October 11, 2017
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“But my eyes are toward You, O God the Lord; in You do I trust and take refuge; pour not out my life nor leave it destitute and bare.”
Psalm 141: 8
“The child leans on its parent’s breast,
Leaves there its cares, and is at rest:
The bird sits singing by its nest,
And tells aloud
His trust in God! And so is blest
Beneath every cloud.
He hath no store, he sows no seed,
Yet sings aloud, and doth no need;
By flowing steams or grassy mead,
He sings to shame
Men, who forget, in fear of need,
There Father’s name.
The heart that trusts forever sings,
And feels as light as it had wings;
A well of peace within it springs;
Come good or ill,
Whatever today, tomorrow, brings,
It is His will.”
Today’s Study Text:
“He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40: 11
Psalm 23: Part 31
“Why This Little Lamb Needs Her Shepherd”
“Where Thou art guide no ill can come.”
Why do I believe I need my Shepherd?
As a “lamb” of my heavenly Shepherd, in what ways have I witnessed my “Leader’s” guidance along my path?
“Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine;
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since, ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.”
Joseph H. Gilmore
“I grasp and cling to whatever You tell me; God don’t let me down! I’ll run the course You lay out for me if you’ll just show me how.”
Psalm 119: 31, 32
The Message Bible
During the past few weeks, I’ve found myself seeking quiet times of reflection more often than usual. This hasn’t surprised me since both my dear father and I celebrated our birthdays in the month of August. Because of this fact, during the over 25 years since he died suddenly, I’ve felt that half of my birthday celebration was missing.
Every August 31st, my dad’s birth date, I always think about the qualities in my father’s life which made his presence unforgettable. If there is one feature that in my mind was like a neon sign blinking over my dad’s head, it was his faithful commitment to God. In fact, just two weeks before he died suddenly, we were able to spend time together and my father made this statement: “Dorothy-girl, I have been far from perfect and made many mistakes in my life. But one thing I can tell ‘my Maker’ is that when He placed His hand on me and called me to serve Him, I obeyed and no matter the challenge, I never wavered from my promise to follow Him and never let go.”
I think it would be easy for you to understand why the words penned by David in Psalm 23 resonate so loudly with me – for they never cease to be a Biblical repetition of my dad’s sentiment. Psalm 23 could be called the “Followers Psalm” for in graphic language David eloquently portrays not only the special tasks of a shepherd, but he also highlights the way sheep so desperately need a well-trained guide to get them from point “A” to point “B” or from life to death, or from earth to heaven. As we have studied the benefits and blessings which come upon our lives when we make the choice to follow our Shepherd, it has opened my eyes wider to the great need this little lamb has for her Shepherd.
Simply put, I have found in myself some qualities which mirror those found in sheep. And unfortunately, it is some of these traits which have caused me to stumble and fall. It is also why I have been caught blindly following other sheep right over a cliff that could cause spiritual death. Yes, without a doubt, I really need my Shepherd.
This is why, for the next three days I want to take time to not only study specific reasons, “Dorothy” needs her Shepherd, but I also want to look at how Jesus said we can identify our “Good Shepherd” as He calls Himself.
For today, I want to share some personal thoughts on why I need my Shepherd. And I believe that you may well be able to identify with what I’m going to relate to you. Interestingly, it is what I call “real-life” where I’ve been able to distinguish circumstances where I desperately find that my life skills are not adequate guides in getting and keeping me on my heavenly Shepherd’s pathway. For in my daily living, as in most likely yours, I frequently find myself in one of two positions. Either I’m in a time of confusion and discouragement, tried by hardship and pain or I find myself in a field of clover with every thing apparently going my way. As I’ve reviewed my own life, there haven’t been too many in-betweens where nothing is too bad and nothing is too good. I just haven’t had very many days that things are “ho-hum!” Most of my life has been divided by days of rejoicing and days of struggle. This fact has lead me to come to what I consider to be a vital conclusion: it is equally important to have my Shepherd-guide leading me in good times as well as bad.
There seems to be no better example of this benefit of having my Shepherd at my side at all times than in the Biblical record of King Solomon – David’s son. In 1 Kings 3, as the young Solomon came to the throne of Israel, we are told that, “In Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night. And God said, ‘Ask what I shall give you’” (1 Kings 3: 5, Amplified Bible). Right at the beginning of Solomon’s reign, his Shepherd came to him as a personal leader and guide, offering His services to the inexperienced king. In words I find so instructive, Solomon showed his wisdom by telling God, “Give, Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge and rule this Your great people” (1 Kings 3: 9, Amplified Bible). This response is one that I know I’d do well praying every day: “Give Dorothy an understanding mind and a hearing heart…that I may discern between good and bad.” Bombarded as we all are by the challenges we confront each day, don’t you believe this request would benefit your life as well?
