"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?
"The Shepherd's Overflowing"
"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!
"Anointing of the Shepherd"
"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.
"Preparation 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?
"Drawn to the Shepherd"
"Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Psalm 23:4b
Next we come to the rod and staff of a shepherd. The shepherd would use their rod to count their sheep, search the wool for pestilence and also for discipline. They would also use them as a weapon to protect their sheep and themselves from predators. It was a means to keep their sheep from danger.
God’s Word is like that rod. God’s Word keeps us from sin when we are daily in His Word. It’s His spoken authority. Just as the shepherd uses it to discipline, count his sheep and to search for pestilence in their wool, God’s Word tells us that the Great Shepherd searches our heart. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24.
He desires to search us deep within, if only we will submit. He doesn’t need our permission to search, but He desires for us to trust Him for His care over us. Just as the shepherd has to get down deep in searching the wool for the pestilence, the Great Shepherd needs to get deep down at times to show us the sin in our lives and for us to confess it before Him. We can only do that by being in His Word and humble ourselves before Him.
We can be disobedient at times and just like the sheep want to do things their own way, so do we. The shepherd has to use that rod to control their sheep. God’s Word shows us our disobedience throughout His Word. Our hearts are desperately wicked and only He knows how wicked. He shows us through His Word but He also has the remedy. That remedy was the Great Shepherd, Himself coming down to earth, taking our sins upon His perfect, holy body and taking our punishment for us.
The rod is not only used to count the sheep, search their wool for pestilence, and for discipline, it is also used to protect the sheep and themselves from predators. When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness by Satan, each answer He gave Satan was from Scripture. When we are being tempted to sin, no matter what it is, God’s Word shows us the way out of the temptation. By memorizing Scripture, the Great Shepherd, brings His Word back to us when faced with the temptation of any sin. He is our protector and He is always there for us.
The next object the shepherd carries is the staff and it was used for the sheep ONLY and for their comfort. God has sent us His Holy Spirit as our Comforter. As shepherds used the staff to draw the sheep to themselves, the Holy Spirit draws us to a closer relationship with our Great Shepherd.
Just as the staff guides the sheep in the right direction so does the Holy Spirit guide us in our relationship with our Great Shepherd. He brings to light sin in our lives, He is an ever present comfort and guidance to us when going through difficult trials, decisions in our lives and even questions we may have. He points us to God’s Word and is guiding us in the right direction if we listen and pay attention to His leading.
In the painting, you will see the Bible opened to Psalm 23, representing the rod and the dove above, representing the Holy Spirit, the staff. The sheep below representing us and reminding us that both God’s Word and His Holy Spirit are our comfort. When going through difficulties or just in your everyday life are you Drawn to the Shepherd?
"Carried By the Shepherd"
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;" Psalm 23:4a
In a sheep's life, there are times when their shepherd will take them on a journey; a journey that will lead them through a valley that may seem rough, but their good shepherd is right beside them leading them through to the other side. If they keep their eyes on their shepherd while walking, he or she will guide them to the freshest, purest water and guide them through the scariest, dangerous spots on their path. If they decided that they do not want to go because it looks too hard, they would make things worse for themselves and for the other sheep with them. This is why they have to trust their shepherd, as he or she knows what is best. Their shepherd knows that on the other side of this valley is the higher plain where the richest, greenest pastures lie. In order to get there they have to go through the valley.
In our Christian walk, we will go through valleys in our lives. We can choose to fight, hide or walk hand in hand with our Great Shepherd. He knows what is best in order for us to get to the " higher plain" in our walk with Him. He knows where we can find refreshment along the way, He knows when we will need to be carried as we walk through the most difficult parts of the journey and once we arrive to where the "higher plain" is, we will have the sweetest fellowship with our Great Shepherd.
