Easter Seals Your Deal
The celebration of Easter is more than a marketing gimmick for eggs, candy, baskets and new spring clothing. And it is infinately more than a cultural mix of pagan and Christian practices passed on through the ages. In fact, whether or not you even celebrate Easter, or believe in the empty tomb, for us all, Easter seals our deal.
There are many reasons why, in my view, Easter matters. My favorites are:
- The life and death of Jesus Christ split time in two. BC/before Christ, now called BCE/before the commom era and AD now called CE/the common era.
- Jesus lived a life that has demonstrated Him to be the world’s greatest influencer because
- He has had the greatest influence on literature. More literature, through every age, has featured Him than any other historical figure
- He has had the greatest influence on music and the arts. Through all cultures, genres, and periods no one has been the focus of or influenced more innovation in music or its lyrics and the arts than Jesus Christ.
- There would be no higher education without Christ’s influence. Jesus followers formed the schools and libraries of history that have spread and become some of the most prestigious universities in the world.
- Science is dominated by Christians who have pursued discovery, exploration, and investigation. Nearly every field of science has been affected by Christian thinkers.
- Other spiritual leaders have used and modified Jesus’ teachings. Hinduism, Krisna, Buddhism, etc.
Such things as these indicate to us that what happened on that Sunday morning, over 2,000 years ago matters, and is still making a difference today. I would like to submit to you that in fact, not only does Easter matter, but Easter literally seals your deal.
History has documented the accounts of Jesus Christ’s life, His brutal murder, and yes, His empty tomb. Actually, there are so many documents and accounts of Jesus’ life and death, that an accurate picture can be reconstructed without using the New Testament accounts.
As a review, here’s what we know about His death:
- He was beated by Roman soldiers
- He was flogged
- He was spit on, slapped, and whipped
- A silver, plated crown was stuck into His head
- A makeshift robe was placed on His bloddied back and shoulders
- A staff was given Him as a pretend scepter
- He was mocked, harassed, and laughed at
- The robe, crown and staff were taken away
- His blood loss was great
- He carried the cross bar of His cross until he fell under it’s weight
- His outstretched hands were nailed to the beam
- His feet were nailed
- A sign was placed over His head, “The King of the Jews”
- The cross was erected and Jesus struggled to breathe
- Asphyxiation ensued
- He breathed His last breath
- There was an earthquake
- The was darkness for 3 hours
- The 4 inch tapestry/veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom
- His side was pierced, releasing blood and water – a sign of death
- His dead body was taken off the cross
- It was wrapped in grave clothes and laid in a tomb
- A stone was rolled to cover the entrance
- The stone was sealed with the Roman seal
- Guards were placed in front of it to guard it
- On Sunday morning, the tomb was empty
Jesus was crucified and He died, but after three days in the tomb, He was alive. He was seen by the disciples, and over 500 other people are documented as having seen Jesus. This was not a mass hallucination. The Roman soldiers had only three days earlier validated His death.
The Roman seal on the tomb is not what sealed your deal, this next part is though.
You’ll remember, that in Jerusalem at this time they were celebrating the Feast of Passover. It was a week long festival that featured the retelling and remembering of the Great Passover in Egypt, which led to Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Because the lamb’s blood was applied to the door frames of homes, the death angel passed over during the 10th plague – the death of the forstborn.
On Passover, it was the blood of a lamb that was celebrated as the Jews remembered their bitter slavery and hardship. That blood, their ticket to life and release from Pharaoh. That lamb, they were to eat, along with unleavened bread as they prepared to travel towards their freedom.
It is that blood, my friend, that seals our deal.
For the Old Testament law was clear that only though the blood would there be atonement. The animal sacrifices of the temples, as cruel or gory as they may seem to us, were the way for man to find forgiveness and redemption. It was through the blood that man was put right with God. Those that participated in such offerings were forgiven.
The principle of atonement through the blood was God’s idea from before the beginning of time. Scripture tells us that Jesus was the Lamb slain, before the foundation of the world. Rev. 13:8 All along, God had Jesus, the Lamb in mind. Jesus’ blood, the atonement for all mankind to be brought back into relationship with God, fully forgiven, accepted and wonderfully loved.
THAT my friend, is what sealed your deal.
