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Songs of Trust

(Psalms 23 and 121)

Lesson 3 -- third quarter 2002
June 16, 2002

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2002, Christian Light Publications

What does our Shepherd do?

Pity the sheep I see almost every day. They have no shepherd, at least not in the Middle Eastern sense and practice. The sheep I see generally fend for themselves; they have no idea of what it's like to have a real shepherd.

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." The sheep have walked a long way to reach the green pastures. They are so tired, but also so hungry. They want to get busy with the business of eating. But the shepherd knows it is better for them to rest first. Our Shepherd knows when we must slow down, lie down, and rest. If we don't do so on our own, He brings those circumstances which force us to rest.

"He leadeth me beside the still waters." The rushing mountain streams have such cool, refreshing water. But those streams are a threat to sheep for their wool acts like a sponge. So the shepherd dams the streams to create still waters which the sheep may safely and fearlessly enter. How many times our Shepherd "dams the rushing streams" so that we might drink without danger or fear!

"He restoreth my soul." When a sheep has been frightened or injured, the shepherd speaks to it quietly, calmly, reassuringly. He might even sing to it or play on his harp. Eventually the sheep, thus restored, is ready to return to its rest, grazing, or playing. Our Shepherd loves to meet us in our time of fear, need, and disquiet to restore our souls.

"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Traversing the canyons, valleys, and ridges are many paths, often with danger yawning on one side or the other. The sheep are uncertain and fearful, but not the shepherd. He knows the right way. Following him they are both safe and at peace. I don't know my own way through life, but my Shepherd both knows the way and is the Way.

"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." No matter what wild animals may lurk and prowl through this region, the sheep know they are safe if they stay in the presence of the shepherd. Our Shepherd is with us also . . . if we don't wander from Him!

"Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." The sheep have seen the shepherd use his rod to beat off marauding beasts and pry loose big stones that have trapped sheep legs. They have seen (and felt) the staff gently lift a fallen sheep back to safety. Our Shepherd is well-equipped and well-able to protect and rescue us in our moments of need, hopelessness, and desperation.

"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." The high grazing lands have plenty of natural enemies of sheep: sharp stones, poisonous plants, beasts of prey, and other dangers. Before taking his sheep there, the shepherd scouts the place. He removes as many dangers as possible and prepares himself to deal with the others. Then he brings his sheep to eat. Even in the presence of danger and opposition, our Shepherd feeds us in safety.

"Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over" As they enter the sheepfold at night, the sheep are individually inspected by the shepherd. He pours medicinal oil in the cuts, scratches, and abrasions received during the day. Then he dips a bowl in a spring of fresh water, offering it to each sheep before it lies down to sleep. Does your Shepherd want to do that for you at day's end?

Pity many of the sheep I see every day. They have no Shepherd. They fend for themselves. So I say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."

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