Pastor Ken Fischer
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
(First Person - a sheep speaks)
Baaaaaaah! Baaaaaaaaah! Baaaah!
Isn’t not easy being a sheep! Do you know how difficult it is for us sheep to make it through life? Wandering here. Waiting there. The heat. The cold. Searching for green pastures. Feeling lost and confused. Always searching for a little more food and water. Climbing up steep pathways through mountain valleys to find a few blades of grass to munch on. It isn’t easy for us sheep to make it in this world. It’s a cruel world out there for us sheep. It’s baaaaaaaaaaaad!
By the way, why do keep staring at me like you’d never expect a sheep to talk. Don’t you know your Bible stories? After all, didn’t God make Balaam’s donkey talk? If God could speak through a donkey, then why can’t the Lord speak through me to you on a Sunday when you’re talking about feeding his sheep.
Did you hear something? I thought I just did. Sounds worry me. I have a lot to worry about! Sheep are like giant jelly donuts for predators like mountain lions, coyotes, bears, wolves or cougars who prey on a flock. Their sharp teeth can tear you apart in a minute? And do you see any claws on these paws to protect myself? God didn’t give me any. Nor did he give me sharp fangs? Not that I’m complaining -- who wants fangs -- I like my two rows of plain white teeth.
You can hear them rattling when something frightens me. I get a little skittish when I hear strange sounds like rushing waters. Don’t look at me like I’m crazy – haven’t you ever been a little anxious when you’ve wandered into a new place. And yes, I’ve been known to wander a little but who hasn’t tried to go off on his own in search of a little greener pastures. It’s not like I’m the black sheep of my flock or anything. Ok, I am a little color blind. <smile> I guess I am a little black.
You’ve got to be careful with every step as a sheep. There can be rock slides, mud or snow avalanches and a dozen other natural disasters that would destroy or injure us.
And if the predators, elements and your own weakness aren’t enough to content with – you’ve got to be careful of the other sheep. Your own friends can lead you literally off a cliff if you follow them. And all of us sheep are just a bunch of stupid followers. One sheep walks off the cliff and everyone will follow him right over it as well. One sheep gets spooked and the whole flock scatters. One sheep starts eating poisoned grass and the rest of us will soon be swallowing it. That’s why I get a little stubborn sometimes when someone if trying to lead me some place.
You know you’re looking at me like you’re superior or something! Don’t stare down your noses at me tell me like I am the only one who is ever been wayward, fearful, stubborn or stupid. Baaaaaah! I’ve seen enough human beings to know you’re more like sheep than you’d like to admit. Talk about mob instincts. One person buys something and the rest of you think you’ve got to have it. You have plenty of fears and timidity. You can display as much stubbornness as any sheep I’ve ever seen. People have as many perverse habits and perform as many acts of stupidly as any sheep who’ve ever been part of the flocks I’ve traveled in. Wouldn’t you agree? Baaaaaaaah! It’s time to admit that we need a shepherd. A sheep can’t simply live without a shepherd. Whether we like to admit or not – we, sheep, need a shepherd. And not just any shepherd will do. The lot of any sheep depends on the type of man who owns the sheep. And I’ve had a few different shepherds. Some men are gentle, kind, intelligent, brave, and selfless in their devotion to their sheep. Others are not. Under one man a sheep will only struggle, starve, and suffer endless hardship. In another's care I will flourish and find contentment. . . I’ve know both. That is why I am glad to proclaim to you now: “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD!”
Like the shepherd boy, David, who became king of Israel, I can appreciate the words of Psalm 23 which relate to yearly cycle of a sheep's life. Our year begins when the good shepherd takes us with his home ranch where every need is so carefully supplied by the owner, out into the green pastures, along the still waters, up through the mountain valleys to the high tablelands of summer and back home again.
“THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD”
I say this with a strong sense of pride, devotion, and admiration for my shepherd – the living Lord. Just look at who my shepherd is -- my owner -- my manager! The Lord Jesus Christ is!
After all, I know from firsthand experience what it is like to be without a shepherd or with the wrong one leading you into more misery. It is not that I deserve such a wonderful shepherd since I’ve wandered, rebelled and resisted. But despite my past, God has chosen to call me his sheep. Aren’t you, human beings, glad now to be called members of his flock through your baptisms? Despite your weaknesses, perverse, and rebellious characteristics Christ chooses you, buys you back, calls each of you by name, makes you His own, and delights in caring for you.
