Saturday, October 8, 2016

Good Shepherd in Psalm 23:2

It is so energizing and exciting to participate in #Write31days, an online writing challenge where writers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day in the month of October. Within the #Write31days category of Inspiration & Faith, I chose to focus on the topic of the Name Above All Names every day for 31 days. You can view each of my daily posts at this landing page.

Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art prints, Name Above All Names Alphabet, and Psalm 23 have so inspired me. Each of the 26 individual Names and each of the 23rd Psalm verses are so special, as Krista has intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows, each one with its Scripture reference.

My heart has been drawn to do a word study for each of the names included in her art print. Krista and I felt led to publish our Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ available on Amazon at this link. 

I was inspired by
listening to this beautiful rendition of the Psalm 23 song, The Lord's My Shepherd, by Stuart Townend. while studying  John 10:11 

 I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

Amplified: I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep.

J. B. Phillips: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd will give his life for the sake of his sheep.

The Message: I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary.

Psalm 23 is perhaps the most beloved scripture about our Good Shepherd. Ask people which scripture they love the most and which has meant most to them and many would point to the Twenty-third Psalm. It has dried many tears and lifted many out of the pits of despair and discouragement. This small Psalm deals with almost every adverse circumstance in life and how to win over it.

Verse-by-verse study of Psalm 23:2...

 He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters.
CEV:  You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to streams of peaceful water,

GNT: He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.

MSG: You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. 

JEHOVAH-SHALOM—The Lord, our peace (Judges 6:24)

Psalm 23:2 describes a circumstance of doubt, unrest, uncertainty, confusion, turmoil. It is a picture of sheep that are fearful. Troubled waters. Sheep won't drink from running water because it startles them. Sheep refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear. Free from every need. Only the Shepherd can remove these fears. God has a name to meet the circumstance of doubt, worry, fear, confusion and turmoil. It is Jehovah-Shalom. "I AM Your Peace." Peace isn't the absence of trouble; it is the certainty that God is in control of your situation. It's not dependent on circumstances, but on God and your faith in Him. You may be in the midst of a storm but in the center of God's will there is a peace. In the center of a hurricane, called "the eye," there is a perfect calm. In your storms the one who says, "I AM Your Peace," will give you a peace that is beyond explanation. 

Pastor Warren W. Wiersbe writes: The word translated, “leads,” in verse 2 means “to lead gently.” You cannot drive sheep. The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice and follow him, just as we listen to Christ in His Word and obey Him.

Pastor Octavius Winslow writes: "He makes me to lie down in green pastures." It is one of the most natural and essential duties of a shepherd that he should provide suitable and ample nourishment for his flock; and then skillfully and timely to conduct them to it. It will be observed that David employs the plural "pastures." We place in the foreground, the green pastures of God's truth. All other nourishment flows from, and is subsidiary to, this. All sacred literature is based upon the divine authority and teaching of God's revealed Word. Listen to the testimony of all the saints, "How sweet are your words unto my taste! yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"  Here are gracious invitations for the sin-laden; precious promises for the sorely tried; real consolation for the bereaved mourner; a glorious hope for the most deeply depressed and most profoundly despairing sinner; a balm that heals every wound, a hand that dries every tear. It is not into a dry land, a land where no water is, our Shepherd leads His flock. What a fulfillment of this magnificent promise is found in the gracious invitation of Jesus, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." Here was the true smitten Rock--the breaking forth of waters in the wilderness--springs of water in a dry place, where no water was, "And they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." It is to these waters--these springs in the desert--our inspired Psalmist refers, by the side of which the Shepherd led him, upon whose banks He caused him to lie down. Of what spiritual gospel truths are these "still waters" the emblem? Will not a spiritual and reflective mind return to the everlasting love of God, from whose Infinite Ocean all other springs of grace flow? This is the fountain, the source of every covenant and redemptive blessing conferred upon believers."

Pastor Winslow continues: “How sweet and refreshing the still waters that flow through the channel of communion with God! There the Shepherd loves to lead the footsteps of His flock in the sultry heat and in the faint weariness of the day. Is there a pasture more verdant, a spot more shaded, a slope more sunny than the meeting-place with God? How gently did the Shepherd lead His sheep to those still waters when He bade them ask, and they should receive; seek, and they should find; knock, and it should be opened to them. Are you weary? are you wounded? are you faint? Come and lie down by this flowing river, and drink of these waters of communion with God, and your soul shall be refreshed; your peace will flow as a river, and your joy as the waves of the sea. Oh the power, the repose, the comfort of prayer! 'Having boldness,' or privilege, 'to enter into the Holiest, the pleading blood of Jesus upon the Mercy Seat, the Father's scepter of grace extended, all the resources of Deity at your command. Can you for a moment hesitate, through fear and unbelief, to arise and give yourself to prayer? "He makes me to lie down." Beautiful and expressive image! There is not a spectacle more truly pastoral and picturesque than that of a flock of sheep reposing amid the luxuriant verdure of a sunlit meadow. Contemplate the spectacle in its spiritual aspect: "He makes me to lie down." It is, first, the rest of faith. No grace brings the soul into such perfect repose as faith in God's character, in Christ's all-sufficiency, in the unchangeableness of the divine promises. Faith can lie down in the midst of trial, and sorrow, and need, in the 'quiet resting places' where the Divine Shepherd causes His flock to repose at noon. It is the posture of perfect satisfaction, found only where the flock of God lie down amid the green pastures of His love, and the fragrant meadows of His word. Return, you wanderer, from your roamings in quest of that which no worldly good or creature here can give you, and come and rest your weary spirit amid the 'green pastures' of God's love in Christ Jesus, and your "soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness."

Pastor Winslow continues: "Still," or, "quiet waters." Where does the gentle Shepherd lead thus His flock? Not by the thundering waterfall, not even by the low-murmuring brook, these would alarm and agitate His sheep! But He leads them to the still, gentle, peaceful waters of His love, and there He causes them to lie down. "When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?" Come away, my soul from the strife and turmoil and excitement of this busy life, and lie down upon the slopes of these quiet waters. "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." See how lovingly Jesus invites us to these 'still waters,' and how gently He causes us to lie down. "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." Here is perfect quietness, here is unruffled repose. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."  "Be still, and know that I am God."

In the eastern tradition, a shepherd walks at the head of the flock. This is much different from the western tradition of driving the sheep from behind. The shepherd calls the flock out of the pen in the early morning to lead them to pools or wells of water where they can quench their thirst. He then guides them to green pastures, taking them around the rocky places where they might stumble. He assists the tiny and fragile sheep by lifting them with the crook of his staff. He runs his hand over the sheep as they enter the pen, counting them and ensuring that they have returned from the pasture unharmed. Then the shepherd settles in for the night to watch for predators. How awesome that Jesus is our shepherd. He will lead us to living water and guide us along the right path even when the way is rocky. He carries us when we stumble and watches over us during the dark nights of our lives, making us feel secure. All that He asks is that we respond to His voice and follow Him.

Heavenly Father,
It is comforting to know that I am not alone in the journey called life. God, I thank You that You are ever vigilant, watching over me, meeting with me in the morning, and abiding with me through the night. Even though I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your name is Emmanuel--God with us--I am absolutely certain You are with me, You will never leave me or forsake me. May I always respond to Your voice and stay close to You. I gladly follow You as You call my name! In Your mighty Name Above All Names--Good Shepherd, we pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on John 10:11 Pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on 
John 10:11 pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on 
John 10:11 pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

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