When Isaiah the prophet lamented that “All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own” (Isa. 53:6), it was not a compliment to be compared to sheep. Sheep have an infuriating tendency to wander and, not infrequently, to end up in deep trouble. Men have the same tendency. But not all sheep wander. Some seem to find an antidote to their restlessness—they settle down with a watchful shepherd. That is precisely what men need as well.
David, as we know, was no stranger to sheep. He spent many long and lonely hours shepherding on the hills surrounding Bethlehem, guarding against lions and bears and leading his charges to water and pasture. The simple words of David’s most famous psalm capture the beauty of a sheep’s life under the gracious care of a shepherd—or more accurately, the splendor of a man’s life lived under the shepherding of the Lord.
The ability to say “I have everything I need” (23:1) is a rarity in today’s consumer-oriented society. We are bombarded by skillfully-directed advertising that plays on our innermost fears and longings and blurs the distinction between needs and wants, necessities and luxuries. It is becoming harder to find “rest in green meadows” and peace “beside peaceful streams“ (23:2). Men are fighting the rush of modern life in the concrete jungle.
The man who can testify truthfully “The Lord is my shepherd” (23:1) can also speak of how this fundamental truth has made an impact on his life. And not just occasionally, but “all the days of [his] life” (23:6). To know the place where “strength” can be renewed and guidance along “right paths” (23:3) can be found is to be assured and encouraged in the midst of modern uncertainty. A man can have this confidence even when called upon by life’s vicissitudes to “walk through the dark valley” (23:4) and to live “in the presence of [one’s] enemies” (23:5). When the Lord is our shepherd, he gives the grace “not [to] be afraid” and to testify, “My cup overflows with blessings” (23:4-5). To experience this is to live at a level not known by many a man.
Should it be objected that all this sounds too good to be true, the response must be—it is! That is, unless the Lord is shepherding. Then his “goodness and unfailing love” (23:6) will pursue even the potentially wayward sheep, like divinely directed sheepdogs.
And that is not the end of it. When “all the days of [his] life” are over, the well-shepherded man will “live in the house of the Lord forever” (23:6). What a way to go!
For Further Study: Psalm 23
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
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