Gentle Shepherd!

Are you confident of God’s care? It is NOT a rhetorical question. It is one that begs an answer of us especially in these troubled times. The world is shaken by a pandemic that is causing a terrible impact on millions of people – sickness, sometimes death; job loss, anxiety about the future.  Whatever your opinion about the ways we ought to be dealing with it, we cannot deny that our lives are being significantly changed by this virus.  And, yes, many are stressed by politics. A week from today we will have elected a new government.  People from the Right and the Left fear the outcome, what the result will be for this nation in the years ahead.  Your concerns may be much more personal – a wayward child, a disintegrating marriage, a chronic illness.

So, let me ask you, Christian, again:  Are you confident of God’s care?

In my prayer today, remembering the needs of the congregation, my family, the nation, and the world, I called to mind the familiar words of David’s Shepherd Psalm, focusing on one line.  “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, NIV) In that phrase David references two sides to the Lord’s care for us. 

The ‘rod’ of a shepherd was a stout stick, a club that could be used defensively. David, who shepherded his father’s sheep, knew the usefulness of the rod! When he was talking to King Saul about the challenge of facing the Philistine champion, Goliath, he said, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth.” (1 Samuel 17:34-35, NIV)  

I need a Defender. There is an Adversary who seeks my destruction. He is actively going after me.  Peter said that he “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT)  Do I cower in fear? Not when I remember that my Shepherd is my Defender.  It’s not just spiritual foes that attack. Ezekiel spoke of the threat that can come from those who exploit the powerless. “Your princes plot conspiracies just as lions stalk their prey. They devour innocent people, seizing treasures and extorting wealth. They increase the number of widows in the land.” (Ezekiel 22:25, NLT)  When we feel powerless, when those who are ‘bosses’ threaten our well-being – we go the Shepherd’s side.

The ‘staff’ is a more familiar image to us. The shepherd carried a longer, more slender, stick that had a shaped crook at the top which fit nicely around the neck of a lamb! He could use the staff to reach out to pull a sheep to himself where he could administer care. The shepherd used his staff as his walking stick, as well. The staff has become a symbol of benevolent authority.  Micah writes “Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance.” (Micah 7:14, NIV)

I need One who provides Care! Sheep, by nature, are dependent on the shepherd. Domesticated sheep cannot thrive without constant care. They have no natural defense for predators. Their wool must be trimmed. Parasites must be removed. They must be led to new pastures. Sheep are timid, cautious, living in flocks, and generally not aggressive but it is unfair to call them ‘stupid’ just because they need a shepherd. Yes, I sing with the Psalm, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Psalm 95:6-7, NIV)

Look to your Shepherd, friend. Trust His defense and His care so that you will live with confidence in times of trouble.

Here is a word from the Word. Jesus, our Shepherd, offers us comfort. “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:2-4, NIV)

I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15, NIV)

Gentle Shepherd
(a simple song that invites His care)

Gentle Shepherd come and lead us
For we need You
to help us find our way

Gentle Shepherd come and feed us
For we need Your
strength from day to day

There’s no other we can turn to
Who can help us face another day

Gentle Shepherd come and lead us
For we need You
to help us find our way

Gloria Gaither | William J. Gaither © 1974 William J. Gaither, Inc. (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management)

CCLI License # 810055

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