"And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." Psalm 23:6B
In the beginning of Psalm 23, we learned that the LORD was our Shepherd and that He is all we need. Through these devotionals we have also learned about the life of the sheep during a full year of their lives and how important a good shepherd is. Now, we have come to the end of this beloved Psalm and what wonderful truths are there still to grasp.
Throughout the sheep’s life, if they have a good shepherd, they have learned to be content in the shepherd’s care. They go from the farm in the spring, through the mountain pass to enjoy the rich pasture of the tablelands for the summer. When autumn hits with its storms of rain and sleet, they head back down to their home at the farm and stay through winter. In all of this, their shepherd has taken good care of them and they have learned to trust him with his care and are contented.
We too, can find contentment in our Great Shepherd and David knew this as he wrote this Psalm. As a shepherd himself, he knew what contentment meant for the sheep as he took such great care of his father’s flock. He knew how dependent they were on him and how dependent we need to be in our Great Shepherd.
When a sheep has a good shepherd, not only are they contented but they feel safe and loved. Throughout the year, they have seen their shepherd provide for their nourishment and safety as they traveled to the tableland for the summer. They have seen their shepherd protect them from harm of predators, poisonous plants, bad water and the weather.
Our Great Shepherd provides all of that for us, as His sheep. We know that we can be contented in His care for us as we read His Word, the Bible. He shows us His love, through what He did for us at Calvary. Throughout His Word we see Him providing for our needs, and we are safe in His care.
Unfortunately, there are sheep who have a bad shepherd caring for them and they desire to have what a good shepherd provides for their sheep. If they are able to escape their bad shepherd and sneak over to the good shepherd’s field, they think everything will be fine. The problem is they also bring their parasites and diseases with them. As much as the good shepherd would love to take care of them, he can only allow them to be a part of his flock when they go through the right “gate”. They can’t sneak in. They have to be cleansed of their parasites and diseases. They need to belong to the good shepherd.
The same goes for us as people. Satan is the bad shepherd. He has no care for the people of this world. He does not care for their souls nor does he care about their welfare. He only cares for himself. As a result there are so many wandering around thinking they have the right answers to their destiny but instead they are malnourished and dying of the diseased called SIN.
Many try to sneak over to the Great Shepherd’s pasture because they long to belong. The sad thing is, they try to enter their own way. There is only one way to be a part of this Great Shepherd’s flock and that is through the Great Shepherd, Himself. Jesus boldly said, “I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9
When people see me, do they see the Great Shepherd exhibited in my life? Do they envy what I have and desire to have it also? Am I exhibiting a life of total trust in my Great Shepherd, that I exhibit a life of peace and contentment? Does my life and words glorify His character? If the answer to those questions is yes, then what am I doing with it? What am I doing to insure that others will someday dwell in the house of the LORD forever?
As I thought about what I would be painting, this picture came to my mind as I thought about being with my Great Shepherd for all eternity. In the painting, you see Jesus, the Great Shepherd, holding a lamb close to His chest and the lamb’s head lifted up, snuggling close to its Shepherd. That lamb represents those of us who have placed our faith and trust in the LORD Jesus Christ. When my children were little, they loved being held and as they would snuggle close, I would look down, just like the Great Shepherd is doing here in this painting. There would be times, which they would lift their heads up and had such contentment on their face, just like this little lamb. They felt safe and loved, which is what our Great Shepherd desires for us. As you look at the scars on the hands of Jesus, it is a reminder of how He paid the price, so that we could be with Him for eternity. The red rope tied around His waist, represents His blood that was shed for our sins. He wants us to have sweet fellowship with Him, to know Him and that is only possible through His death and resurrection.
I looked up what the Hebrew meaning for “house” was in regards to this passage, and it means dwelling place with family. What a thought! We, who belong to the Great Shepherd, will be with Him forever. Can you imagine living In the Shepherd's Presence for Eternity? What a day that will be!
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:" Psalm 23:6a
While studying Psalm 23, we have learned a lot about sheep and their character. We also have seen how much their character reflects our own character at times which is humbling when we realize that. In this passage of Scripture, David reminds us of our Great Shepherd’s character. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,…”
I looked up what “goodness” and “mercy” mean in the dictionary. GOODNESS means VIRTUE and MERCY means COMPASSION. These are excellent descriptions of our Great Shepherd’s character. Being God, He is holy, perfect and good. He showed His great mercy when He came to earth to die for our sins on that despicable, beautiful cross. He showed His great compassion for us as He took upon Himself ALL our sin that was ever committed, past, present and future. That’s where the beauty comes from the cross as He became our Redeemer. The fact that our Great Shepherd is God, Himself in the flesh, showed His virtue when He humbled Himself to be our Redeemer. He showed His compassion by the same act of dying on that cross for our sins, NOT His as He has NO sin.
