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Real Relationship

The Lord, My Shepherd

יְהוָ֥ה רֹ֝עִ֗י לֹ֣א אֶחְסָֽר

The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.

I am a sheep and the Lord is my shepherd. He knows what I need before I need it, so I do not need to have any fear of lack. I may not have everything, but I always have what I need. My limited view is of the ground and the sheep around me. The grass and rocks in front of me are all I see. And Him. I see Him, towering above me in height and in wisdom. When I cannot see Him, I am afraid. When I hear scary things, I tend to panic; but when I panic. He is there to calm me down with His voice. He is with me; everything I need. Because He is not lacking anything.

בִּנְא֣וֹת דֶּ֭שֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵ֑נִי עַל־מֵ֖י מְנֻח֣וֹת יְנַהֲלֵֽנִי׃

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He lays His hand upon me, patting my head and back until I feel safe and calm enough to lie down and rest. Knowing I need to eat physical and spiritual food, He leads me to pasture, and without asking He leads me to streams of Living Water (His Spirit) where I can drink deep and rest. My heart is restored in this comforting rest with Him. I find strength to keep going, moving from strength to strength, from rest to rest. There is always another pasture and stream ahead for me to look forward to. He does not push me too far or fast. He knows what my limits are, even though sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I push myself too much. Sometimes I push myself too little. In my zeal, I grow weary and in my frustration, I doubt his faith in my endurance. But every time I almost run away from His leadership out of fear or exhaustion, I find rest is just around the corner. He really is a good shepherd. Why can’t I just rest in His good intentions for me? Because I am a sheep and obviously smarter than he is? The thought is laughable. Thank goodness, because His love for me is so great, He has a lot of mercy for my sheepishness. Still, I want to follow with more faith. He is trustworthy.

נַפְשִׁ֥י יְשׁוֹבֵ֑ב יַֽנְחֵ֥נִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי־צֶ֝֗דֶק לְמַ֣עַן שְׁמֽוֹ

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

He is the rebuilder of my soul. When I am damaged, when I am worn, when I am torn down, when I am not supported, He comes around to put scaffolding around my heart. He rebuilds me. He restores my soul. I do not repair myself. He is the “Lord, My Healer.” He binds my wounds, gives me time to heal, and provides the right therapy of mind and spirit to try moving again. His word is a healing balm, sweet like honey.

And I heal.

When I can walk again, He leads me in good paths. And when I say “good paths” I mean right paths, righteous paths. When I walk there, I am safe. When I walk in righteousness with my shepherd, I walk strong. I do not question where I am going or what the plan is…I simply follow in this path. All along the way there are small joys; a patch of wildflowers, mighty waves along the shore, spectacular sunsets, and sweet fellowship with fellow sheep (we call this fellowsheep) It makes life simple for me. It makes life joyful for me because I can look around and enjoy the view. He is in charge of the navigation. He is the one who establishes my steps. Why does He trouble Himself to lead me with such comfort and tenderness? He does not do this to make me happy, but to please Himself. He delights in taking care of me because He loves me. Don’t ask me why…it’s in His nature. Such things are too wonderful for me to understand, but I do love Him too. I am thankful that His faithfulness to me does not depend on me, but only that it pleases Him. He is my leader.

גַּ֤ם כִּֽי־אֵלֵ֨ךְ בְּגֵ֪יא צַלְמָ֡וֶת לֹא־אִ֘ירָ֤א רָ֗ע כִּי־אַתָּ֥ה עִמָּדִ֑י שִׁבְטְךָ֥ וּ֝מִשְׁעַנְתֶּ֗ךָ הֵ֣מָּה יְנַֽחֲמֻֽנִי׃

Yea, 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.

Not every pathway is pleasant, though. There are sometimes paths that lead through dark places. In these times I try to not ask “why” we have to go this way. Such questions are beyond my capacity to understand. My vantage point is short, small. I am flesh and bone. In these places, there is often pain; pain of the body, pain of betrayal, pain of loss. There is real pain, from without and within…but not depression. Severe lack of understanding, but not confusion. Real danger, but no fear. Deep desperate need, but not despair. Insurmountable obstacles, but not hopelessness. Perfect loves drives out all fear, and I am filled with His love. He is with me. And though there may a lack of vision because I cannot see ahead of me, I can rest. I know He is leading me to His kingdom. He never said I could have a long-range view of my role in things or live a pain-free life. He did promise that I would have Him…the fullness of all He is, right with me. That I could follow step by step by the power of His Spirit, to the right or to the left…like they followed the column of cloud or fire. I move when He moves. I do what He says.

In these places, it takes a lot of discipline to not focus on the darkness, to keep it outside of me, to not let it creep into my soul, but He is the light inside me. And in the light there is no darkness at all. As simple as I am, He disciplines and directs me with His rod and staff to keep my heart in the light of His presence, to fan the spark of His Spirit in me into flame by focusing on Him, by whispering with Him in the dark. Sometimes he lifts me up over the darkness. Sometimes He speaks and makes the darkness totally flee, and I can see further. Sometimes, I don’t know why, but He chooses for us to walk in shadow where we cannot see, through storms and sharp paths precipices, though dark, dangerous places instead of around or over them. But I only have to keep walking through it, focusing on walking right with my shepherd, the only goal sometimes being to simply arrive on the other side still following Him. He is my comforter beside me.

תַּעֲרֹ֬ךְ לְפָנַ֨י׀ שֻׁלְחָ֗ן נֶ֥גֶד צֹרְרָ֑י דִּשַּׁ֖נְתָּ בַשֶּׁ֥מֶן רֹ֝אשִׁ֗י כּוֹסִ֥י רְוָיָֽה׃

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

My promise is His presence. My hope is His promise to never leave me. I will not be afraid. I know who He is; what He is capable of. He is the “God of Angel Armies,” the “God of Comfort.” He can, at any point, call warriors on my behalf. He can hide me in plain sight. He can fight of all demonic accusers with one word. He can execute vengeance on principalities who taunt and persecute me. But even as He fights for me, for me He simply sets a table of delights. I feast on His word in blissful delight. It is the oil of the joy of His presence where I find sustaining power. And this bread of life and cup of the covenant fills me and satisfies me even in the middle of my enemies. He has more than I even need. It is extravagance, what He pours into me. I cannot even contain it…and still I ask for more! So my experience of an attack is a feast of delights? It seems strange, but this is trust. I just have to calm down, sit down, and focus on the delights of His table instead of the enemy. He is my peace and my joy when I am under attack.

תַּעֲרֹ֬ךְ לְפָנַ֨י׀ שֻׁלְחָ֗ן נֶ֥גֶד צֹרְרָ֑י דִּשַּׁ֖נְתָּ בַשֶּׁ֥מֶן רֹ֝אשִׁ֗י כּוֹסִ֥י רְוָיָֽה׃

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord– For All Time.

As surely as I follow Him, He sends goodness and mercy to follow me. So I am protected from the front and back. It’s an eternal arrangement. I am so safe with Him that I can have a confident hope for my future. It’s His presence that makes all this possible. And where else would I want to be? I would rather be a doorkeeper in His house than wear the robe of a king. I would rather be a slave in His kingdom than a king in my own kingdom. I would rather be a sheep and be with my shepherd forever. His presence is my treasure, everything I am hoping for.

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