The Lord is My Shepherd, Part 1
Know that the Lord is God. He made us, and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep he tends.
(Psalm 100:3 NCV)
Friend to Friend
Shepherding was one of the oldest callings in Israel, even before farming. Shepherds traveled from place to place, living in tents while driving their flocks from one pasture to another. The sheep and their shepherd lived together every minute of every day. In fact, they were so intimately bound together that individual sheep, even when mixed with other flocks, could recognize the voice of their own shepherd and would come immediately when called by name.
A shepherd owned and marked his sheep. In some cases, the sheep were even branded, although branding is no longer an accepted method of identification because of the damage it does to the wool. Today, the ears of sheep are pierced with identification tags but for thousands of years, shepherds around the world marked their sheep by notching their ears with a sharp knife. Each shepherd had his own distinctive notch that indicated identity and ownership.
When we come to Jesus Christ in complete surrender and begin the journey of becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ, we are redeemed by his forgiveness, made whole by his grace and marked with his love through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13 "You were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal; the promised Holy Spirit."
For years, I desperately struggled to be a Christian with only head knowledge of who God was and wanted to be in my life. The result was a pitifully shallow existence with stress and frustration as my constant companions. I grew up in a Christian home, attending church just about every time the doors were open. I sang all of the right songs, spoke all of the right words and did all of the right things in front of all the right people. I fervently prayed that my works would validate my faith and desperately hoped that by following the rules, I would please the Ruler. It was not until middle school that the authentic life and spiritual integrity of a dynamic youth pastor made me hunger and thirst for something more. I wanted to know God -- not only as my Lord and King - but as my Shepherd, the one who would lead me, provide for me and love me like no other.
During a special Saturday evening revival service at our small country church, I sat in my usual spot, desperately clutching the back of the pew in front of me while wrestling with God over the condition of my soul and my eternal security. After all, I was a very active church member, a soloist and pianist for our worship services, and even directed a children's choir. I never missed a service unless I was deathly ill. I was a leader in our youth group, rarely failed to attend a youth activity and often brought friends who were lost, unlike me, of course, and needed to know God. How embarrassing to walk down that aisle, admitting to everyone that I had been living a lie. I clung to that pew in sheer arrogance and argued that I was a Christian. I must be. Look at all of the good things I had done. I looked liked a believer, talked like a believer and even acted like I was fully devoted to God ... but was I? (Don't miss the answer to that question in tomorrow's devotion!)
Father, I confess that I have allowed fear and anxiety to fill my mind and heart. I want to trust You above all else. Please give me the faith to believe the promises in Your Word and the strength to take the first step of obedience. Help me remember that I am a sheep, totally dependent upon You, my Shepherd. Thank You for Your perfect provision for my life.
In Jesus' name,
Now It's Your Turn
- Read Psalm 23.
- List three ways that sheep are dependent on the shepherd.
- List three ways that shepherds care for their sheep.
- Compare the two lists. What similarities do you find in your own life?