Aren't we glad Christ didn't call himself the good cow-boy? But some do perceive God that way. A hard-face, square-jawed ranch-hand from heaven who drives his church against its will to places it doesn't want to go.
But that's a wrong image. Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd who knows his sheep by name and lays down his life for them. The Shepherd who protects, provides, and possesses his sheep. The bible is replete with this picture of God. . . .
Eight percent of Jesus' listeners made their living off the land. Many were shepherds. They lived on the mesa with the sheep. No flock every grazed without a shepherd, and no shepherd was ever off duty. When sheep wandered, the shepherd found them. When they fell, he carried them. When they were hurt, he healed them.
Sheep aren't smart. They tend to wander into running creeks for water, then their wool grows heavy and they drown. They need, a shepherd to lead them to "calm water" (Psalm 23:2). They have no natural defense --no claws, no horns, no fangs. They are helpless. Sheep need a shepherd with a "rod and ... walking stick" (Psalm 23:3 Rod = Scripture, God's word) to protect them. They have no sense of direction. They need someone to lead them "on paths that are right" (Psalm 23:3).
So do we. We, too, tend to be swept away by waters we should have avoided. We have no defense against the evil lion who prowls, about seeking who he might devour. We too, get lost. "We all have wandered away like sheep; each of us has gone his own way" (Isaiah 53:6).
We need a shepherd. We don't need a cowboy to herd us; we need a shepherd to care for us and to guide us.
And we have one. One who knows us by name. (From Traveling Light by Max Lucado)
Last night I couldn't sleep because I was worried. But instead of praying which I usually do at 3 a.m. I started thinking about the 23 Psalm. I got as far as "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want" and there I started filling in the blanks. The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not worry or think only of my own problems. I shall not complain or cast blame or get angry at about things that are out of my control. I shall accept what the Lord has provided and be thankful that he is my Shepherd. I think you get the picture of where I was headed.
But then I started thinking about next part of the 23rd Psalm and how David wrote about "resting near still waters" and I wondered to myself just what was it about this resting place near still waters? Was this a place of eternal rest, or a place of inner peace. Kinda of like Be still and know that I am God, kind of place where I could pray or was this just a worry free zone with the Lord? Truthfully I wasn't sure what David meant.
Whenever I find my face smacked down on the wrestling mat and I can't get up. It's usually in those angry moments in life when I'm forced to choose on a hour by hour basis not a daily basis to put Christ first. It's not some blanket statement oh yea, right Christ comes first in my life and then I managed to go merrily go about my business. And I do realize that my Heavenly Father knows that I'm in a pickle. He knows that I'm worried, scared and ready to throw in the towel and head to the high hills because I like to run. He also knows that I'm not a quitter and he knows that I know just how much that I really need his help. This is why that resting place that David writes about in this psalm sounds mighty sweet to my wandering ears.
This morning the Holy Spirit brought me to the pages of Deuteronomy 12. In this chapter Moses is writing instructions to the Hebrews about finding a resting place for worship. Not sure if it answers all my questions or not but it's at least it's a starting reference point to what David might have been thinking about.
"These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess--as long as you live in the land. Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.
You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.
There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you. You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit, since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name--there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. And there rejoice before the Lord your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please.