“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6 ESV
Shepherding and all things sheep are not popular trending topics, I know. And in these days of urban living, us city dwellers know very little about sheep and care even less about them, I know. But there are far too many places in literature and life where you and I are compared to sheep, for us to pass by these insightful truths about sheep and their shepherd as found in Psalm 23. So, just as we began with “The Lord” (is my shepherd), now we are in the last verse, concluding with, (I shall dwell in the house of)) “The Lord”.
To say the life of a sheep begins and ends with it’s shepherd or owner is an understatement.
As we have seen throughout this psalm, the shepherd is totally responsible for the care, feeding, protection and health of his/her sheep. The kind of shepherd a sheep has determines its health, strength, freedom, nutrition, behavior, social skills, progeny, and lifespan.
Remember, too, that in this psalm David is reflecting on a whole year in the shepherd’s care and the year’s activities:
- green, ranch pastures
- still river waters
- mountain passes
- high tablelands
- fall storms
- back home to the ranch
David, speaking as one of the Lord’s sheep was boldly announcing, “I am so glad to be back home” – aka, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. The shepherd’s house, family, household and flock is where David, this sheep, was forever delighting to be. The Good Shepherd had provided everything through another year, and there was now “no place like home.”
Isn’t that what our American Thanksgiving is s’pose to be? When we thank the Lord for how He has provided for us throughout the past year. But why only be thankful once a year? Why not joyfully proclaim to all who need to hear and will listen, “The Lord has so faithfully provided for me through every season of this past, crazy ride of a year! It’s all about the Lord! He gets me going to begin each year, He sees me through the sunny and stormy months that follow, and I will end up with Him, forever! He is awesome and there is no place else I’d rather be.
But there are other places to be and there are other shepherd’s besides the Lord, aren’t there?
Here is a place where we and sheep are different, tho’. Sheep can’t and don’t choose their own shepherd. They are stuck with the one who buys them, inherits them, or steals them.
We, on the other hand can and do choose our shepherd – the one we allow to “own us”. The one we serve and follow.
There are dangers in following the wrong shepherd. Look at what happens to those not led by the Good Shepherd.
- lead astray
- left alone on mountain tops
- roams the mountains and hillsides
- forget their fold
- devoured by predators
- many guiltless enemies
- hunted by lions
- turned to their own ways
- slaughtered by fat shepherds
- no help for weak or sick
- no help for the injured or stray
- not searched for when lost
- ruled harshly and with force
- scattered and left as wild
- a prey for food
This list, I gathered from passages in the Bible that speak of lost sheep, sheep that had bad shepherds. You can read those passages in Jeremiah 50:6-7; Zechariah 10:2; Isaiah 53:6; Ezekiel 34:2-10.
It is a graphic, desperate picture of those poor, needy, sheep when led by a shepherd who doesn’t really care about them, value them nor love them. How many of us could find in those descriptors what we experienced by following the wrong shepherd? But, the choice is ours, isn’t it? We choose our shepherd and we reap that shepherd’s “results”.
David made His choice. The Lord, his shepherd will care for him and He will care in these ways for you, too. Ezekiel 34:11-16 shows us these: He will –
- search for me
- seek me out
- bring you back
- feed in good pastures
- let you lie down
- bind up your wounds
- strengthen the injured
Who wouldn’t want to be cared for like this? “Ain’t nobody can love me like Jesus”.
In fact, David summarizes his whole relationship with the Lord, His shepherd with absolute certainty! His confidence in the Lord and His expert care, no matter what he faced was sure, and so he states:
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…”Psalm 23:6a ESV
Translation – the bottom line is no matter what, the sheep can be absolutely certain that nothing less than goodness and mercy will come out of every situation that he and the Shepherd are in. SURELY, certainly, absolutely… goodness and mercy will be on my tail – always!
So confident are the Lord’s sheep, they are sure that even tho’ things may look desperate, cold and forboding, if the Shepherd is near (and He is if He resides in your heart), so too is goodness and mercy! Period. End of concern.
Everyday goodness and mercy are near. All your days will find goodness and mercy on your heels. This is a sure thing because the Lord is your Shepherd, not other shepherds, systems, world views or ideaologies. You are His sheep and your life begins and ends with the Lord.
Psalm 23 is a perpetual reminder to you and me that the Lord, from a heart of love for us, can and will care for our every need, as we choose to follow Him, as our Good Shepherd. John 10:11 And somewhere in the mix of our daily life, if we look, we will find goodness and mercy. It is certain.
Perhaps, like I have, you might say,
Lord, other lords beside you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance.”Isaiah 26:13 ESV
If that’s so, then this can be your beginning step with the Lord. Take it. Invite Him to shepherd you, lead you, satisfy you, protect you, and love on you.
And if you have walked with Him, followed Him, and trusted Him as your Shepherd, then bring His name, power, ability, purpose and love to your remembrance. Oh, and turn around and look for goodness and mercy in you life, cuz they are near too. You gotta look for them, tho’ in all circumstances.
And now, we will end as we started a few blogs ago, with the Lord.
Because of His great love, goodness and mercy,