References: Psalm 23:4, John 10
Faithful in leading through trouble
The aspect of “faithful,” with respect to Jesus, encompasses even more. John 10 speaks of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This reminds us of the picture painted for us in Psalm 23, with the main theme that of the Shepherd. In the ancient world, more powerfully understood perhaps than today, a shepherd represents one who lovingly, totally takes care of his sheep. And the sheep live in absolute, total dependence upon the shepherd. The shepherd provides their every need, keeps them safe, and gets them where they need to go. Thus, sheep without a shepherd would be hopelessly lost and would not be able to find their way.
A Savior who is a shepherd
So when you consider the idea of the Shepherd and His sheep, the Lord who takes care of His people, know this: that relationship depends, first and foremost, on Him being your Savior. Apart from Him, you are as hopelessly lost as sheep who cannot find their own way. The only way to belong to God, the only way to have hope for life, the only way to face a pandemic or any crisis without fear… is to be covered by the blood of Jesus.
The first thing that we see in Psalm 23 is that saying “the Lord is my shepherd” means trusting in Christ for salvation through His sacrifice and shed blood on the cross.
What we see is the idea of following the shepherd, belonging to God, being protected by the arms of Christ, goes hand in hand with salvation. If you look to Him as your Savior, and I trust that you do, then you will also look to Him as your shepherd.
A shepherd who effectively cares for His sheep
Now we need to be very careful here as to what we understand by this. The Bible never promises that if you put your full trust in Christ, life will be easy, or nothing bad will ever happen to you. But it does promise that the Lord will guide you through whatever difficulty you face.
The 23rd psalm is a beautiful psalm. When you are aware of the ancient world context in which it was written, the picture it presents is even richer. It is based on a shepherd’s identity and job description: what the sheep needed, and how the shepherd provided for those needs.
The well known vs. 4 becomes particularly beautiful when viewed in this manner. Here is the picture; consider this very carefully.
In the ancient world a good shepherd would provide for the best pasture for the sheep to feed upon. The best pasture was at the very top of the mountain. Not that there wasn’t anything to eat anywhere else, but the good food, the real food of life, was at the top. But to get to the top, to the best food, they had to pass through a very difficult, dangerous path. It is this dangerous path that the Psalmist refers to as the valley of the shadow of death. I am told that there was, in fact, such a place, which was called the valley of the shadow of death. It was a very narrow path with a steep drop off. Taking the wrong step would result in injury and death. But getting through that dangerous passage meant being able to eat of that good food.
Now we know that the shepherd carried a stick with a crook at the end. This is what is referred to as the rod and the staff. It served two purposes with the same end in mind. As a weak lamb would be attempting to traverse the path, he would gently guide it with the crook of the staff. And when a stubborn sheep kept going in the wrong way, seeking grass that was not good, the shepherd would also use his staff as a rod to chasten with loving discipline.
This dangerous path pictured here represents the path of life. The picture is simply that whatever situation we face–and yes, humanly speaking, we deal with extremely difficult situations, whether it is the current pandemic or anything else–but whatever they are, when the Lord is your shepherd, He guides you through them, and He uses them to lead you to the food that gives you life itself.
If you never go through a dangerous path, you will not get to the good pasture.
Let me assure you, Jesus did not let something slip by Him. The pandemic did not surprise Him. Satan might be seeking to get you to stumble, God might be bringing well-deserved judgment, but be assured, Jesus is taking you to the good high pasture through this.
Blog post content taken from a sermon series delivered by Dr. Maynard Koerner, President and Professor of Ministerial Studies at Heidelberg Theological Seminary.