The Lord is my Shepherd

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” - Psalm 23:1 ESV

 Wow. What a declaration David makes. David, who was also a shepherd, knew the depths and the power of this declaration. He knew the hours of hard work and labor it takes to be a shepherd. He knew how tough it was to keep the flock of sheep together and he also knew how rewarding it was to find his sheep that had been scattered. He knew every aspect of what it means to be a good shepherd and how much that job requires of you. This statement is drenched in intimacy, hope, and confidence because David knew the faithfulness and intentionality of the Lord on such a deep level. David fully related to the Lord as “his shepherd” because the Lord met him in those places. The Lord met him on those long nights turned into early mornings. He met David in the valleys and on the mountains, in the pouring rain or the sunniest day of the year. It didn’t matter where David was, the Lord was always there with him making sure he wanted for nothing.
 
 I think it’s important to understand that if the Lord is the shepherd of our lives, then we have to be His sheep. That’s the role we have in this relationship: He is the shepherd and we are the sheep. What does this mean? It means we have zero obligations or expectations other than being a sheep. The Lord expects nothing from us; He carries all the responsibility in this relationship because He is the shepherd, not us. So when David writes this Psalm he fully understands the role of being a shepherd, but he also understands the role of being a sheep because the Lord has this place in his life.

 But, what exactly is the job of a shepherd? You see, David knew the Lord as shepherd because David was a shepherd. Before David was anointed to be king, he was keeping the sheep for his father and I can only imagine in 2019 shepherds are few and far between these days. So, what does a shepherd do? Obviously a shepherd takes care of sheep, but there has to be more to it than just standing around looking at a herd of sheep all day and all night right?

 Shepherds honestly have the hardest job of anybody. They have to maintain the health of their sheep, as individual sheep and as a herd, and they have to find the sheep if they have wandered off. Being a shepherd is a 24/7 job with no breaks and no rest. While this is the hardest job, it is also the most important job. If it weren’t for the shepherd there would be sheep everywhere doing whatever they wanted to do. Back in the Old Testament they didn’t have fence lines like we do now; they just had wide open fields where everything could roam together. Quite literally, shepherds take on the role of a vet, search-and-rescue team, and a fence all in one. It’s crazy all the responsibility shepherds carry, but what’s crazier is all the opportunity shepherds have access to.
 
 Shepherd’s get to build and steward life and they protect the sheep when an enemy comes against them. They provide safety and security for their herd of sheep and they provide healing if the sheep get sick or injured. I mean this is some anointed, heavenly work if you ask me. Shepherds are fully responsible for every aspect of a sheep’s life and in the exact same way, the Lord is the shepherd of our lives. He builds, stewards, protects, heals, and anoints us as His people.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” - Psalm 23:5 ESV

 A little context for this verse—In the Old Testament, it was very common for shepherds to anoint their sheep. During the summertime, sheep are susceptible to a disease known as “scab.” This disease is super contagious among a herd of sheep and is caused by a microscopic parasite that thrives in warm weather. Scab is a disease that could wipe out an entire herd of sheep and in order to heal this disease shepherds have to go, catch the sheep, and individually anoint their head and bodies with oil. How intentional this act is for the shepherd to care for his sheep.
 
Now let’s apply this verse knowing the intentionality and context behind it.

Not only does the Lord prepare the table in the presence of our enemies, He invites us to sit down and eat. We aren’t meant to stand against the wall while everyone else eats at the table. As the sheep of the Good Shepherd, we are created to sit down at the table and freaking eat. And not only are we created to eat, we are empowered to eat. You’re battling shame? Okay. Sit down at the table and be anointed by the Lord. You’re battling fear? Sit down and eat. You’re battling every sin in the book? Okay. Sit down, let the Lord bring a 5-course meal, and eat every bit of it in the presence of your enemy. When you “eat” the Lord’s goodness and truth in front of your enemy you are actually disempowering the hold he has on you. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” Basically, the Lord wipes His feet on the floor mat of the enemy. So, when the promise is “you anoint my head with oil” you are empowered by the very breath of heaven. Just like the shepherd anoints the sheep to heal scab, the Lord will anoint you to empower and to heal even the dirtiest, most diseased places of who you are.
 
 Shepherds are with their sheep through thick and thin. In the midst of every storm, every sunny day, every lost moment, shepherds are there making sure their sheep lack in nothing. Sheep would die without the shepherd taking care of them, and I think the Lord is inviting us into that kind of dependence on Him.

“You were like sheep that continually wandered away, but now you have returned to the true Shepherd of your lives—the kind Guardian who lovingly watches over your souls.” - 1 Peter 2:25 TPT

 Every moment you’ve wandered away, every time you’ve been afraid or broken, every time you were scattered from the Lord, He’s waited patiently for you to return. He’s sought you out, anointed you time and time again, and even empowered you to face your enemies every time. He’s made sure you’ve lacked in nothing and has filled your cup till it was overflowing. He is the Good Shepherd that lovingly watches over your soul, over your heart, over every part of who you are and He invites you to come home no matter how far you wander away.

So Lord, we ask you to take your place as the Good Shepherd in our lives while we take our place as the sheep. Remind us that you are in charge—that it’s your job to take care of us. Help us, empower us, anoint us to be so dependent on you that we would trust and know you as the one who cares for our deepest needs and desires. Remind us that you lovingly watch over and care for every part of who we are. Thank you that you expect nothing from us and you actually empower us every day. Thank you for the grace you give us to be your sheep while you’re the Good Shepherd—come and have your way in our lives Lord. We need you, we want you, and we are desperate to encounter you. Thank you for your grace-filled, unconditional love Lord. You’re better than our wildest dreams.

Author | Elizabeth Sprinkle

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