I know this journey all too well. I have learned to call these journeys "blessings", because when I am trusting His heart through the journey, that is when He shows me His heart and the blessings I receive are like the luscious, green pastures the sheep long for. Two of the journeys, valleys, the Great Shepherd took me and my family through was the deaths of our daughter and granddaughter. There are many more, but I think these two particular journeys, I truly needed to be carried at spots along the way, but then we would come to a spot of refreshment where someone was an encouragement to my family or I. At times it may have seemed dark and scary, but the fact I knew the Great Shepherd was holding my hand, leading each step of the way, I was able to come to the "higher plain" and have sweet fellowship with my Great Shepherd.
How can we face the trials that come our way? Well, we can learn to face them calmly with Christ. His gracious Spirit will guide us as we face them fearlessly. He reminds us in John 16:33, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." What a great reminder!
For us to reach a more intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father, we will have to go through these valleys/trials. What’s so amazing is, we are not going through it alone. The Great Shepherd is guiding us and even sometimes carrying us through those “valley of shadows”. He gives us great benefits and lasting gratitude from our valleys. We in turn are able to comfort others. It is in the valleys that we find strength and courage from our Great Shepherd. He guides and sustains us through our darkest times and our faith is renewed if we keep our eyes fixed on Him.
In the painting, you see Jesus, the Great Shepherd, carrying the sheep on His shoulders as He prepares to walk through the valley, but in the background you see light. Our Great Shepherd has no fear as He takes us through the valley, because He has been there Himself. His valley was the deepest and darkest valley there ever was and yet He went through it for us because He saw the LIGHT at the end! He is the best guide because He has walked the same path before and He knows how to comfort us. What better place to be than to be Carried by the Shepherd.
"Following the Shepherd's Path"
"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." Psalm 23.3b
Sheep are creatures of habit and left unattended will continue to follow the same path they have been on, not venturing out into new territory. When they constantly follow the same path daily, those paths start to produce ruts and parasites. A good shepherd will make sure that their sheep go on to new paths by going before them to find that good pasture and then leading them to it. When that shepherd opens the gate to a freshly green pasture, the sheep walk through with excitement. It’s a new territory that maybe they have never been to, but as long as their shepherd is with them, they feel safe and content to go.
As I have mentioned before, throughout Scripture, God points out that we are like sheep. Our behaviors and habits are a lot like sheep if we are honest with ourselves. Sheep can be very stubborn, proud, and self-willed. When I look at how sheep are, I realize that this can also describe me and any other human being. We are sinners after all. If that stubborn, self-willed sheep continues to go the way they want on the same path, they will end up on old paths that are polluted with parasites and will end up becoming sick and maybe even dying if they are not taken care of.
Our world is a fallen world, filled with a lot of pride, selfishness and greed, which leads to ruined lives and guilt. Just as a good shepherd will lead their sheep to a better pasture, we have the Great Shepherd who says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34. As Christians, many of us do not want to give up our “rights”, our own decisions…we just want to lead. Unfortunately, when we’re confronted with this, we simply deny it, saying that we are following the LORD, and this is what He wants. We go through the motions and think everything is alright in our relationship with the LORD, but only a few of us will relinquish our self-will and follow our Great Shepherd to unknown territory, trusting His heart along the way.
Christ made it apparent in Scripture that it is not going to be an easy path following Him. Instead of having an attitude of thinking about our wills, our desires and our wants; our attitude should be one of following our Great Shepherd to new territory. Trusting Him with each step we take as we discover new “pastures” and a new abundant life as we walk with Him. I then need to ask myself some questions?
Does Christ have first place in my life and are others before myself? When I was a kindergarten aide, I had the privilege of teaching Bible class to them. One thing I saw most of them struggle with is putting others before themselves. It’s our sinful nature to want ourselves to be first. It’s called PRIDE. As I saw them struggling with this, I was reminded of something that was told to me many years earlier and I had tried teaching it to my own children, now to these kindergartners. It was the word JOY! Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last. Once we have discovered the joy of doing things for others, that’s when we have started to go through one of those “gates” of God’s green pastures.
Am I willing to not be a part of the group?