When Jesus, the Lamb of God, died on that cross and spilt His blood, it was to pay the price for our redemption. There could be no remission of sins without the blood of the Lamd, and so Jesus willingly gave it. He gave His life, His blood to pay for our deal – our relationship with God. What a deal!!
Not only did He, by His death seal our deal for forgiveness, but by His resurrection, He sealed our deal for victory over death and hell. Because He came out of that grave, He triumphed over death, thus providing for us every key that we need for victory in this life.
Like I said, what a deal??!!!
There may be one who says, I don’t believe that, I won’t accept those claims. That is your prerogative. But that in no way negates it’s truth. Truth does not need your validation to be true. Theses things are true, no matter who or what wrestles with it.
Just like the one in Jesus’ circle of disciples who chose not to believe in Him, there will be those. But for those that do believe, there is eternal life, daily hope, peace, forgiveness, passion, purpose, and overcoming power. There is a whole book full of truth to devour, guide you, and stand upon. There are centuries of other believers who have gone before you and many more who will come after you.
Jesus the Lamb, sealed your deal. Easter sealed your deal.The best deal you could ever have.
Happy, happy, Easter, my friend.
3 Strands Won’t Snap
Join me for a moment here, and come up with some famous three-somes. C’mon, give it a go….Your age will determine who you think of, but perhaps you considered:
- the 3 Stooges
- 3 Musketeers
- 3 Amigos
- 3 bears
- 3 little pigs
- the BeeGees??? 🙂
The Three Stooges
Or how about things that come in 3’s:
- 3 goals – a hat trick
- 3 R’s (reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic)
- 3 ring circus
- 3 strikes – in baseball
- 3 trimesters of pregancy
- 3 parts of an atom – proton, neutron, electron
- 3 personality parts – id, ego and super-ego
- 3 parts of the earth – core, mantle & crust
- 3 notes in a triad/chord
triads in music
We could go on, but the point is made – that it seems like everything comes in 3’s. Here’s one more for our consideration today –
But for right now,… we have 3 things to do … Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the 3 is love.”1 Corinthians 13:13 The Message Paraphrase
FAITH. HOPE. LOVE.
This verse has been referred to as “the triad of faith, hope and love.” Here is yet, another famous 3, and way more important, too.
The wisest man to have lived also spoke of 3’s. Look what he said,
A 3 strand rope isn’t easily snapped.”Ecclesiates 4:12 The Message Paraphrase
Look what he is declaring – 1 strand is good, 2 strands are better and stronger, but with 3 starands, a rope will not be easily or quickly be snapped. This is insightful as we apply it to the triad, so let’s do so.
Consider if you will, you are that rope. In order for you to not snap and break easily or quickly, there must be woven into you 3 strands. 3 strands of truth in your life will keep you from easily snapping and breaking. One strand of truth is good, 2 strands are better and will make you even stronger, but 3 strands of truth will keep you from snapping altogether.
The triad shows us that faith, or as the wise man called it, “trusting steadily in God” is the first strand of truth in our life, and that one strand is good. It is good for us to trust in God, lean on Him and His ways, rather than our own. It is good to have that singular truth laid firm in our life. Faith is the foundation of our life, it will center us, steady us, and encourage us. (Remember, tho’, that faith requires action, it teams with work – doing, not just mental assent.) But that one strand could snap! On it’s own, it’s not strong enough.
In our triad, the next strand is hope. Hope is not wishful thinking, but a firm confidence in Jesus and His ability to come through for us today and return for us at the end of the age. Hope is our focus and our attitude. Hope is seeing beyond, and focusing on that. Hope is seeing more than today and looking to what will be. Faith and hope cemented as truths in our life will make us stronger as we walk each day with Him. But even 2 strands can be strengthened for us to avoid snapping.
Faith and hope are important truths in our life, but they won’t last forever. One day faith won’t be needed because we will see God face to face. Hope won’t be needed either, because we’ll no longer be looking for His return because He returned as He said.
But the 3rd strand of our life’s rope is love, and love is eternal, forever. There will always be love, because love is an attribute of God. 1 John 4:8 God is not faith, He doesn’t ever look to anyone else. God is not hope, he doesn’t need to hope because He knows all things. But He is love and will always be love. It has been said, “If we lose love, we lose everything.”
Love is that 3rd strand of truth in the rope of our life, that reinforces and cements our relationship with God.He will keep is from snapping.
