Last week I competed a series of teachings on Psalm 23. I’ve been trying to think of what to share with you, and then I realized, I have a wealth of material in some of what I’ve learned from this short but absolutely amazing Psalm. So my next few posts will be my musings on Psalm 23, as a reminder to myself, and I hope an encouragement to you!
Only in Israel did I discover…
First I’d like to share something with you, a bit of a tidbit that I only learned here in Israel. It relates to many of the Psalms, including Psalm 23.
You see, until I came to Israel I’d only ever read the Bible in English – Duh! Many English and other Bibles include section headings, which represent the publisher’s efforts to give us an idea of what is contained in that portion of text. So when I would read in the Psalms, “A Psalm of David” or other information, I generally ignored that text, since I thought someone had added it. Well that is a yes and no. Yes, someone added it, but not in the Psalms. Rather, there are parts of the text that are actually considered verse 1, and provide valuable information about who wrote the Psalm, when it was written, and how it was to be sung. Many scholars believe the headings were part of the original text, though some disagree. Whatever the case, they were clearly considered to be a part of the Hebrew canon long before the first translation of the Hebrew scripture into Greek.
The practical application for us, then, is that these headings are scripture. Since all scripture is inspired by God there is something I can learn from these headings.
A Psalm of David….
When I first started reading Psalm 23, with the intent to teach it, my thoughts were drawn to this key thought, if this is a Psalm of David, what do I need to know about David in order to better understand it?
A could go on for hours about what I learned… but there is no space, and I don’t want to preach, rather, I want to share with you what most encouraged me… so quite simply, it was this: David was a normal person like you and me. His normal life, before he became a king was as the youngest son in a large family, and his role was to care for the sheep. Oddly, his brothers didn’t think this was a very demanding job… and I guess that reflected how little they cared for their father’s sheep and how much they didn’t know about the needs of sheep.
As I read this Psalm, I kept looking at King David, to try to get into his mind. What was he thinking as he penned it? Why did he think that way? And how were his life’s experiences and relationship with God expressed in it?
The LORD is my shepherd…
I am always amazed at how much we take that word “LORD” for granted. Some versions have gone with “Yahweh” claiming it is more scholarly, but Israeli’s still prefer to read it as written, “יהוה” and to then pronounce the word “Adonai” in its place.
The point is this. David’s shepherd was not just a god amongst other gods of other nations. His God was the Creator of the Universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, the almighty one, the God of time, history, and life. This huge, great, incomprehensible, and invisible God, was David’s shepherd.
Have you ever thought about what that meant? I am certain David did, because David was once a shepherd.
What did being a shepherd mean?
What did it mean to be a shepherd? For David, it meant taking care of his sheep. He had to make sure they had food and water. He had to make sure they were safe, and to protect his sheep from predators.
But he also had to protect the sheep from themselves. Some people say that sheep are stupid. But I learned as I studied that this isn’t true. Sheep are actually very smart. They know who their shepherd is. They know who is responsible for taking care of them. But sheep also have other characteristics that while good, place them at risk… and this is why they need a shepherd.
And from the shepherd’s perspective, EVERY SINGLE sheep was important.
David knew this… because he was a shepherd. But the wonder is this: David called the great creator God – Jehovah – his personal shepherd. He saw God as the one who provided for him and protected him, especially from predators. And he also knew that God would protect him from his own worst enemy – himself.
How those thoughts minister to my heart, to think that the wonderful, amazing God, who is so big, great, and mighty as to create the universe and hold it together, is personally concerned for you and me! He is absolutely and totally committed to taking care of us, His sheep.
We are sheep
What does it mean to be a sheep? Sheep have good and bad characteristics. On the positive side, they are innocent, meek, clean, and useful. These can all be positive traits – as long as they have a shepherd to guide them.
But a sheep’s desire for clean food or water can cause it to stray without meaning to. You see, sheep can be terribly absorbed with the “I wants” and when they “want” all sense and reason falls away and they can get themselves into terrible danger. Granted, they may be innocent wants… but such desires, like looking for better grass, can lead a sheep to explore potentially dangerous areas in a field, completely unaware that danger is near. Poisonous plants or hidden predators.
Sheep are also easily frightened. But when they run away from danger, they don’t pay attention to where they are going and can end up in even more trouble.
In fact, sheep without a shepherd only end up in terrible trouble. They are unhealthy and will most likely die young.
This is why sheep need more than a shepherd, they need a good shepherd. Someone who will protect them, feed them properly, keep them safe, and keep them out of harm’s way. Someone who will be kind to them, someone who will seek for them when they are lost, rescue them when they get into trouble, and will be totally committed to their welfare.
Wow! Doesn’t that sound familiar? These thoughts motivate me, and make me want to listen to Him, obey Him, to keep my eyes on Him, and to receive from Him. When I am frightened, I realize I need not run in fear, I just need to let Him be my protection. And believe it or not, I can scare very easily… how thankful I am for this precious reminder!
The Good Shepherd
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.”
We all know that David did not have to die for his sheep. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd who did! We have just celebrated Easter, and now the Passover holiday has also ended. Two holidays that celebrate the Good Shepherd who was also the Lamb of God. Holidays that remind us that when we accepted Jesus into our lives, we became His sheep and He is totally committed to being our Good Shepherd.
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Photo credit: friend of Darwinek
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