Do you call him your shepherd? You like us sheep need direction. How many people are following the bad influences of others? Just think the long parade of people who lives are ruined by alcohol abuse, busted by gambling habits, and shattered by drugs. But the path is well worn by others who are following them to their own destruction.
You like us sheep need protection. You’re defenseless with out the Lord against the wiles, schemes and strength of the enemy – just as much as I am.
You like us sheep need someone to lead. Without a shepherd’s leading, sheep will eat down a field until there is no grass left. Even if there are greener pastures only a moments walk away. People are no better. They will graze on dirt for weeks without seeking out – greener pastures. How many people will sit week after week – eating what amounts to spiritual cotton candy, worse yet – dirt – never budge -- never think to move to the place where they can be feed God’s riches fare?
So people are like sheep that are in desperate need of a Shepherd who will care, feed, protect, guide and always be there for us. Jesus is that shepherd for each and every person. There is no “if” nor “but,” nor even “I hope so.”
It is one thing to know Jesus Christ as THE Good Shepherd OR as A SHEPHERD – but quite another to know him as MY SHEPHERD that personal pronoun “MY” – speaks of relationship. It speaks of ownership – “I belong to Him.” Can you say that?
If you can say “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD” then you’ll be able to continue “I SHALL NOT BE IN WANT.” (verse 1)
“I SHALL NOT BE IN WANT”
The sheep that has such a good shepherd lack no good thing. For a good shepherd goes to great lengths to satisfy all his needs.
What do you need? Your Good Shepherd met your greatest need! The Lord Jesus shares his life with you. At the cross, he stepped in front of the predator against whom you were defenseless and in dying crushed him that he could not take your life. Now he puts his unlimited resources at your disposal and he cares for you as though we were the sole care and concern he had in the universe. After rescuing you, whatever your further needs, your Heavenly Father knows your needs and supplies them.
When a sheep knows that he has such a good shepherd, he comes to listen to his voice, trust his leading, and look to him to supply that he needs.
Complete trust in the shepherd, leads the sheep to confess: “HE MAKES ME LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES,”
I can’t lie down to sleep without 4 requirements being met … well, no sheep can… 1) freedom from fear, 2) tension, 3) aggravations and 4) hunger. And do you know the only one who can who can provide release from all of these anxieties? Only the shepherd. I will stand up ready to flee for my lives as long as there is even the slightest suspicion of danger from my enemies. Only a shepherd can calm their fears, release the tension and satisfy the hunger pains. Only he can lead me to green pastures.
Such green pastures don’t just happen by chance! Green pastures come from tremendous labor, time and skill in land use. The sheep don’t do this – the shepherd does. He clearing rough, rocky land; tearing out brush and roots and stumps; plows and carefully preparing the soil; seeds and plants special grains; or irrigates with water and care the crops of forage that would feed the flocks.
The green pastures of
fattened us for the long journey to the mountain peaks. Are
your strong enough for the journey ahead of you? How much have your feasted in the verdant
pastures of the Scripture lately?
Here’s the wonderful news! You are his lambs and sheep. You have under Shepherd in your families and in your congregation. He says to you like he said to Peter: “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.”? Isn’t that why you support Christian education for the little lambs, and curious and sometimes staying teen sheep who are not yet sheep (but aren’t lambs either), and even up to the grayest sheep in the flock? All of you need to be feed in his Word!
A sheep needs to be well-feed in order to be led. Notice that rest comes before the walk: Before you learn to walk with Jesus (living your life as a Christian) you need to learn to rest in Jesus (feeding on his work completed for you). When I am rested and well feed…
“HE LEADS ME BESIDE QUIET WATERS,” (verse 2)
A good shepherd leads. He never drives his sheep. He leads us! Big difference.
Your Good Shepherd wants to lead you. Look around, there are so many things that seek to drive you! Are you driven by the desire for success, climb the corporate ladder, retire early? Does the pursuit of status drive you? Do you want to appear to be someone? Are you driven by the “keeping up with the Jones’s mentality.”?
