“Knowing Jesus…as our Shepherd” (Psalm 23) (John MacDiarmid)

Talk given by John MacDiarmid at PCF on Sunday morning 8 February 2015.

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Continuing our series on the Psalms on “Knowing Jesus…” we turn now to the most celebrated passage in the Bible – Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The picture of God as our Shepherd is a common one – David experienced God as his Shepherd, and Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd. But what does it mean?

1. Total Ownership

For God to be described as our Shepherd means that He owns us. We belong to Him. We have no rights other than by the will of our owner. Of course it is true that God owns us whether we acknowledge it or not. But God has given us the ability to choose – or not choose – for Him to be our shepherd and to give rights of ownership to Him. Like a dog, owned by its master – that refuses to obey – so we can withhold our proper status as God’s sheep from Him.

David was saying that God was his owner – and a whole range of blessing flow from that, as we shall see below. But the question arises…is God my Shepherd? If I am not a believer at all, then I need to give my life to God. But if I am a believer but  am living as if God is NOT my Shepherd, then I can not expect all the blessings of belonging to him that follow here.
Does God have total ownership of my life? If he does, then the following blessings are mine.

2. Tremendous Opportunities

So, if God is my shepherd, what can I reasonably expect for my life?

  1. “I lack nothing” – not a promise that I will have everything I want but certainly a promise that I will have everything I need in order to love as God wants me to live.
  2. “Green Pastures” – speaks of the peaceful provision of good grazing ground, looking at the provision of God’s word to nourish our souls and those who will teach it to us.
  3. “Quiet Waters” – the provision of god’s gracious Spirit to inspire us and comfort us.

One to three above speak of God’s provision, especially for our spiritual life

  1. “Restored Soul” – and the consequences of the above three are that our souls are restored. Firstly when we become a Christians, but also as we experience the knocks of living in a fallen world, God restores our soul
  2. “Right paths” – how will I know what to do, or how to live in a world which is so perplexing. God is the one who leads me and guides me.
  3. “Fear no evil” – there is no promise that my life will be a walkover. There will be times of difficulty and distress. But God has promised that as I experience these, I may be free from fear. Imagine a life free from fear! It is possible with Jesus as our shepherd.
  4. “Comfort” – not only is there freedom from fear, there is comfort in times of difficulty. The rod which comforts us is a rod of discipline and control, and the staff is that which a shepherd uses to fight off the wild animals that may attack the sheep.
  5. “Prepared Table”  –  here the imagery moves from that of s shepherd to that of a host, in a world where hospitality was paramount. God prepares a banquet for us – with those who oppose us looking on!
  6. “Anointed Head” – it was customary to anoint with oil the head of an honoured guest. Jesus treats us as honoured guests in his home.
  7. “Overflowing Cup” …and  a mark of His hospitality is that our cup is overflowing with provision.

Nine and ten above speak of the provision and the filling of the Holy Spirit.

What an amazing array of blessings await those for whom God is their Shepherd. Who would turn down such a gracious offer?

3. Triumphant Outcome

The summary of these blessings is in the outcome of the life with God as our shepherd.

Firstly we can be sure that every single day of our lives, we will be followed – literally pursued – by God’s twin sheepdogs of mercy and love. We can’t avoid it.

And as if that wasn’t enough,  when our days come to an end, we will be with our Good Shepherd forever.

John MacDiarmid
February 2015

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