CONTINUE STUDY OF PALM 23 (THE SHEPHERD SONG)
(I’m taking a bit of time to consider Psalm 23. I guess if I were a prospector and stumbled on what looked like a vein, I’d stay a while and “stake a claim.” The entire BOOK is a gold mine. I just found a rich vein. Let’s don’t be in a hurry. Stop and explore this simply profound passage carefully. It will most certainly enrich your life and contribute to your spiritual growth. -dk)
The parables, symbols, analogies and other figures of speech used in the Bible are given to illustrate important ideas. As you know, eternity and deity are more than you can compress into mere words and ideas that the human mind can even begin to digest. Fortunately, the writers of Scripture realized that. So, In order to assist, they would take common, very ordinary things with which we were very familiar and use them to help us begin to understand uncommon, extraordinary things. This is what is happening in this case. We need to think. Pause and ponder. An imagination and a sense of wonder will open up entirely new vistas to your understanding.
Take the shepherd analogy, for example. I’ve been asking myself: How is the Savior like a shepherd? Or vice versa. In considering how each is like the other, naturally I think of descriptive adjectives which may describe the duty or personality of the person.
A shepherd is a very “common” man. Nothing pretentious or “high and mighty” about him or his bearing. Personally, I believe Jesus made that choice to identify Himself with the low, unimpressive, unimportant, forgotten, poor, ignored, outcast. . . In order that NO ONE, any where in space or time could ever think He viewed Himself to be ‘too important or too busy to bother’ with “sinners like you and like I.” When you consider the time and place and manner in which Jesus was born and how He lived and died, you have to realize He has deliberately and forever identified Himself with all humanity. He made a conscious choice to place Himself beneath even the dregs of society so NO ONE could ever think He looks down on you. Or that He hasn’t any idea what abject poverty, seemingly endless and sometimes futile struggling is about.
It makes speeches of any superficial, enormously wealthy, hugely ambitious politician almost laughable by comparison when they say: “I feel your pain.” They don’t. They cannot! They’ve never felt it, so they cannot know what it is really like. But He does! On account of His great love for us, He has identified with us at the deepest most personal levels of pain and want. He does know His “sheep,” and will care for them! For us. For me (Please remember the selfish side of me saw and claimed this before I shared it with you!)!
What else occurs to you when you think about shepherds? I don’t really know a single person whose sole occupation is herding sheep. But I do know a lot of farmers. I’ve known them to be honest and industrious. They certainly aren’t vain or seeking the “limelight.” They work long and hard in fair weather or foul, unnoticed, often unappreciated, and almost always underpaid. Our country grew great while riding on the backs of these and other “workhorses of society.” I consider them to be anonymous heroes in disguise!
With so much mechanization and so many mega farms in the nation today, you almost lose sight of the simple farmer who invests his life and savings in his farm. For generations it has been his history, and even now some brave remnants of that noble occupation view it with hope as their future. A valiant, if vanishing breed. However, they still stand as a picture of what it means to give dedicated, totally committed, and unselfish service. Their efforts are admirable remarkable examples of giving so much and expecting so little in return. It would be safe to make the same statement about shepherds.
As I’ve thought of it, the idea which emerges most powerfully in my consciousness is the tender closeness which exists between Shepherd and sheep. The unbreakable bond. Above all things, the Shepherd is completely committed to his work and the welfare of his sheep. In my opinion, if it’s understood properly, being a “good shepherd” isn’t something someone does. It is who he is. He doesn’t just lead and feed, protect and defend the sheep. He doesn’t just ‘do shepherd things’ from 9:00 till 5:00 five days a week with a couple weeks off for vacation. He owns them, has His own life and reputation invested in them. In the case in the New Testament where Jesus becomes the “Good Shepherd,” He actually gives up His life for His sheep. In all He does, we see humility, nobility, dignity, simplicity and sacrifice.
This comparison (The Shepherd=the Lord) is used so many times in many places throughout Scripture. Poets have written beautifully about the appropriateness and profound meaning of that analogy. Artists have sought to show the tender beauty of the Shepherd rescuing the “lost sheep” and returning it to the “safety of the fold.” While all their efforts are admirable, nothing will ever take the place of your grasping and understanding truth and clutching it close to your heart.
My Mother spent the last days of her life in our home. As we kept close vigil, we could see a rapid descent, especially the last day, in the last hours. Around ten o’clock that evening, there was a noticeable plunge and as I sensed that she was leaving, I instinctively began to recite the “Shepherd Psalm.” With no planning at all those of us who were with her at her bedside began praying “The Lord’s Prayer.” And just as quickly and quietly as that, she breathed her last as we were praying.
It would be impossible for me to relate what profound peace and hope those simple, magnificent words brought in one of the most defining moments of my life. Even as I write years after her entrance into Heaven, there is joy and peace in remembering. And joy in anticipating reunion someday.
I can almost imagine and envision now the “Shepherd” taking her gently by the hand leading her beside the still waters and then “through (not down to it; but THROUGH) the valley of the shadow of death.”
Of all the great books I’ve read by great authors and the ideas and thoughts I’ve pondered in all my life, I cannot begin to imagine any words which would have brought the comfort, peace, hope, and joy that Psalm brought to me there, then. And now. Nothing even comes close.
When I tried to share the experience later with my wife, I said: “Honey, I can’t explain how it took place and I can’t express adequately what it was like. If I’d been a great movie producer, it would have been the way I’d have directed a film about the departure of such a truly godly lady. Honestly I felt as if the only thing missing was a chorus of angels singing in the background.”
“They were there,” she said, “You just didn’t hear them.”
Please make your own comparison and draw your own conclusion. Take it and store it in the place where you keep your most treasured possessions. Marvel at its beauty as often as you wish, and use it as your own when you need it and nothing else will meet that need. Believe me, when you come to the place where you have to say “goodbye” to someone who is dearer to you than your own life. . . Knowing the “Good Shepherd” is with them, and with you, will have value you may treasure, but never be able to measure. It is “true riches” which you can keep and give away and never exhaust!
And, if you haven’t thought about it lately, the Good Shepherd is still “seeking those who are lost and finding those who sought to hide from Him.” Still bringing them back “into the fold.”
(AN AFTERTHOUGHT: My wife reminded me it might be a good idea to let you know during each post that we’re in a “continuing study.” I try to keep each post complete in itself, but if you want to start at the beginning you need to go to “About.” Then you can proceed from that point and follow what should resemble a logical progression.
We’re still studying the “Shepherd Song” (Psalm 23.). A list of questions for a study guide is included in the previous post. I hope you’ll take time to consider those questions and add a few of your own, as you seek your own better understanding of the Scripture. And you’re invited to share your insights. Perhaps you should know, though, others, who’ve dug deeply and discovered reality, have been unable to “keep their secrets.”).