought under the cover of Christ’s righteousness. By faith, we can face life’s trials with steely confidence as we’ve already received the highest blessing: eternal salvation and security in Christ.



Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He’s the Lion of Judah who fights for us. The battle belongs to the Lord, so resolve ahead of time to seek Him in time of trouble. Do this and you’ll walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil (Ps. 23:4). Because the Good Shepherd guards His sheep, we remain stable in the midst of trials, not carried away by our emotions. The devil is a deceiver who makes us think a trial is worse than it is, but by Christ we stand steadfast in the face of trouble.


When a multitude comes in war against Jerusalem, King Jehoshaphat prays: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” (1 Chron. 20:6). He wisely seeks the Lord and God prevails for His own. The message is clear: ‘Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth’ (Col. 3:2). Only then are we in safe in the hands of Christ.

 

We resist the devil by putting one foot in front of the other as the Lord leads us on the righteous path. We follow wherever He leads as this is how we see victory in life. As Jesus says: “the sheep hear [the Good Shepherd’s] 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” (John 10:3-4). If we will pray and set our heart to seek the Lord, He will lead us and direct our steps. No longer do we have to live in the dark, not knowing what to do. The Good Shepherd will call us by name and give us the direction we sorely need.



Jesus teaches: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:11,15). Don’t forget, like sheep, we are prone to do dumb things. Yet the Good Shepherd loves his sheep and uses his rod and staff to comfort us. The Lord never promises to keep us out of the valley of death, but He does promise to journey through it with us. The Lord has His rod and His staff; shepherding tools that protect the flock on their way to green pastures, soothing us as we go.


A shepherd’s rod is three feet long with an orange-sized lump at one end. With it, the shepherd drives off wild beasts and robbers trying to steal the sheep. David was once a shepherd-boy and he recalls using this rod to King Saul: “Your servant was shepherding his father’s sheep. And a lion and a bear would come and take a lamb from the flock, and I would go after it and strike it and rescue the lamb from its mouth. Then it rose up against me, and I would seize it by its beard and strike it down and put it to death” (1 Sam. 17:34-35). The rod symbolizes a shepherd’s power and authority. The spiritual parallel is God’s Word. The Word guards our hearts from chaos, bringing peace and serenity to otherwise foolish sheep.

 

For shepherds, a table is a high mountain plateau. Though hard to reach, the greatest blessings are found in are hard to reach places, and shepherds know that good grass grows up there. David says of the Good Shepherd: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over’ (Ps. 23:5). The shepherd prepares the ground for the sheep’s arrival. Snakes are kept away by pouring an oil around the feeding area that predators won’t cross. So when the sheep are led to this area, they can eat to their heart’s content in the presence of their enemies. By faith in Christ, we become these blessed sheep. We trust in our Protector and rest in the knowledge that ‘goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’ (Ps. 23:6). Amen and amen.



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