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THE REAL SHEPHERD

By:  P. Tan-chi

The sheep is the most defenseless of all animals. Left untended, it cannot fend for itself. It lacks the ability to source food and water. Easily attracted by surrounding sights, it is prone to wander off and fall into crannies. In many respects, we are so much like sheep.

Psalm 23 is a striking, poignant metaphor of what a shepherd does for his sheep. In our helpless state, the Lord has come to be our Good Shepherd. He takes care of us as our Good Shepherd when we have a personal relationship with Him.

The Lord provides. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (v. 1). It is the shepherd's job to look for food and water for the sheep.

The Lord is Jehovah Jireh who makes sure we are provided with all our needs. For anyone who has the Lord to shepherd him, no good thing shall he lack, for the Lord provides. If earthly fathers know how to give good things to their children, how much more our Father in heaven who owns everything and cares so much for us to withhold what we need.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures” (v. 2a). The shepherd looks for ideal pasture land that the sheep may graze on it. After a satisfying meal, the sheep lies down to rest on a bed of fresh, green grass.

We are where we are because God put us there. But we need to have the readiness to leave and go elsewhere as the Lord deems fit. If we think we're comfortable and contented where we are now, the Lord may have greener pastures for us. So where He leads, we must follow, otherwise we will be missing out on God's best. God knows what's best for us and will take care of every detail of our lives.

The Lord guides. “He leads me beside quiet waters” (v. 2b). The shepherd guides the sheep to a calm pool of water for a refreshing drink.

Taking time out of our busy schedule to be alone with God will give us the refreshment we need. He brings us to a place of stillness so we may see His face and drink from His life-giving Word.

“He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake” (v. 3). Because of the stupid, stubborn nature of the sheep, shepherds sometimes resort to breaking the legs of the sheep to keep it from repeatedly going astray. Yet the shepherd also binds up the broken leg and nurses the sheep until it is completely healed.

Our Shepherd does not only take care of our physical needs; He is also after our spiritual welfare. The Lord accepts us “as is, where is.” However, He will not allow us to remain the way we are. God is in the business of restoration. When we fall, He picks us up. When we get dirty, He washes us clean. His forgiveness is available to those who humble themselves.

The Lord's holy name shall be honored. He will deal with our stubbornness through His discipline as a father who does not spare the rod so as not to spoil the child. “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

God will bring about that situation where we are in a position of moral uprightness and right living. We have God's Word from which to derive the wisdom we lack to straighten our path. In guiding us, He sometimes takes away all earthly support so we may learn to depend on Him and consequently prove His sufficiency.

The Lord protects. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me” (v.4). God may sometimes allow us to go through valleys where there is darkness and dryness, so that we may learn to appreciate the better things He has for us in the uplands, where there's fresher, greener grass. The valleys lead us to mountaintop experiences — the better to taste Him more intimately, and for us to realize that He alone can revive and satisfy.

“Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows” (v. 5). As a shepherd applies oil on the sheep as pest repellant; our protective Shepherd also shields us from all danger and evil. With God on our side, our foes are put to shame. We have nothing to fear, for God is our security.

“Surely goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v.6). The Lord relentlessly pursues us, not as a policeman would to issue a ticket for a violation, but because He bears gifts for us. He promised to be with us to bless us and preserve us all the days of our life.

To whom, then, do we go for our needs? When in trouble, to whom do we run? Have we entrusted our lives to the care of the Good Shepherd?

We'll never go wrong when we turn to our Good Shepherd who will never fail us. The sheep hears the shepherd's voice and follows. Are we listening to the Shepherd's voice and following where He leads?

Take the following self-check to determine whether you are a sheep following the Good Shepherd: 1) The ear test: Do you listen to the Shepherd's voice? And 2) the foot test: Do you follow the Shepherd's voice?

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