Times are changing, aren’t they? Sometimes that’s good. If we lived in the 1300s, we’d be plucking our hairlines in pursuit of higher foreheads. Thank heaven things have changed!
But sometimes change doesn’t feel so good. Especially when it seems to be constant. We turn on the news one day, and one thing seems to be true. We turn it on another day, and something entirely different is “true.” Most of us have never longed for certainty more than we do today. Fortunately, we can find it in Jesus, the Shepherd of our souls. In the opening of Psalm 23, David shares a promise––
We shall not want.
Did I just write that? “We shall not want.” If I could be honest, there is plenty that I want right now. World peace. Guarantees for my children’s futures. Good health as I age. How about something huge like no varicose veins? I’m pretty sure we could all say, “God, I want ____________!”God's promise is that if we know Him as Shepherd, we shall not want. Click To Tweet
This promise sounds like a tall order and yet it’s easier to receive it when we look at the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep.
Years ago, my son’s Sunday School teacher gave him the classic book, A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23. The author W. Phillip Keller was a shepherd. Keller understood, like David, the bond between a shepherd and his sheep. His experiences shed light on the layered meanings of the Psalm.
A sheep that does not want is a sheep that is content. Circumstances regarding the sheep’s well-being may flux and even be challenged. But changing external conditions do not change the internal contentedness of the sheep.
When the Shepherd is present, the sheep know that all will be well.
Keller puts it best when he says, “I am completely satisfied with His management of my life. Why? Because He is the sheepman to whom no trouble is too great as He cares for His flock. He will, if necessary, be on the job 24 hours a day to see that they are properly provided for in every detail. Above all, He is very jealous of His name and a high reputation as “the Good Shepherd.”
David closes Psalm 23 with another powerful promise––
Goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.
Do you believe this? I had to ask myself if I do. And so, I paused and reflected on the past. As I looked back, I couldn’t help but see a trail of hardship. Loss of loved ones. Financial burdens and health crises. The list could go on, but even as I recollected, I realized that history was simply a confirmation of what Jesus said “… in this world, you will have trouble.” John 16:33(NIV)
But did the hardships mean that there was not also mercy or goodness? Was it possible that the difficulties in and of themselves were evidence of mercy? Perhaps things could have been even more difficult if God had not been there? Likewise, can I confidently say that even the most difficult circumstances also brought me some kind of good? The answer to each and every one of those situations is a resounding, yes!Life is hard, but we can be confident that because of God's goodness and mercy, the hard becomes bearable and sometimes… even beautiful. Click To Tweet
Again, in Keller’s words, “…I realize that for the one who is truly in Christ’s care, no difficulty can arise, no dilemma emerge, no seeming disaster descend on life without eventual good coming out of the chaos. This is the goodness and mercy of my Master in my life. It has become the great foundation of my faith and confidence in Him.”
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the many unfaltering promises of Psalm 23. Not only are we promised contentment, mercy, and goodness. God says He will help us rest, He will lead us, restore us, give us courage in the darkest of valleys, provide for us to overflowing, and invite us to live with Him forever.
This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for God as our Shepherd.
“May we…give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” Psalm 135:1 (NIV)