Love, such a powerful word and yet so polluted and weakened by our society. There’s so much mixture when it comes to love, that it carries so little meaning today. Just like it was tho’, in Corinth when Paul wrote his letter to them.
So corrupt was the major city of Corinth, that Paul had to write a clear definition of what love actually was and what love actually did and what love actually was not! He wanted there to be NO question about the love of God and what it was, and what believers not only had access to but were expected to walk in. Have you read it lately? Check this portion out. He says this of God’s love: 1 Coringhtians 13:4-7 ESV
- Love is patient and kind
- love does not envy or boast
- It is not arrogant or rude
- it does not insist on its own way
- it is not irritable or resentful
- it does not rejoice at wrong doing
- but rejoices with the truth
- love bears all things
- believes all things
- endures all things
For me, it seems that no matter what stage of life I am in, I am ALWAYS so convicted by love. Who I am and how I respond does not match those characteristics listed above. Geesh! What about you?
But that doesn’t stop me from laying that strand of truth in my life. It motivates me to work on love all the more. It is the 3rd strand, but twisted together with faith and hope, I find my strength. Those 3 strands woven together in my life produce a consistent, strong, and dependable character in me that pleases the Lord. AND I don’t easily or quickly snap, break, unravel, or crack.
There’s enough going on in our lives these days to make anyone snap. And I dare say, without faith, hope and love working inside of us, a snapping we will go.
I just wonder if you would benefit from looking seriously at the rope of your life. Are you hanging on by a thread? Tying a knot at the end of the rope, and hanging on for dear life so you won’t fall off? Stop then, and consider the state of the triad in your life. Even if you’re not dangling there, this three-some is one worth integrating into your life. You will be strengthened by these 3.
How’s your faith? Who have you placed your faith in? Do you need to reestablish the foundation of faith in your life?
How’s your hope? Have you become hopeless and helpless? Have you gotten stuck in seeing only the troubles of today? Do you need to reestablish your hope in the Lord and His future for you?
How’s your love? Do you love like God loves?
But for right now,… we have 3 things to do … Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the 3 is love.”1 Corinthians 13:13 The Message Paraphrase
Faith, hope, and love, is a set of 3’s worth hanging onto and reinforcing in your life, because with these 3 strands, you won’t snap.
Love ya. Thanks for reading.
- Life Application Study Bible 1 Corinthians 13:13
- David Guzik Commentary 1 Corinthians 13:13
- Quora.com;Thingsthatcomeinthrees; Roshan Kumar
Psalm 23 Begins and Ends with the Lord
“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,
He Lavishly Provides
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5
For me. personally, this verse, in this amazing psalm has always been hard to understand and thoroughly wrap my brain around. Is it just me? Maybe. But let me share some simple insights that have helped me make sense of this verse.
Let’s first remember that most scholars believe that this psalm is two seperate pictures, and NOT one picture all regarding a shepherd and his sheep. In viewing it that way, they explain that “the table in the preence of my enemies”, is a picture of The King, who has received and seated his vassal at a banquet table, that is lavish in every way and fully satisfying. As a guest of the overloard, all his needs are tended to – he is anointed with the customary treatment of an honored guest, his cup never is empty and his enemies observe this honored treatment.
It’s not difficult to see the analogy here. Jesus, our Shepherd, has indeed set a banguet table for us, His sheep, fully loaded with every benefit we could ever need, as we celebrate with our King at the Table of the Lord.
That picture in and of itself is encouraging and comforting. Who wouldn’t be satisfied with a covenant, victory feast set by the Lord, for you? And that may settle your mind and assist your understanding of a table in the presence of your enemies….You can stop reading if you are completely satisfied. But for a long time I was not.
Then I heard a teaching from a shepherd, on Psalm 23, that opened my eyes to Him lavishly providing for me in the presence of my enemies.
You see, in this Shepherd’s psalm, David is recounting a full year in a sheep’s life. You can see the progression:
- at home on the ranch
- then on to green pastures
- beside the still waters
- up through the dark mountain valleys
- to the high table lands of summer
At verse 5, the sheep are in the high grounds now, where the shepherd has previously made several trips to prepare the table land for them. He has laid salt and minerals over the land and pulled up poisonous, white, cammas flowers.The alert shepherd has prepared his land, in full view of the predators, and now the sheep have arrived at the high ground, the mesas, that are now ready, water holes cleaned out, repaired and refreshed.
