Monday, March 24, 2008

Psalm 23:2 Our Security as His Sheep

As I noted in the last study of this wonderful psalm, sheep are difficult to take care. It takes a lot of work and a tremendous amount of attention to the details to provide a safe, productive environment for sheep to flourish. In the end, the condition of a flock rests solely on the shoulders of the shepherd tending that flock. Since we have a loving Shepherd, we can rest safely in His care. David, in the second verse of this wonderful psalm, describes what a blessing we have to be tended by such a kind and gentle Shepherd.

First of all, we notice the condition the Shepherd puts the sheep in. It says, in the beginning of verse 2, that “He makes me lie down”. This, from everything I have read, is quite a feat. Sheep are naturally skittish creatures. They re easily frightened and quite high strung. They do not relax easily. There are two reasons I would suggest for this constant state of agitation. First of all, sheep have no natural defenses. They do not have claws or big, sharp teeth. No one has ever heard of another person getting mauled to death by a sheep. They are not fast or agile. In fact, a 100lb sheep might well have legs of only 5 lbs. While I am joking a little about that, it probably is not too much of an exaggeration. Secondly, most animals probably consider the sheep to be very tasty. Your life in the animal kingdom is going to be very stressful when other animals are looking at you and thinking “Man, I bet that’d be good with some Dale’s” or “I’d like to throw that on the George Forman”.

Therefore, in order for a sheep to lie down as is stated in this verse, that sheep must be absolutely sure that it is 100% free from any danger. If the sheep is not in a danger free situation, it will not be able to rest. What David is saying, then, is that because the Lord is his Shepherd, he knows that he is safe and secure. He is not going to be harmed by his enemies. He knows that God will protect him and keep him safe. Isn’t that such a blessing for us to meditate upon as Christians? I mean, no matter how bad things get, no one can hurt us as far as anything eternal goes. Even here on the earth, we are blessed by His providence and protection. That is not to say that nothing bad happens to Christians. Rather, He is there with us in the midst of it. We too can relax and cast our cares upon Him, as Peter said, knowing that He is our Shepherd.

David goes on to describe the circumstances the sheep find themselves in. He says that the Shepherd causes him to lie down “in green pastures”. David, as a shepherd, would have known first hand the kind of hard work that involved. The area where he kept sheep was rocky, hilly, and oftentimes barren compared to what we would think of as pasture land. If a shepherd was going to provide pasture for his flock, he was going to have to work to provide that pasture. This meant hours of backbreaking, sweaty, painful work of clearing rocks, planting good grass, and pulling up weeds which were poor quality feed at best or poisonous at worst. A shepherd spent a lot of time preparing pasture for his flock in order to provide the best for them. This is a picture of the kind of hard work our Shepherd provides as He cares for the sheep. Not that it is difficult for Him to provide for our needs but rather that He is diligently, constantly working to provide for us. Of course, we know what grueling torture He endured on Calvary’s cross where He shed His precious blood for you and me. However, even before that, He was at work throughout human history putting the right people in the right places at the right times to accomplish His redemptive purpose. Not only does He provide green pastures for us as He provides for us materially, but even more so, He provided spiritual green pastures as He laid on His Son the sins of all who would believe.

However, this Shepherd not only provides food for the sheep but as David notes “He leads me beside quite waters”. Again, we must remember the climate in which David lived. We would probably describe much of the surroundings are barren and dry. The pools of water that you found oftentimes were polluted and undrinkable. Of course, that wouldn’t stop the sheep from drinking them. Like we’ve observed before, sheep are not known for their intelligence. If you give them two choices and one of them is good while the other is bad for them, the will more often than not choose the one that is bad for them. So, if you left sheep to their own devices, they would drink for foul, polluted water all day long. Therefore, as a shepherd, if you want you sheep to have clear, clean drinking water, you had to go out, dig the pools or watering holes, and fill them your self. Again, the picture we get is that of tireless, constant work to provide the best for the sheep. This Shepherd, David says, does not turn the sheep out to find this still, quite water on their own. Instead, He leads the sheep. He knows the way and He lovingly takes the sheep where they will be safe and provided for.

What a wonderful heavenly Shepherd we have who loves us and takes such wonderful care of His sheep. Praise His holy Name.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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