April 9, 2012

The Lord is my Shepherd and my Maker

Anyone who has read or experienced the tending of sheep understands that sheep need a shepherd. They are easily frightened and can stray off into dangerous places. The 23rd Psalm puts images into my mind of the way a shepherd tends to the needs of his flock.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2–3)
Yet David, who wrote this psalm and himself a herder of sheep, did not have sheep in mind. He was talking about himself. He knew he was prone to stray and easily dismayed by his enemies. He knew how much he was like a sheep and how much he needed the Lord’s tender and watchful care.

I notice in these verses that God takes care of His sheep for our sake, but also for His name’s sake. He does it because this reflects who He is and to neglect His sheep would reflect badly on His character. His care is evidence of His love. To let us wander and fend for ourselves is not showing love. To leave us to our sinful ways is not loving either.

Some think that love is permissive. Parents might say that they love their children too much to discipline them or to make them do things they don’t want to do. The children are left to their own devices and choices, and as a result, stray into places that are not good for them. 

If God “loved” me like that, I could not trust or follow Him. I want a shepherd. Life is filled with hidden dangers and I do not know what will happen as a result of my own decisions. I once thought that I did, but realize now that this is arrogance and assumption. Only God knows what the day will bring. Like the psalmist, I can say that His rod and staff are a comfort to me, instruments in His hand to guide me to those green pastures and still waters. Otherwise, who knows where I would stray or where fear and ignorance would take me. 

Today, the idea of green pastures and still waters is very appealing. The word “restore” is a balm. Life has been full, busy and stressful. Yet it is my bent to press on, to add more to my to-do list. I need someone to “make” me go in a different way, “make” me lie down, and put me on paths that are restorative. I am glad that You are my “Maker” (pun intended!) and the One who not only knows the best places and best activities for me, but can lead me to them — all because You perfectly love Your sheep.

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