And did you notice, the high plateaus of sheep ranges are called “mesas” or tables in Spanish and Swahali. Have you heard of Table Mountain, in Cape Town? David’s table was the entire range – the high, summer, mountain range.
It is in these tablelands, lavishly prepared by the Shepherd, that the sheep have settled down to banquet. There are predators, and poisonous plants, as well as storms and gales in this high country, but their table has been set. “Finding this tableland is finding the shepherd’s love”, says Phillip Keller.
You anoint my head with oil.
It is Phillip Keller again, who explains that “Summertime is fly time”.
During those hot summer months in the high country, flies and parasites surge. The nose flies that torment the sheep do so by depositing their eggs on the wet snout of the sheep. When they hatch, they form little worms that find their way into the nasal passages of the sheep’s head. There, they burrow into the flesh and cause swelling and severe irritation. This is so devestating for the sheep, it will literally beat it’s head against a tree, or rub it in the dirt to try and illeviate it. In some cases a sheep will do so even killing itself.
The entire flock is at risk during fly time and the only answer is to take a mixture of oil, tar and sulfur and apply it to the sheep’s nose and head. This requires multiple applications for the health of the sheep and the health of the flock. THIS is “anointing (the sheep’s) head with oil.”
My cup overflows.
It is during the summer, high mountain, tableland times that the sheep are fit, well and their strongest. No other season sees their health any better. But as summer turns to autum and autum to winter, stroms, cold, and blizzards arrive too. The shepherd goes through these storms alongside of his sheep, often warming them as they become chilled or frozen. Ancient shepherd’s used their wineskin with wine to warm them, whereas today’s shepherd may use a mix of brandy and water to warm them up.
During the winter and stormy season, the sheep can confidently declare, “My cup overslows”, because their shepherd has warmed their frozed heart during the long, cold winters. But even during the fall and summer months, with their good health and filled, four-part stomachs, their “cup overflows”. Each sheep is well cared for by their shepherd who has lavishly provided for them.
THAT all makes so much sense to me and helped me to understand what David was trying to convey about the shepherd’s care for his sheep. I hope it helped you too.
Here’s a wrap up summary.
The Lord has prepared for you a banquet of everything you need to make it through the season you are in. He has set in place all you need, for your taking. Staying close to Him in this tableland, will protect you from the wolves and poisonous fruit.
Whatever is bugging you, trying to rob you of your sanity, dignity, and maybe even your life can be overcome by the frequent application of prayer, Holy Spirit anointing, and submission to the Shepherd.
In every season, The Good Shepherd is right beside you extending love, care, provision, and protection. His grace is unlimited and His mercies new every morning. Your cup should never be empty, but rather overflowing- because His goodness to you is overflowing.
Lastly, it is the Shepherd’s desire to have His sheep live on higher grounds, above the mundane. So, if you’re not enjoying the banquet table of His provision daily, perhaps it is because you are not living in the highlands, the table lands.
For in those mesas, is where He lavishly provides.
- NASB Study Bible
- David Guzik, Commentary Psalm 23
- A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller, Zondervan Publishing, 1970, 2007
Even in Death Valley You Are With Me
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 ESV
If this six verse Psalm 23, written by David were an artichoke, the above verse would be the heart.
For just as it lies as the centering line of the psalm, it offers our life a centering line too. And just as it serves as a transition from the shepherd/sheep motif to a direct address using I and you, so too are we able to personalize this powerful psalm. This verse is the heart of the whole psalm and should be at the heart of every believer. So let’s peel away at this artichoke.
Here we have the first “dark note’ of the psalm. The shepherd has taken us through green pastures and beautiful pools of water, He has refreshed us and led us. But now we see a dark valley, not a mountop or lush field. A valley surrounded by foreboding peaks and rocky ledges casting cold, dark shadows on our path. We are now walking through death valley, under it’s ever present shadow.
Psalm 23 can be divided into two balanced stanzas, each with 4 couplets. The first stanza presents the shepherd/sheep relationship and the second moves into the personalized King/servant picture with personalized direct address using “you” and “I”. Have you ever noticed this before? And smack dab in the center of it all is the beautiful assurance that even in death valley, we can be certain of His presence and have no need to fear – for He is with us. This very thought centers us, and personalizes His presence with us no matter where we are, or it should.
