Is the Lord Your Shepherd?

Posted on July 27, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

The 23rd Psalm is probably the most well known and most-quoted passage of Scripture.  It is a beautiful exposition of God’s love and his provision and care for us as “the sheep of His pasture.” We relish the image of a caring shepherd totally devoted to our welfare and giving us assurance of eternal security.

But do we daily experience His peace and rest in the stress of our daily hectic pace of life? Do we rely upon Him to provide for our needs, or do we busy ourselves trying to make ends meet in a fragile economy, worried and anxious about the future as our savings and investments erode? Do we trust Him to guide our paths or frantically pursue our aspirations and ambitions through attempts to control and manipulate circumstances and relationships?

We can quote the promises of scripture and know in our minds Jesus leads, guides and provides, but that doesn’t make it a reality. As a flock of sheep knows the shepherd’s voice and follow Him, we must intentionally live in submission to His lordship. As much as He desires to deliver us from stress and anxiety, providing peace and rest, “lying down in green pastures,” it doesn’t happen until we yield to Him all that is bothering and distracting. He cannot “lead us in paths of righteousness” and “restore our soul” until we submit our way to Him. It means decisions are made “for His name’s sake” and His glory rather than to fulfill our desires.

How can one experience His comfort, even when life takes a turn for the worse and we travel through a valley of disappointment or a tragic time of suffering? It is in the confidence that Jesus is with us; and if He is present, there is no need to fear the outcome. We can be assured that “God works in all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Even when we encounter controversy and conflicts seem to overcome us, we don’t have to deal with it and solve the problems ourselves. We don’t have to get defensive, justify our actions and protect our reputation against adversaries. The shepherd takes responsibility for protecting the sheep against lions and wolves that would devour them. We relinquish the issue to Him and His anointing lifts us above the battle.

I love the image of “goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” Some translations say, “Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me.” What a blessing! As we live from day to day, fulfilling responsibilities, caring for our family, serving our church and community, coping with a dysfunctional society, nothing but goodness, God’s mercy and faithful love are chasing after us because this is what accompanies Jesus.

And of course the ultimate blessing is the assurance that we will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” As the sheep are safely gathered into the fold, so is our eternal security assured because of our commitment to the Good Shepherd. Sheep don’t wander aimlessly and eventually find the security of the fold. It is because they follow the shepherd. Psalm 23 is a beautiful picture of what we have in Christ, but the blessings become a reality only when we live in a conscientious, submissive relationship with the Lord as our personal shepherd.

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