It’s natural for us to want to fit in, to belong. We still want to have our own individuality, but we want to be accepted. As children of God, Christ followers, we bear the mark of belonging to Him. Unfortunately, that also comes with being criticized and mocked from a society that wants no part of Him. In Scripture, we are reminded of the passage that says, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:” (Isaiah 53:3A). Just as He was then, so is He now. We may be called on to help those that are suffering. It may be to show compassion to a homeless person, inviting them to church, taking them out to dinner afterwards, being there for them if needed, or maybe visiting a shut-in who just needs some fellowship and encouragement. Maybe you might be called to go visit those in jail, to share the gospel with them or help them to grow in their relationship with Christ. Is it easy to do any of that?
Probably NOT! Does it take us out of our comfort zone? Probably YES! It may interfere with your plans, but maybe the LORD wants to take you into a green pasture that you have never been before. It may be a little scary, but remember, the Great Shepherd will never take you into a new pasture without going before you to make sure it’s right for you and then staying with you while you are there.
Am I willing to let go of my rights, in favor of others?
In other words, am I willing to take the backseat and allow others to be in the forefront? Again it is natural for most of us to want to be in the lime light. The only thing is God calls that pride. When we willingly let go of our rights, deny ourselves like Scripture says, we are free from the personal bonds of pride. We are contented in Christ alone, not in what others want or see.
Am I willing to be second instead of being in charge?
When our desires are simply to please God and other people, we don’t have to deal with hurt feelings or how things affect us. We have found a place of restfulness and contentment knowing that our personal life is in our Great Shepherd’s hands. Each day is as if we are in a new fresh field of green grass. The fact that we put others before ourselves, allows us to freely be there for others.
Am I willing to accept life’s trials with a heart of thankfulness?
This is a hard one! How can I have a heart of thankfulness, when I have lost a child or a grandchild through death? How can I have a heart of thankfulness when I see a loved one go through cancer then die, or having a child deal with a deadly illness? There are so many other circumstances in life that would be hard to have a thankful heart. Again we are reminded in Scripture to be thankful in all things. Not just when we are going through great times, but in EVERYTHING! In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, it says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”. The LORD has allowed my family and I to go through many trials, but I know there are many other people that have gone through so much more than we have. One thing that has helped me to have a thankful heart through my trials is a little saying I read one time and have never forgotten. On those days when I do not have or want to have a thankful heart, the Great Shepherd gently reminds me of this saying, “When you can’t see God’s hand, TRUST His heart!” If my Savior could trust His Father’s heart as He went to Calvary to take our sins upon Himself, then I can absolutely trust this same Father’s heart with my life’s trials. For us to know this is to step into a large area of green pasture with a spirit of quietness, strength and most definitely peace.
Am I willing to be broken to God’s will?
When we allow our will to be broken to God’s will, it’s the beginning of a revival in our hearts. It may be painful and humiliating, but it is the only way for us to let go of our own will. It is taking the letter “I” and bending it to the letter “C”. Not our will but Christ’s!
Finally, am I willing to follow Christ, the Great Shepherd?
Basically, this means that I am to obey Him. I’m to go where He leads and do what He wants. He tells us in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” When we decide to do what God asks of us, we are following Christ. If you notice the shadow in the painting, it is of a cross. Only Christ, the Great Shepherd can lead us to the right pasture and it is because of the cross that we can truly be “Following the Shepherd’s Path”!
"In the Shepherd's Arms"
"He restoreth my soul:" Psalm 23:3a
Each painting or drawing the LORD has me do, tells the story that He wants told. When I was thinking about this particular verse, I wondered how was I going to illustrate a soul being restored?
Even as a child of God, we go through trials and difficulties in our walk with Him. In Psalm 42:11 it says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Hope is a key word here.
Sheep are very dependent on their shepherd. No wonder throughout Scripture, God is constantly referring to us as being His sheep and He as the Great Shepherd. There are so many parallels between our relationship to Christ and a sheep’s relationship to their shepherd. God desires us to be as dependent on Him as sheep are with their shepherd.