We say that God is good all the time, but do we say that when we are going through trying times. Do we say that when we are standing at the graveside of our child. Is God still good? What about when you have lost everything and you think you can go on no longer? Is He still good when you watch a love one die as their body is ravaged by cancer or because of the negligence of someone else? YES, He is still good. Romans 8:28 reminds us of this, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” This is why we can have the confidence that He truly does care for us.
As I think of all the times the LORD led me down paths that seemed dreary or confusing, it was during those times that I have seen His true character of goodness and mercy. There were great benefits of drawing closer to Him. Of course, there were times, I wondered if He truly did care for me or if He had forgotten me. I am so thankful that He does not give up on us. He is so patient, another wonderful character trait of Him. He picks me up and His goodness and mercy are right there for the journey. No matter what chaos has come into my life, I have learned that He still carries me through them and I eventually see His goodness and mercy shine through. Every day finds His goodness and compassion new. They never get old. What a comfort to know that He will never leave us or forsake us and will guide us in the right direction.
The sheep know when they have a good shepherd or not. When sheep are left to their own devices, they can cause havoc to the property, but when they have a good, caring shepherd, that shepherd will lead them to where they need to feed and guide them throughout their journey in life. These sheep are very beneficial if they are managed well. Their manure is the best balanced than any other domestic livestock and are one of the few livestock that will feed on a wide variety of vegetation. The fact that their shepherd manages them in a loving, caring way, they in turn follow their shepherd as he leads them in the right direction also leaving behind great fertilization for the pasture.
Do I leave behind me His goodness and mercy? Do people see virtue and compassion or do they see selfishness and pride in my life? Do I leave peace or chaos? Do I leave contentment or worry? Do I show forgiveness or bitterness? Do I have joy or frustration? Do I show love or discord? Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”
In the painting, I have the Great Shepherd carrying a small lamb on His shoulders which represents those of us who have put our faith and trust in Him. On the lamb’s ear, you will see a small cross to represent that we belong to Him, His marking. There are two larger sheep following the Great Shepherd in the shadow of the cross and they represent “Goodness” and “Mercy”. I want so much to have His goodness and mercy following me. I want my legacy to reflect His virtue and compassion. I want to “Follow the Shepherd’s Character”! What are you following?
"My cup runneth over." Psalm 23:5c
Autumn time finds the shepherd bringing their sheep back home from the tablelands that they enjoyed during the summer. The weather is changing but there are times when there are warmer temperatures and the sheep are free from the flies and pestilence that plagued them during the summer months. It is during this time the sheep are the most fit and strongest.
During the same time unexpected blizzards can arise and the shepherd has to be prepared to keep a close eye on his sheep to keep them protected from the storms. At times the ewe or lamb will become cold from the storm as they do not have a thick wool coat yet. If they become chilled they are not able to move and the shepherd will have a mixture of brandy and water to give a few teaspoons to their sheep. Once this is given, the sheep are back on their feet and full of energy. It is important for the alert shepherd to be there during the storm to find the frozen sheep before it is too late. Even through the storm, the sheep are able to find contentment as long as their shepherd is there protecting and guiding them through the storm.
What a comforting thought, knowing that our Great Shepherd walks with us through the storms in our lives. When we are worn, “frozen” and feel like we cannot take one more step, He is right there giving us the cup of His Holy Spirit to give us that strength, warmth and comfort that can only come from Him.
As children of the Great Shepherd we are given the “cup of contentment” through the Holy Spirit. Christ abundantly fills us to overflowing. Whether it is through times where we have no trial or through those times when our cup of suffering seems to be overflowing, the Holy Spirit is there to fill us to abundance. Even through the storms in our lives, we can find contentment knowing that our Great Shepherd will fill us to over abundance with the Holy Spirit and all we have to do is ask. We are reminded of this in Luke 11:13 which says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
This is a beautiful picture of what our Great Shepherd did for us at Calvary. He poured out His very life blood through His cup of suffering. He is there with us through every storm because He has been through the storm of suffering before us. He knows what we are going through so He is alert to every approaching storm coming our way. Isaiah 53:3-5 says, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed”.
No matter what storm in our life that we will face, we can rest assure that His very life, strength and vitality is poured into us. When we allow the Great Shepherd to fill us to overflowing it is through those storms that we see His great blessings and others see Him through us by our testimony.
In this painting, you see the Great Shepherd pouring an over abundance of the Holy Spirit into the sheep’s mouth. The cup is a simple, humble cup to represent Christ coming to be our Savior, not as a King but as a humble Servant. On the cup is the dove to represent the Holy Spirit. This is what I think of when we have the Shepherd’s Overflowing
of His Holy Spirit. What a wonderful thing to be filled to overflowing!
"Thou anointest my head with oil;" Psalm 23:5b
Summertime for sheep means flies and pestilence. These nasty flies will cause havoc with the sheep as they try to lay their eggs in the moistness of the sheep’s nose. The sheep will become erratic by stamping their feet and running around trying to get away from the flies. If left untreated, a sheep could become blind or even try to kill itself. A good shepherd keeps a close watch on their sheep and when they see their sheep acting this way will mix up an ointment which may consist of linseed oil, sulfur and tar and apply it to their head and nose. Once the shepherd does this, the sheep immediately become calm, and content which allows them to rest.
