|Beside the Still Waters||1st January 2012|
Psalms 23: "The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me besides the still waters."|
Probably the most famous Psalm of all, the well known, well loved and well remembered, “The Lord’s Prayer” seems to have world wide appeal. It was David, the Shepherd turned King, who first introduced God as “Jehovah Rohi” as he approached old age. There was no-one more qualified than David to compare God to a shepherd our source of comfort, encouragement, peace and hope. Contained within this term of endearment are our deepest longings; our earnest pleadings and our desperate need for solace- David knew and wrote both extensively and movingly about the tender compassion of his God. This Psalm conveys such intimacy that God is not only David’s “shepherd”, but a shepherd to all his people: personally and collectively.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Christ tells us in John Chapter 10 about his designation as “good shepherd who giveth his life for his sheep” (John 10:11) which is the fulfilment of the prophesy in Ezekiel 34:11-16 which describes God as a shepherd searching out and tending his flock. It is Christ who enters in by the door” in Revelation 3:20 he tells us that he only enters through the door as an invited guest “if any man hears my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me”. Described in these two verses is Jesus as our saviour: who not only sacrifices his life for us, but will only enter into a relationship with us, when we invite him in.
It is only when he is invited into our life that the process of restoration can begin. John 10:2-5 describes the intimate relationship only Christ as a shepherd can develop with his sheep: he calls them by name and because they recognise his voice, they follow him. In verse 10 he contrasts the renewal and “abundant life” on the “path of righteousness” he offers with that of the devil who is “the thief who comes but for to kill steal and destroy”.
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.
In his book Names of God, Nathan Stone provides us with insightful description of the way God shepherds us through the example of the life of Palestinian shepherd. In Palestine a shepherds spends day and night with his sheep because wild animals are always seeking opportunities to attack and kill those that are unguarded. The intimacy of their relationship is such that he knows them personally and calls each by name and they respond. Such is his vigilant care of them that, he positions himself to sleep at the entrance to the sheepfold “preserving their going out and their coming in” (Psalms 121:8). Though the sheep in Palestine are unaware of it, we can certainly appreciate the presence of God’s rod and staff to protect and guiding us throughout life’s twists and turns.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my up runneth over.
What greater honour could be bestowed upon us by our Shepherd, than to be called to dine with him in the presence of our enemies? In eastern culture, the table represented a place of peace and reconciliation, the presence of an enemy suggests the lengths God will go to demonstrate His love for us. In the story of the Prodigal Son, we are also able to see a picture of the unconditional love God has for us: “And bring hither the fatted calf and kill it; and let us eat and be merry: For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:23-24). Anointing the head with oil- the symbol of blessing, esteem and the Holy Spirit, also emphasises the high regard of the Divine Shepherd for His sheep- He holds back nothing to those who are engraved on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16).
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 comfort provided by the Good Shepherd is eternal in nature- what a fitting way to end such a beautiful Psalm. God, our Shepherd has made provision for us throughout our whole life: tenderly watching over us, ensuring that we are fed, rested, guided, protected and blessed throughout our lives. And not only that- God sends goodness and mercy as divine messengers to follow us. In addition, those who are considered to be His sheep have a guarantee of the Good Shepherd’s providence not just in this life- but also in the next. David as representative of all the Lord’s chosen sheep had the promise of eternity and “will” dwell in His house throughout eternity.
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