Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Lord is A Shepherd

Leonard Sweet wrote the following. It speaks to me today.

The Lord is a Shepherd - watching, tending, worrying, caring for each and every sheep in the flock. And for good reason. Sheep are notoriously stupid, defenseless and foolish creatures. It is only through the vigilance of the shepherd that safety is assured. When the psalmist declares God the Shepherd, the psalmist declares reliance on God, in total confidence and trust, for preserving his well-being.

The psalmist carries this image forward in order to emphasize that this Shepherd-God is interested in far more than just keeping the herd alive. This is a God committed to fattening the flock on the overflowing abundance of divine love and protection. The "green meadows" may also be rendered as "luxuriant pastures." In addition to this extravagant lushness is the most precious of all desert gifts - deep, still, pure water. As a desert-dweller, the psalmist knows well it is water that restores life, restores the soul to all living creatures.

There is much debate about the historical context of Psalm 23. But one camp is emphatic that the shepherding image of God comes out of the Exodus tradition. Here more than at any other time, the Hebrews could envision themselves as a wandering flock, totally reliant upon their "good shepherd" for guidance. Through their many mistakes and missteps, the wandering Hebrews learned all too well what happened when they tried to continue on independent of God's guidance. Disaster always struck. Looking back at this history, it is easy for the Psalmist to declare that it is God the Shepherd who leads all members of this headstrong, cantankerous flock into the "right paths."

Over the centuries verse 4 is undoubtedly the line which has evoked the most comfort for the most people. Here the psalmist declares that no matter what the danger, even in death itself, the shepherding God remains at our side. This personalized vision of the universal reality of death has suggested to some scholars that here the psalmist is alluding to his own tenuous grip on life in the midst of a serious illness. The knowledge that we are never alone, never deserted, even in the "depths" of this valley, instills a peace of mind and heart that is unexpected on such a dark and frightening journey. Notice: The enemies of life are not blotted out; the "valley of the shadow of death" remains a destination for all of us. But it is not our final destiny.

Thus the "Lord's house" (v.6) does not need to be thought of as the temple. Instead it represents the epitome of the guest-host experience. Dwelling in the house of the Lord forever expresses the psalmist's conviction that the peace and abundant security experienced and expressed during days fraught with enemies and dangers will continue throughout all the days of his existence.


The Lord is our Shepherd...He leads us. You know I love ya - Don

No comments: