One of the most beloved psalms is Psalm 23 written by King David. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Before David was a warrior and a king, he had been a shepherd. When David wanted to go up against Goliath, here is what he told King Saul. 1 Samuel 17:34-37 “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.’” So, when David described the Lord as his shepherd, he fully understood how the Lord fulfilled that place in his life.
Few people today understand about sheep and their shepherd, but it was a very common thing in biblical times. Sheep are fairly defenseless creatures for they have no big teeth or weapons to defend themselves. They like the comfort of their flock but they also can wander off and get lost. When they have eaten the pasture in one place, they need to be led to other pastures. They put their trust in their shepherd, recognize his voice, and follow him when he calls. The shepherd’s job is to take care of the sheep. If one is lost, he searches for it and brings it back. If a sheep is sick or injured, he takes care of that sheep. He protects the sheep from wild animals that would kill and devour them. He also protects the sheep from robbers who would come and steal his sheep. The shepherd leads his sheep from one pasture to the next as well as providing them water to drink. In a spiritual sense, we are like sheep and we need a shepherd. Jesus said that He is the shepherd. He told us in John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Jesus loves His sheep so much that He died on the cross for them.
Our needs are different than the needs of sheep, but our shepherd supplies our physical and spiritual needs. Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Matthew 6:31-34 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” When we feel like our needs are not being met, we can become anxious. I encourage you to have faith and trust in your shepherd that he will supply all your needs.
Another role of a shepherd is to lead the sheep where he thinks they need to go. The sheep don’t know where they need to go; they need the shepherd to lead them. David said, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Jesus said in John 10:27-30 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” John 10:1-5 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus goes before us and leads us in the way we are to go. We should know His voice and remain faithful to Him.
Jesus also gave this illustration in Luke 15:4-7 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” 1 Peter 2:25 “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Jesus, as our shepherd, is concerned to bring back those who go astray.
My closing encouragement is given by Hebrews 13:20-21 “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Put your trust in your great Shepherd.