In case you were wondering, the first years of King Solomon’s leadership are a testament to one tremendous success piled upon another. By the time we get to the end of 1 Kings 4, the Bible tells us that, “Men (and women – think Queen of Sheba!) came from all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom” (1 Kings 4: 34, Amplified bible). It was at this point in time that Solomon undertook the building of a Temple where the God of heaven and earth would be worshipped. 1 Kings 5-8 contains the detailed record of this building project – a House for the Lord. I’m not jumping to a conclusion when I tell you those were wonderful years in Solomon’s life. Everything was going great, at least that’s the way it seemed from outward appearance. God even appeared a second time to King Solomon with the promise to “establish your royal throne over Israel forever” (1 Kings 9: 5, Amplified Bible). But if we go back one verse, we uncover these words from God: “If you (Solomon) will walk before Me…in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all I have commanded you, keeping My statues and My precepts then I will establish you.” If we look at the Hebrew translation for the word “command” it means “to put in order for you” or as I like to recall the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29: 11, N.I.V.). A perfectly ordered life which contained all the Shepherd’s plans. Now that’s truly a wonderful life!
God was telling Solomon, “If you will, let me guide you and walk with you, shepherding every step of your way, you’ll meet with heavenly success that will bring glory to God.
But as too often happens, with time the human achievements began to overcome the heart and mind Solomon had for his heavenly Father. The wonder and wealth became an idol unto himself. If we dig a little deeper into 1 Kings, we find in 1 Kings 7: 1 that while Solomon was building God’s house, he also undertook to build himself a house – “Solomon was building his own home thirteen years.” Now I’ve heard of some big housing projects, but this really exceeds them all. While I’m not critical of Solomon’s project for himself, in my own life I’ve found that it is very easy to say, “I’m doing so much for God, there’s nothing wrong with doing something for myself is there?” Solomon certainly needed a place for all the children and wives he collected as trophies of his wealth. Sadly, by 1 Kings 11: 1, we’re told, “But King Solomon defiantly loved many foreign women – the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites.” Evidently, if Solomon saw a woman he liked, he took her until the Bible says he had “700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines.”
Now for a moment let’s picture our Shepherd leading His son, King Solomon, on his journey to his eternal home. During immense prosperity as Solomon proceeded on his life-journey, God was right by his side, guiding and giving. Blessing after blessing was showered upon Solomon. So Solomon decided a few detours off God’s path didn’t matter. But as the Bible records: “His wives tuned away his heart from God, for when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not complete and whole with the Lord” (1 Kings 11: 3,4, Amplified Bible).
By the end of Solomon’s life, he wasn’t on God’s path for he chose to guide himself. And this brought me to the revelation that when going through those dark times in my own life, I have found myself at my Father’s throne of grace much more frequently than when everything is smooth sailing. This begs the question, “Wouldn’t we be better off keeping close to our Shepherd at all times?”
This for me is what David is telling us in Psalm 23. And it leads me to share this “little lamb’s” translation of Psalm 23:
“My Shepherd feeds, protects and leads me. I don’t lack anything. I lie in peace in a meadow by a refreshing stream. What’s more, my Shepherd guides me into the right trails that match His plans for my life. When I’m in the dark and don’t know what to do, He’s right by me step-for-step, comforting me with His presence. Even my foes shake their heads in unbelief as they watch my Shepherd guide me through the worst the devil can throw at me. But what’s best is that my Shepherd promises to make certain that His path will get me home. That’s for sure!”
My Shepherd knows the way from earth to heaven and as long as I follow Him, I won’t have to worry for one moment if I’ll make it home at last. Praise God!
“Lord, You lead us by ways we do not know, through joy and sorrow, through victory and defeat, beyond our understanding. Give us faith to see Your guiding hand in all things; that being neither lifted up by seeming success, nor cast down by seeming failure, we may press forward wherever You lead, to the glory of Your name.”
“Lord, Thy word abideth,
And our footsteps guideth,
Who its truth believeth
Light and joy receiveth.”
Henry Williams Baker
Lead Me, Lord
“Lead me, Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness;
Make Thy way plain before my face,
For it is Thou, Lord,
Thou Lord, only that makest me dwell in safety.”
Hymn by Samuel S. Wesley
“You have put more joy and rejoicing in my heart than they know…for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust.”
Psalm 4: 8
“If I have done anything in my life, it has been because the Master has gone before.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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