But it is a shadow. There is no substance to it. It is the shadow of death, not the substance of death. When faced with that shadow of death, defeat seems immenent, in fact, death is guaranteed for us all. But in this verse, the Shepherd leads the sheep right down Main Street of Death Valley fortified with His presence. That presence dispels all fear, panic or alarm, as the sheep confidently proclaims, “I will fear no evil”, even in this shadow of death.
Death Valley, CA
The Shepherd’s presence made all the difference. The presence of evil was not eliminated, but the fear of evil was.
YOU ARE WITH ME”Psalm 23:4
This phrase and its reality is our centering line of life. It is the heart of our life. He is with us. With us in the darkest, lowest, most evil valley. With us in the dangerous, predator infested hideouts. With us in the valley cast with dark, scary, violent and cold shadows, of deep, dark, dirty and fruitful valleys.
Rivers in the valley, green grass too
Yes, fruitful! It is in the valleys where we find the richest food and choicest meadows – along the river banks. Valleys are well watered. There you’ll find the rivers, springs, and quiet pools. And you know what else? The only way to get to higher ground is to go through the valleys! Those shadowy valleys are actually a road to higher ground.
Our Shepherd, like any shepherd, will only take His flock where He has already been. He has scouted out the way through the shadows in death valley and now He walks with us through that valley, taking us to higher ground. (Notice too, the peaceful walk. We’re not fearfully running through the scary valley.)
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff they comfort me.
The shepherds of David’s day typically carried a rod or sturdy wooden stick, used as a weapon to protect and count the sheep, and a staff, a long, thin stick with a hook, used to direct the flock.
The rod was an extension of the shepherd’s right arm and speaks of his power, strength and authority. It was used to defend the sheep against attackers and discipline the wayward, wandering sheep. The sheep would “come under the rod” to be counted and examined. Here the shepherd would part the sheep’s wool, to check the skin for trouble. He would then run his hands over the body feeling for disease or ticks. The shepherd would examine in detail each sheep with his rod and hands. There was no “pulling the wool” over his eyes. The rod protected the sheep, they were comforted by it.
Shepherds are the only profession who use a staff. (Unless you consider the musical staff…) It is caringly used to manage the sheep, direct them, and guide them. It is a symbol of care and concern, of kindness. For with it, the shepherd draws sheep together into a close and loving relationship. He also uses it to draw the sheep unto himself.
By gently placing the staff against the animals side and applying pressure, the sheep is guided and is reassured of his proper path. Many a time, the shepherd will get “in touch” with a sheep, and they will walk this way, “hand in hand” – close, personal, intimate contact between sheep and shepherd. This comforts the sheep knowing that the shepherd is at its side.
Could The Good Shepherd’s rod and staff actually bring us comfort?
Haven’t we seen the power and authority of God is our world, life? Haven’t we recognized His love come after us and rescue us year after year? Haven’t we experienced His inspection under our wool and His gentle hands massaging our broken heart time and time again? Haven’t we then experienced the comfort of His rod?
How many time have we felt that gentle prodding inside of us to do, or say something or to go somewhere? Wasn’t it recently that we thought we felt God? Felt Him asking to walk beside us, close and personal? Isn’t it comforting to know that He wants to walk closely connected to us every day whether we are in death valley or not?
… for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”Psalm 23:4
Is that phrase the center point of your life? Is the presence of God in your life the heart of who you are? Have you found your way to a personal God, who is yours, and personally involved in your walk?
His presence, His rod and His staff comfort me, because the Lord is MY shepherd.
He is with us. Isn’t THAT the heart of the issue?
- ESV Study Bible, Psalm 23
- Quest Study Bible, Psalm 23
- Life Application Study Bible, Psalm 23
- NASB Study Bible, Psalm 23
- David Guzik, Commentary Psalm 23
- Matthew Henry Commentary Psalm 23
- A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23; Phillip Keller; Zondervan 1970,2007
He Restores and Leads Me
Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names sake.
