Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Shepherd Psalm

Psalm 23

 This gem Psalm presents a true shepherd taking his place as a sheep in God’s fold.

I would like to give this song a little context:
Many years ago a realist stood up and said “ All of us have strayed away like lost sheep” and to make matters worse he said “ we have encouraged everyone to do his own thing, go his own way”
Peter was right when he said “you were as sheep going astray but now have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls.”

How blessed we are to be able to read the word’s of the Lord Jesus Christ – “ I am the gate, the door , whoever enters through Me will be saved”
And again  “I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” 
This links directly with Psalm 22. Beginning with ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” and after describing in detail the horrors of the cross ends with “he has done this!”

The Good shepherd saw the problem, our problem – our wandering ways, our lostness, our guilt and He died to reconcile us back to God.
I trust that we all have responded to the Good Shepherd’s invitation to ‘enter in’, to wholeheartedly trust in Him. His promise is eternal “They shall never perish”.

Psalm 24 is so different, so triumphant.
It describes the chief Shepherd leading the victory procession. Well might the spectators ask “Who is this?”   It is the Lord – notice Lord is spelt with capital letters –LORD –The personal name of God almost too holy to utter YHWH
This is the same one that the angels announced to the ‘shepherds’ near Bethlehem – “For unto you is born this day in the city f David a Saviour who is Christ the LORD”
Psalm 24 describes the present and future glories of our victorious Lord Jesus Christ. The gates of every city will be opened wide to let the King of glory come in.

Now wedged in between these two appearings, we have the Psalm of the great Shepherd – Psalm 23.

David had grown up  as a shepherd caring for sheep, but he understood that he too needed a shepherd greater than himself to care for him.
As he sat on the hillsides of Bethlehem, watching over the sheep, he took his place as a sheep in God’s care. Perhaps it was then that he took his small harp  and composed this ancient song (3000 years old). Although he became Israel’s greatest king, he was not a self made man. The best leader is the one who can take the lowest place – as a dependant sheep, as a humble servant.

Now let us meditate on the lyrics of the song:
“The LORD” – notice the capitals – none less than the almighty, covenant keeping God
“My shepherd” – David’s trust was personal and likewise this makes our trust personal
“I shall not want” – faith says ‘He is all I need’

How precious it is to ‘lie down’ , content with the food he provides – food for our tables –yes , but greater is the food for our souls and spirits.  – the joy of meditation on Christ the bread of heaven.
And on the hot, demanding days to take time out to be refreshed by His Holy Spirit.

“He restores my soul” His gentle voice that rebukes my wandering ways, that calls me back from selfishness, that warns me of the paths of danger. Am I daily listening to the shepherds voice?

He alone can guide me in “the paths of righteousness”
The world has a standard of righteousness – unrighteousness
The media has very low standards of righteousness – beware
Today let us resolve to be led, guided by the one voice – the shepherd’s voice.
Remember the word in John 10 ‘My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Now we come to an unusual expression “For His name’s sake”
Modern society has lost the meaning of this and instead has interposed ‘for my sake’ – I mean the awful disease of me-ism. The commercial world is so good at appealing to the flesh, that everything is for ME. Politics has changed from ‘who is capable to lead’ to ‘what is in it for me?’ – and so I could go on.

The genuine sheep in the Lord’s flock sees everything as being for HIM – for His Name’s sake. My very existence is for HIM.
Sure others are involved in life, but He must be the priority, the focus, the motive and the Lord of all.
Perhaps I have said enough for one session, but it could be that this year some of you will go through a valley experience. Just remember that the Shepherd Himself has also been through the deepest valley ( read Isaiah 53) and He will be with you too. Perhaps some will face enemies ( like the millions of persecuted Christians across the globe). The shepherd knows and cares.

But best of all comes the promise at the end
“I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”
It is a thing most wonderful to be one of His treasured sheep, how much more to be invited into His house!!
This can be our daily enjoyment of His nearness now, but how much better when we see His face, to be transformed into His likeness and to enjoy the place that He has prepared for those who love Him.
Until then, let us trust the LORD as our Shepherd, and in the coming year let Him lead, provide, protect and bring us into His dwelling place.

He holds the key of all unknown
And I am glad
If other hands should hold the key
Or if he trusted it to me,   I might be sad.

The very dimness of my sight makes me secure
For groping in my misty way
I feel His hand: I hear Him say – My help is sure

I cannot read His future plans, but this I know
I have the smiling of His face
And all the refuge of His Grace

While here below.

John McKee

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