This reminds me of our walk in Christ. We are plagued with different irritations in our lives as we live in a fallen world. When we start focusing on the irritation instead of focusing on Christ, we allow it to affect our walk with Him. Maybe someone has hurt us either by an action they have done toward us or they have said an unkind word. Are we willing to forgive right away or do we hold unto it and allow bitterness to set in. When we allow bitterness to creep in instead of forgiveness, it will eventually affect our walk with Him. Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”, so if He can forgive us then shouldn’t we forgive others?
There are times when these irritations plague us throughout the day and even into the night and we are not able to rest. By giving each of these worries, frustrations, and trials over to the Great Shepherd, He comes and covers us with His ointment of the Holy Spirit and we are able to rest and have contentment knowing that He is in control and watching over us.
Another thing that the sheep deal with in the summertime heading into the autumn season is the battle between the rams for possession of the ewes. These rams will strut proudly around the pasture and furiously fight any other ram for the affection of the ewes. They will butt each other’s heads so hard that it can actually hurt, maim or even cause death. Knowing this, the shepherd will catch his rams and then smear grease on their heads. By doing this when the rams would try to butt heads, they would slide off of each other’s heads instead.
There are times in our Christian walk, where we can be “knocking each other around”. Maybe we don’t see eye to eye with someone and try to push our ideas on to the other person, like trying to be the head ram. This has caused many hurts in the church to the point that some will not even step foot in a church.
To prevent that from happening, our Great Shepherd comes and applies His precious ointment of His gracious Spirit in our lives. When we allow the Holy Spirit to invade our lives, take control of it, the attributes of love, peace, joy, patience and being generous is seen in our lives. When this happens, a contentment that comes from Him settles in our lives. We should be known as the most restful, contented people when we are the sheep of the Great Shepherd.
In the painting, you see Jesus pouring the ointment onto the sheep’s head and on the jar is the cross representing Christ dying for us and a dove representing the Holy Spirit indwelling within us. The jar is painted red to represent Christ’s blood that was shed for us. By accepting God’s gift of salvation, we have experienced the Anointing of the Shepherd.
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:" Psalm 23:5a
When David wrote in this Psalm that “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies:”, as a shepherd himself, he knew what that entailed. Shepherds would go ahead of their sheep during the springtime and prepare the pasture in the high mountain country of the summer ranges which were called the alpands or tablelands. They would make sure that there were no poisonous plants, it was free from pestilence and that there was good water to drink which was free of debris. Once they were there he would not leave the sheep as they needed protection from any predators that would come.
As the shepherd would come across any harmful or poisonous plants, he would pull them out, preventing the sheep from getting a hold of any to eat when they arrived. They would also prepare the pasture to prevent pestilence from being around. We in our foolishness, will “eat” things that can destroy us. In other words, “eating” is what we put in our minds. It could be what we read, watch on the media including the internet. It could even be what we listen to including what others may say about someone else that is not edifying. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
The Great Shepherd goes before us, praying for us. Scripture reminds us in Romans 8:34, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” That humbles my heart knowing that my Savior, the Great Shepherd, is praying for me!
The next thing a shepherd does in preparation for his sheep, is to clear out waterholes, springs and drinking places of any debris. He wants to make sure the water is safe for his sheep to drink. Our Great Shepherd has gone before us also, and knows every situation we may experience and has made a way of escape so that we can experience the mountain top experience with Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and shows us how we can escape the temptation of sin.
Finally, the shepherd will keep an eye out for predators while the sheep are out in the open and are easy prey. The sheep that stay close to the shepherd are more protected and not easily taken as those that are further away. Jesus, our Great Shepherd, wants to protect us also, as Satan seeks to devour us. We need to stay close to Him by reading God’s Word daily, talking to Him in prayer, and allow Him to converse with us through the Holy Spirit.
In this painting, I painted Jesus sitting there watching over “us”, His sheep. He prepared the “tableland” by coming to die for our sins and rising on the third day. That is why I have the hill of Golgotha and the empty tomb in the background. The sheep in the painting are all content and resting as they know their Great Shepherd is there taking care of them, as He had prepared the way for them. Are you contented and at rest? Remember, He paid the price so you can find rest in Him. The one sheep that is at His feet, represents those of us, who desire to be in His Word daily, talking to Him in prayer and allowing the Holy Spirit to converse with us. I am so thankful for the Preparation of the Shepherd. Where are you resting in the pasture of life? Are you close to the Great Shepherd, or are you wandering around to see what the world has to offer?
In this special blog series, I painted Psalm 23 verse by verse, personalizing the verses from a sheep's devotion to their Great Shepherd. Each picture is painted on a roof slate with acrylic paint. There are a total of 12 blogs when completed.