When David says in the beginning of verse 3, that “He restoreth my soul:”, what was he referring to? He was a man after God’s own heart, so why would he need to have his soul restored? David went through a lot before he became the King of Israel. King Saul wanted him killed, so most of the time before he became king, David ran for his life. Sometimes I have wondered if he thought that God made a mistake wanting him to be the next king. After all, he was just a shepherd boy when God had the Prophet Samuel anoint him to be king. God doesn’t make mistakes though, He always has a plan.
I am sure there were times when David was not only physically tired but emotionally also. That’s where this verse comes in. David knew He could trust God to restore his soul. Maybe it reminded him of the times when he was in the field taking care of the sheep and a sheep became cast down. When a sheep is cast down it refers to when they lay down and depending where they lay or how big they are, the sheep could easily end up on their back. When this happens, the sheep will struggle and not be able to roll back over onto their feet.
What would happen next became very dangerous for the sheep. Gases would build up in the first part of their stomach and would cut off the blood circulation to their legs. If the weather was cool or rainy, the sheep could survive for several days in this position before they would die; but if it was hot or sunny they could die in just a couple of hours. This is where the shepherd had to be attentive in keeping their eyes on their sheep.
I am sure David had to tend to many of his sheep being cast down when he was a shepherd. They were helpless and unless he, the shepherd, came in a timely manner, they would die. Predators knew that also and would wait until the sheep became weak and then they were easy prey. The sheep had to trust David to come to their aide and put them upright. Once he did that, he couldn’t just go on his way and leave the sheep. He had to stay close to that sheep and massage their legs until they had the strength to stand on their own and walk with no problems or maybe he would have had to hold the smaller ones close to him until their strength was restored.
As Christians, we can become “cast down” in our daily lives. When going through the various trials in our lives, we become weak and can’t “move”. That’s when the “predator”, Satan, watches for just the right moment to come in for the “kill”. We have a Great Shepherd who watches over us. As we go through the various trials in our lives, He is right there with us. Now, we can allow Him to pick us up, “massage our legs” to bring strength back or we can turn our backs on Him or fight Him as He tries to give us strength.
As our Great Shepherd, He wants to hold us close to the point that we can feel His heart beating up against us. When my husband holds me close to him, when I’ve been upset or worried about something, it encourages my heart to feel and hear his heart beating as he holds me close. I feel safe and protected. How much more encouraging is it when we allow our Great Shepherd to do that with us.
There are three different ways that a sheep can become cast down. The first reason is where they decide to lay down. Although a soft place may seem the best place to lie down and rest, it could also be the place that will cause the sheep to be cast down. If a sheep lies down in a soft, hollow spot; it will cause them to roll on their backs and become cast down. As a child of God, many times we look for the easy way of life. Who truly wants to go through hardship? It is only after we have gone through the hardship and trials with our eyes fixed on our Great Shepherd that we avoid the soft, comfy spots in our lives. We realize that they only give a false sense of stability when in actuality; they can cause us to be “cast down”.
The second reason for a sheep to be cast down is their wool. If they have too much wool, it will cause them to become weighed down by it. The shepherd will then have to go through the process of shearing them. Of course, the sheep does not like to be sheared and this will cause a lot of work for the shepherd. The shepherd knows that the end result will be good for the sheep even though the sheep may think otherwise.
In Scripture, wool represented an outward expression of an inner attitude; in other words, pride and selfishness. When we find ourselves clinging to possessions, worldly ideas and putting our wants before seeking God’s will, just like the abundance of wool on a sheep, we too can be cast down when we seek our ways over God’s ways. He then has to come in and “shear” us of our “wool”. He does this by applying His Word to our lives. He may use a godly friend, family member or even a pastor to speak truth to us. It may hurt and if we fight too much, it may cause some “cuts and scratches”. At the end, though, there is restoration.
