Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Best of-Psalm 23:5b: The Provision of the Shepherd

I have two dogs. The reason I have two dogs is that I do not want 3. Don’t get me wrong, dogs are cute and fun sometimes but mostly they are a big, hairy pain in the neck. Anyway, when I get home in the evening from work, I have to open the gate so I can park. We keep our gate closed not only so our dogs can’t get out but so other dogs can’t get in. After I open the gate, I have to get in and drive into the gate so I can close it. During the time after I open the gate and when I close the gate, my dogs have a clear chance to make a break for it. You know what? They might go outside the gate a few steps or whatever but typically they are back inside before I get out of the car to close the gate. Now, I don’t know for a fact, but I suspect that they have at least enough sense to think to themselves “We’ve got it pretty good here. Food, water, petting, shelter. You know what? I’m going to stay my happy tail right here.” Now, my God is a much better Shepherd than I am a dog-owner. Not only will I experience complete satisfaction when I arrive in my heavenly home, but I can experience satisfaction in my relationship with Him now because He is my loving Shepherd.

First of all, we should observe in the second half of verse 5 is that God provides for us spiritually. The psalmist writes that God has “anointed my head with oil”. As we have noted in our study of this psalm, a shepherd would take his sheep into the mountains during the summer months. During the summer months, all sorts of flying insects pester the sheep mercilessly. Furthermore, the sheep can develop a skin condition called scab which is also very irritating for the sheep. The remedy for this is to apply oil to the sheep’s head. Usually the oil would have some sort of medicine in it as well. David Keller, in his book “A shepherd looks at Psalm 23”, describes how relieved the sheep are when the oil is applied to the areas affected with scab and how much less agitated they are when they are no longer being pestered by the insects thanks to the oil. As he described it, you can literally see the relief on their faces after the oil is applied. In like manner, we as Christians deal with irritations in our lives. These irritations can range from a small problem like being a few minutes late due to a traffic snafu to a huge problem like finding out we have an incurable disease. However, we don’t have to let these things get the best of us. We have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. For the Christian, this is the “oil” that God anoints us with. We can face the trials and tribulations that come our way with peace because we know that our God works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

The oil that a shepherd anoints his sheep with serves another purpose. Male sheep butt heads in contests where they stand apart from one another, take a running start, and crash their craniums together to try to prove who is the most manly or ramly of the flock. Now, they do have thick skulls but even so, these sheep can injure themselves. Therefore, the shepherd applies some of this oil to the heads of the male sheep. When they line up to butt heads, they slip off of one another instead of hitting square on. The Holy Spirit serves a similar purpose in the life of the believer. God called us as the church to live in unity. Let’s face it, though. Sometimes, I get on my own nerves so I know for a fact that I’m not fun to be around.. However, Christians that are sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit are more likely to let little irritations roll off of their back rather than taking offense. Aren’t we blessed to have a loving Shepherd who provides for us spiritually by giving us the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts?

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