Scripture: Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd…this passage brings comfort to many including myself. It has been quoted at countless funerals, and a paraphrase of it is on my little sister’s memoral maker. It is a passage that I have often read when I am feeling depressed. Even though I have rarey thought about it deeply.
When one considers what it means to be under the care of a shepherd it means that there is a limit to our freedom. I have watched herd animals I know that they go where their mouth takes them. They gather in a group and wonder around, they end up slowly spreading out from the center. If not watched or controled in some way they will get lost and continue to wander away from the center wherever their mouth may lead, as they look for the tastey green grass.
Spiritually we wander away from center, we see something that looks a bit tastey just over there so we move. Then we get a glimps of something else and continue to move away from the center. Eventually we look up from our wandering and find we are do not even know where we are anymore so we put our heads down and continue to wander. We wander looking to fill our stomaches but we do not have a clue as to where we need to be.
The shepherd leads the sheep. This person watches where the are wandering and if they are moving too far away they will encourage the sheep to change directions. This encouragement comes in many forms: a vocal word keeping them near the one who leads, physical force, or today the use of service animals. God is calling us to the good feeding grounds, the pure water to refesh us, and he will also be there to protect us.
The rod and staff are used for both disipline as well as comfort. The rod can brush away the wool so the keeper can look for signs of injury. And the staff can be used to ward off a preditor. The Spirit of God is the rod and staff exaining our lives and warding off the dangers that we face.
Animals are intresting they can be complient or rebelious. They do not want to mind the boundries set up for them and yet they want to know that there is a limit. Spiritual growth is pushing the boundries and falling back into the herd. It is a flowing cyclical motion. As we get close to the boundries of our spiritual lives we can become fearful, in these times it is good to remember our shepherd and return to the things we know. Remind ourselves that yes we are in the right place. If we are not then we should move back into the area we know God has lead us.
Take some time to just slowly read this passage as you pray. I actually read it several times throughout my day and slept with it on my mind. Reflect on where Christ your shepherd has lead you, the times He showed you where you were wrong, and where He actually swung the staff to protect you. Also remember that a sheep can get tangled in many things when they wander, and can cause themselves harm be mindful of the voice of God and listen for His calls.
May the goodness and mercy of God follow you all the days of your life.