As we run with the herd through the busy fileds of life, over each hill and through every valley, there have been endless times when we need to stop, catch our breath, renew our strength, and be refreshed. Finding and following the right path during those times is always challenging. And that is why this verse is so encouraging to those who are His sheep, because the Good Shepherd –
Restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness…”Psalm 23:3 ESV
When we are weary or downcast, our Shepherd restores us. He returns life’s vitality, energy and joy, He revives our passion, in all areas, and He renews our strength. We find our body, mind and soul fully restored and recharged. I have experienced this often, haven’t you?
Have you heard of a sheep being cast down? It is interesting about sheep and insightful as it applies to us people.
a cast sheep
A “cast” sheep is one who is on its back and cannot get up again by itself. On its back, feet in the air flailing, struggling to stand up but without success, often bleating, frightened and frustrated. The owner, the shepherd must find it within a short time or the sheep will die.
As it lies there struggling, gasses build up in their rumen. Because they are expanding, this cuts off the blood circulation to the extremeties, especially the legs. If the weather is hot, the sheep will die within a few hours. If it is cool, it may survive in that position for several days.
When the shepherd does find it, he will tenderly roll it on its side, relieving the pressure from the built up gases. Then he will lift the sheep, straddling it to hold it up, rubbing the limbs to restore circulation to the legs. Little by little it would regain its equilibrium, until it runs off again into the herd. The sheep has been restored. From downcast to restored. That’s the exclusive work of the shepherd.
How often have I been cast down? Unable to get myself out of the funk I’m in? Stuck. Unable to move forward. Left on my own, waiting for a, force greater than myself to act upon me. Something to get me going again.
It is the sheep whose Shepherd is the Lord, that will be found in time, in the hot sun and restored to vitality. It is the sheep, whose God is the Lord, who will be rescued from an upsidedown world, be revived, find strength and keep on going refreshed. It is because the Lord is my Shepherd, that my body, mind, and soul is restored.
I love that this verse doesn’t end with the sheep being restored and renewed. That is wonderful and absolutely needed. But when we are revived, restored and renewed, we need detailed direction next. We need to be led. We need to know what to do and where to go. Right?
So, of course the psalm next says –
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake.
We sheep, being creatures of habit, if left to ourselves will follow the same ole path and trails until they become ruts. We will graze the same ole hills ’til they become desert wastelands. The land will become “sheeped to death” with deteriorated trails that now look like muddy gullies. This is what happens if we sheep, are left to ourselves. We go our own way, the way we always have gone, the way of our own destructive habits.
Can you identify within yourself those destructive ruts your habits have entrapped you in? I can.
That is why “The greatest safeguard a shepherd has is to keep his sheep on the move,”according to Phillip Keller, a professional shepherd and scientist. He states in his book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”:
- No other aspect of ranch operations requires more attention than moving sheep
- On average, new ground almost every week so that the sheep don’t overfeed the same ground too frequently or too long
- There must be a plan of action regarding the rotating of grazing
- Contrary to popular thought, sheep cannot “just get along anywhere”
- They require careful handling and detailed direction, more than other livestock
You see, we sheep need to keep moving, but moving in the right direction and on the right path, not rut. No wonder, the emeny of our souls convinces us to look for comfortable spots, soft, easy spots. But in those comfortable spots, we become wolly – fat, not healthy or productive. Undisciplined and lazy – spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
a wolly sheep needing shearing
God knows what He is doing with me as He sets me on my feet with a restored soul and leads me in the right path. Not the wrong rut, comfortable path, but the right path – naturally, morally and legally. He guides me along a new normal path of justice and rightness.
The Shepherd is guiding and leading us in the right path, but the problem is, we don’t want to follow Him. It’s so much more comfortable in our dreary rut with our predictable habits. Moving us into unfamiliar fields to graze on new thoughts and principles is scary. Mixing our life up and rotating our ideas to become more like His is challenging, and difficult and SO new.
But as He leads us along the right paths, and as we choose to follow His ways, we are learning to honor Him. The name of our shepherd is being honored and His character is being seen in our lives. And other lost and worn out sheep can see that there is a Shepherd who cares, leads, restores and loves His sheep. They too can join His fold and find restoring and leading.
For God’s sake, won’t you let Him restore and lead you? Aren’t you glad that He does?