Do you know the only one who has to drive a sheep? Butchers drive us to the slaughterhouse. The strange truth is that so much in your culture that seeks to drive you – in reality – destroy you, too! That’s baaaaaaaaaaaad!
The shepherd leads us to what we need most in a semi-arid country – water. He knows where to find it even when it’s not obvious. He knows when to look. I remember being thirsty once, becoming restless and set out in search of water to satisfy my thirst. I drank from a polluted pot holes where I picked up parasites and some other disease germs.
When the Lord makes me to lay down in green pastures and leads me beside the still waters, the result is HE RESTORES MY SOUL. (verse 3)
Have you ever found yourself on your back staring up with no way to get up? If a
sheep gets turned over on his back and cannot get up again by itself. You feel pretty pathetic? Lying on its back, feet in the air, you flail away frantically struggling to stand up, without success. You might bleet (“I’ve faaaaaaallen and I caaaaaaan’t get up) or just stay silent. Without a shepherd, plenty of sheep die this way. If the shepherd does find you, he can’t just stand you up again. He has to restore you. Your legs need time to have the circulation restored. If it ever happened to you, you’d know that as you start to walk again, you often stumble, stagger and collapse again. Little by little, you regain your equilibrium and begin to walk steadily. All of us need a good shepherd to “restore our souls.” And will lead you home again:
HE GUIDES ME IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE
A sheep’s life is a daily marathon march. As the sun rises, I begin the journey from the fold to the mountainsides of pasturage. As the day closes, my tired hoofs and weary limbs take the track again to reach the fold before nightfall home. The good shepherd guides us in the paths of righteousness, not our own paths than lead to destruction, but his paths that lead to the eternal rest. The homeward journey is not necessarily an easy one:
EVEN 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. (verse 4)
The path home leads through the darkest valley. Dangers lurch behind every shadow as you march through the shadows of the valley. But in spite of the hazards the shepherd also knows that this is still the best way to take his flock to the high country. He spares himself no pains or trouble or time to keep an eye out for any danger that might develop.
Without the shepherd, a sheep may be afraid of his shadow. But there is no reason to fear. The Lord is with him. There is comfort from his rod and staff. The rod was a small club (used for fighting off predators) and the staff (a long stick – hook – gently pull in a stray, out of harms way). If my shepherd can do this for me, how about you?
For I’ve come to trust his promise: YOU PREPARE A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES. YOU ANOINT MY HEAD WITH OIL; MY CUP OVERFLOWS. (verse 5)
Maybe you wouldn’t know what relief his anointing brings? Nothing could be better in the summer season of scabs and nose flies than a shepherd’s anointing my head with oil. The warm weather bring nose flies. These hooves can pick flies out of your nose! For relief from this agonizing annoyance, I have seen many sheep deliberately beat their heads against trees, rocks, posts, or brush. In extreme cases of intense infestation, a sheep may even kill itself. The good shepherd, at the very first sign of flies among the flock, he will apply an antidote to their heads – oil.
What an incredible transformation this makes! Once the oil is applied, you can feed quietly again, and lie down in peaceful contentment.
SURELY GOODNESS AND LOVE WILL FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE, AND I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER. (verse 6)
Here is the good news that this sheep has learned in many summers of following my shepherd. I don't care how much trouble comes your way; the good shepherd will never leave your side. He will not desert you in times of trial. That is news that will let you get through the night; that is news that will enable you to keep your sanity in the midst of the storm. It is the promise that will carry you to home again as your Good Shepherd carries you like a lamb close to his heart!
I am still his little lamb at heart. Do you see consider yourself a sheep in his flock or a lamb in his arms, too? No matter what our age, we still can have that lamb-like faith that confesses the joy of having Jesus as your shepherd. I like to invite you confess the truth of the Shepherd’s Psalm by joining me in singing the stanza “I am Jesus’ little lamb” as your confession of faith this morning: AMEN (Please stand as we sing)
I am Jesus' little lamb; Ever glad at heart I am,
For my shepherd gently guides me, Knows my needs and well provides me,
Loves me ev'ry day the same, Even calls me by my name.
Text and Tune: public domain. *Setting: c 1982 Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission of CPH.