Follow the Leader

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

—Psalm 23:1-3

Sheep have many characteristics that make them the perfect animal to describe humans. Since the beginning of human history, sheep have needed a shepherd to survive (see Genesis 4:2). They have no natural defenses. Unlike cattle and other herding animals, sheep cannot be driven. They require a shepherd to lead them, and without one, they scatter. King David, who was a shepherd as a boy, recognized the similarity between himself and his flock, and wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd; . . . ”

Notice that he didn’t write, “The Lord is our shepherd.” He recognized the fact that, unlike what some claim today, we are not “all God’s children.” Yes, we’re all products of God’s creation, but we don’t become His children unless “we are made alive” (Ephesians 2:1-3) and adopted into His family. In other words, if you haven’t received Christ as Lord and Savior, you can’t say, “The Lord is my shepherd” (John 1:12-13).

The shepherd protects the sheep from “want,” or “lack.” What we want may differ dramatically from what the Lord knows is best, but we must learn to trust Him that He will give us exactly what we need, moment by moment. Sheep must be led because they have a natural tendency to wander. The shepherd goes before them, leading the way, and they follow.

These beautiful verses also describe the shepherd’s watchful care over his flock. As grazing animals, sheep need green pastures, but when they eat the grass they pull it up out of the ground rather than eating the top and leaving the roots. Thus they would eat themselves into starvation if they weren’t always being led to fresh pastures. They need still waters to drink from, being skittish of any stirring of the waters, which would cause them to flee.

David refers to his own Shepherd, saying that He restores his soul and leads him in paths of righteousness. “Restore” here means to turn back. The Good Shepherd has rescued us from being wandering, shepherd-less sheep, heading toward eternal death, and leads us to the still waters and green pastures of a life lacking nothing, having victory over death forever and the grace to walk in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Jesus has proven Himself the Great Shepherd, and He is worthy to lead us like sheep.

Excerpt from “Beside Still Waters” now available on Amazon.

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