Finally, there is a third way that a sheep may be cast down and that is by being fat. Their weight makes it harder for them to be surefooted and eventually when they lie down, they end up on their backs. When a shepherd realizes that the sheep is cast down due to weight, then the sheep is put on a strict ration of less grain. The sheep is then watched by the shepherd more closely. The goal is to have an energetic, strong sheep instead of a fat, weak sheep.
We as Christians can face the same “fat”. It comes by way of feeling like we have accomplished much in our lives. Pride is our “fat” and when we are the most sure of ourselves, that is when we will fall and be “cast down”. God tells us in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (KJV). Another word for haughty spirit is a proud, snobby spirit. Not only is our Great Shepherd telling us our pride goes before destruction but if we have a proud, snobbish spirit, an attitude of thinking we are better than others then He will chastise us. Hebrews 12:6-7 says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”. Even though this may seem tough and hard to go through, we have to remember that He truly loves us as He disciplines us but yet He is so merciful at the same time.
One thing to remember in all of this, whether through a trial or chastisement, the Great Shepherd knows what He is doing and He knows what is best for each of us. With knowing this we can truly rest in His arms and know that He will restore our souls. I painted a lamb which represents us in our Savior's arms; what better place is there to be, than In the Shepherd’s Arms and that is where we find our HOPE !
"Thirsting After the Shepherd"
"He leadeth me beside the still waters." Psalm 23:2b
Thirst is a basic need for all people and animals alike. Have you ever had a day where you were so thirsty you just had to have a drink of water and nothing else would satisfy. We have many drink options but nothing can satisfy us more than water. There is a reason for that: our body is composed of about 60% water. By drinking water, we help different functions in our body to do what God created them to do.
Just like us, the sheep's body is composed of 70% water on average. The fluid helps to maintain their normal body metabolism. The water is also essential in helping with their general health and well-being, along with determining their strength, vitality and vigor. When their water supply drops off, dehydration sets in causing serious damage to their tissues. They can become weak. Thirst indicates the need to have the water replenished in their body, just like with us.
When sheep are thirsty, they become restless and start to go looking for water. If they are not led to pure, clean water; they will drink from dirty water holes where they can pick up parasites or other diseased germs. In regards to our spiritual thirst, Our Great Shepherd mentioned throughout Scripture that we can only be fully satisfied when our thirst for spiritual life is being quenched when we draw unto Him. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Matthew 5:6
When Jesus said in John 7:37b, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."; He was implying that a person needs to accept and take in the very life of Christ to the point that it becomes a part of that person. We need to have a thirst for God and that thirst can be satisfied through the pure, clean water from the Word of God.
So what did David mean when he said, "He leadeth me beside the still waters.", in verse 2b of Psalm 23? As a shepherd, David knew how important it was for his sheep to drink from the pure, clean water, which would come from the dew on the grass, deep wells and the streams. The dew from the grass was pure and clean, but in order to drink from that, the sheep would have to rise early when the dew first would appear as that was when it was the heaviest. When they would drink from the pure, clean water, their thirst was satisfied and they were able to be content and rest.
When a child of God rises early and starts their day off with the pure, clean water of God's Word, they too find themselves content and rested, confident to face whatever circumstance may come their way. I like to sleep, and so at times, I find it very hard to rise early to drink in the pure, clean water of my Great Shepherd's well. I then find myself at times "drinking" from other things, although they may be good, they are not as pure as the Word of God itself.
As I started writing this devotional for this painting, I didn't know where this was going to take me. I was continually asking the LORD to write through me and to show me what He wanted me to learn from it. I feel that not only did He write through me, but more importantly, He showed me that I need to rise early so that I too, may drink from that pure, clean dew that is waiting for me to take in. What better way to start my day, than to "drink" from the purest of water there is.
As you look at this painting, you can see the sheep's reflection in the water. It shows that the water is clean. As we look in our "water's" reflection, may we not see our image, but the Great Shepherd's instead. We need to be thirsting after the Shepherd for that is where we will find true rest!
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.