“A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”, Phillip Keller; Zondervan Books 1970, 2007
Green Pastures and Still Waters
Psalm 23:2 – He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
As sheep, we are free to chose our shepherd, the one that leads us and the one that we willingly follow. For it is the shepherd that is responsible for the care, feeding, health and protection of his flock. That task of shepherding is cumbersome and requires a vigiliant shepherd, otherwise the sheep and the herd will find itself in brown, barren fields, thirsty, matted, malnourished and unsettled. But if The Lord is your shepherd, He leads you in green pastures and beside still waters.
As we mentioned last time, sheep can’t find water or pasture without a shepherd. They have no sense of direction and wind up following another sheep, usually to a dirty, insect infested pothole filled with muddy water. Sheep will settle for less, that momentary satisfaction; they lack discernment and don’t know what’s good for them until the shepherd comes to their rescue.
And according to the professional shepherd, Phillip Keller,
… it is almost impossible for sheep to be made to lie down”.A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23; page 41
Here are the four requirements that must be met, in order for sheep to physically lie down –
- They must be free from all fear
- They must be free from friction with others of their kind
- They must be free from pests
- They must be free from feeling hungry
So, if our text says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures…” (which it does), then these four requirements have been met for the sheep to actually lie down for the shepherd. Let’s consider each one, briefly.
Free from all fear – Sheep are prey animals, remember? So they are constantly on guard for coyotes, bears and the like, which if they sense them, they will become agitated, restless, and easily panicked. They are defenseless and feeble and so their only choice is to run. That is why they stand up and are ready to run for their life at all times. It is the shepherd’s presence that allows them to lie down.
Free from friction with others of their kind – Within the flock there is a literal “butting” order, a rivalry where sheep stand up and defend their rights, where they actually challenge intruders or other aggressors. This constant jealousy makes the sheep edgy, tense and restless. There is a tension that comes when standing up for themselves, their rights and trying to get ahead. Again, the shepherd’s presence makes the difference for them. They are safe and accepted by him.
Freedom from pests and parasites – There are seasons where sheep are under constant attack from flies and ticks making it next to impossible for the sheep to lie down. Extra care is needed by these sheep who are “being bugged”. These all consuming distractions, “nose-flies”, demand the sheeps full attention and there is no way that sheep will lie down.
Free from finding food and hunger – Have you ever considered that most sheep countries are in dry, semi-arid areas of the globe? You’re not gonna find green pastures there. To find those lush, verdant grazing fields takes the skill of an experienced shepherd, who has planned and labored to get his flock there. For the good shepherd, a worn-out field, lacking vegetation does not allow for a sheep to eat, much less lie down. Hungry sheep are forever on their feet searching for food.
With these four requirements met, the Shepherd has released the sheep to be able to lie down in lush, green pastures, confident they are safe, healthy, defended, and satisfied.
Looking back at these four requirements for sheep to lie down, do you see any parallels with your life, your needs or behaviors?
How’s your “fear factor”? Are you waiting for the other shoe to drop? Stressed, feeling panicked and sometimes just ready to bolt?
How trapped have you become by trying to get ahead? By standing up for your rights and yielding to the rivalry?
What are your distractions that keep you from truly resting? What distractions are bugging you?
Have you settled for grazing on meaningless, empty fields that bring you no spiritual nutrition? Are you searching for food that satisfies?
The Good Shepherd provides the peace and the place for His sheep to lie down. He has made a place for them to lie down. The sheep know this, trust him and rest because of his presence with them.
He leads me beside still waters
Even though sheep thrive in dry climates, they still require water, for without it dehydration sets in, which effects the tissues and causes serious damage. Most of sheep’s water will come from either
- dew on the grass
- deep wells
Although the skilled shepherd will lead the flock to those streams, sheep can go for months without actually drinking from a stream. Why?
Streams in the desert are hard to find, yes, that’s one reason. But more interestingly, sheep are able to drink every day, if there is heavy dew on the grass.That water is enough to sustain them for weeks without coming to a well or stream. Sheep will graze just before dawn on drenched vegetation and become fully satisfied.
A fully satisfied sheep is happy and refreshed and will lie down to rest and ruminate.
This, again, is the shepherd’s job – to keep the sheep watered, satisfied and able to lie down, even if they are in a dry place. The shepherd knows where the next watering source is and allows for his sheep to find daily thirst quenching from the early morning dew until they reach their goal – beside still waters.
As His sheep, be encouraged, that even in the dry times, He has provided the early morning dew (first light prayer time) for you to find satisfaction. You can go for months on just those dew point – prayer times. Without them tho’, dehydration sets in and your Spirit shrivels up, causing you serious spiritual damage.
As His sheep, He is able to provide for each and every requirement that it takes for you to be at rest enough to lie down. He is the Good Shepherd and He cares for His sheep.
Ponder, won’t you, are you grazing in green pastures and beside still waters or have you been feeding on some barren hillside, drinking from dirty potholes of muddy water? The Good Shepherd will lead you if you chose to follow Him.
He will lead you to lie down in green pastures and drink beside still waters.
Let’s graze on that dew soaked meal each day.
- A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23; W. Phillip Keller; Zondervan Books; 1970, 2007
The Lord Is My Shepherd
Psalm 23:1- The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Last time we talked about people being like sheep without a shepherd, (see previous blog) and were reminded that King David (who at the time was a shepherd) proudly declared, “The Lord is my shepherd!”.What a boastful pronouncement! What confidence and connection.
How could a mere mortal, made from clay, claim to be connected to and led by the diety? How could David assert that the creator of the universe in all of its vastness is his Lord, his shepherd? Here was David, made in God’s image (like each and every human), claiming connection with the Lord, Jehovah God, creator of all things, author and originator of all life actually leading him.
David was basically saying, “Look who MY owner is! The Lord is my manager, my boss, my caregiver, my provider, my shelter, my shepherd.” “I belong to His flock, He is MY shepherd”. David was announcing God’s legitimate claim on His life. “I belong to Him because he created me.” David recognized and yielded to God’s claim on His life.
As a shepherd David knew that each of his or any flock bore the mark of it’s shepherd. With an awl-like tool, an ear of each sheep would be marked with a permanent label, forever identifying it as belonging to his flock. David was publicizing to all that he had been marked by his shepherd, the Lord, and would forever belong to Him, to His flock, all the days of his life.
This is where each of us begins with our connection to the Shepherd. We begin by acknowledging His claim on our life. Acknowledging He is our Lord, shepherd, manager and boss. Recognizing His right, as our creator to our ownership, and willingly being marked by the cross upon which He died. He bought me, He owns me. I gladly and proudly proclaim, “The Lord is my shpeherd.”
I shall not want.“Psalm 23:1 ESV
To “want” is to lack. To not “want” is to be content.
The shepherd was the one responsible for the welfare of the flock. The sheep’s care, protection, and well being fell solely on the shepherd. The care they received depended on their shepherd. Whether they had grass to graze in, fresh water to drink, a roof over their head, their wool groomed and injuries tended to depended on who their shepherd was.
Not all flocks are watched 24/7. Not every flock is defended against all predators. Not all sheep were fortunate enough to always have plush grazing, shaded rest spots, healing medicines, and other healthy sheep to hang out with.
But David had experienced all of those provisions from his shepherd – the Lord. He was never in want knowing that his shepherd was tending to his every need. Peace permeated his life because the Prince of Peace was his shepherd. There was an assurance that the Good Shepherd was never sleeping and would never leave him. He would lack nothing with the Lord as his shepherd.
The Lord, our shepherd is filled with such love for His flock that he leaves the 99 sheep safely in the pen to go after that one who is forever wandering off. He searches for and finds it, putting it on His shoulders and carries it back to the fold to be cared for.
There is danger in our world, for there are many who would seek to drive you, dear sheep, as your shepherd. But the care they provide you is lacking. The pasture is barren and the water polluted. There is no protection from the ravenous wolves and predators who seek to devour you. The Good Shepherd is not caring for you and you are not content. You live in danger and want, lack.
“No man can serve two masters…”
To come under the care of The Good Shepherd begins by acknowledging that He is your Lord – The Lord, is your shepherd. You’re not following any other leader, voice, manager or shepherd. The Lord is your shepherd and you will follow Him. You recognize His claim on your life and you willinging present yourself to His leading and care. You will trust Him and you will not lack, for He is YOUR Good Shepherd.
Who we follow determines our spiritual health. Who our shepherd is matters because that shepherd’s claims on our life will either satisfy us or destroy us.
Do you belong to Him? Is the Lord YOUR shepherd?