Content with the Shepherd

By Erin Bird

After spending the first three weeks in verse 1 of our series on Psalm 23, we are going to spend this week on verse 2, which says,

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.”

How to be a Content Lamb

I don’t know about you, but when someone offers me ice cream, it’s difficult to turn the offer down. Sure, I may have already had some ice cream that day, and my expanding waistline indicates I should pass, but one can always go for more, right?

Perhaps your weakness isn’t ice cream, but you most likely have something in your life you desire to consume all day. It could be your phone, YouTube, Pinterest, Diet Coke, chocolate, or just about anything. Well, the “weakness” of a sheep is grass and water. Just as I wish I could eat ice cream every day, sheep graze all day on grass, and when given the opportunity, they’ll drink their fill of water.

But notice David the Lamb in Psalm 23. David says his Shepherd makes him lie down in green pastures. (The Hebrew actually says “lush” pastures.) Normally, a sheep would eat the grass in a lush pasture. But not David.

Sheep walking on a grassy hill near a mountain lakeLikewise, David said his Shepherd leads him beside still waters. Normally, a lamb would pause to drink from the cool pond waters. But not David.

Why isn’t David “the Sheep” eating and drinking when given the opportunity? Because his contentment isn’t found in the grass and water. His contentment is found in his Shepherd.

Remember last week in verse 1, David said, “I shall not want.” We saw the reason he didn’t “want” was because his Shepherd was enough. That’s why, as a “lamb,” David doesn’t need to eat the grass and drink the water. He is so content in his Shepherd, knowing that his Good Shepherd will continue to take care of him, that he can rest in the grass and enjoy the view of the water.

Too often, I act like a needy lamb, constantly looking for more grass and water. But what would it look like if you and I actually looked to Jesus the Good Shepherd, finding our joy and serenity in Him rather the things of this earth? We might look more like a lamb happily resting in the pasture than a fearful lamb scrambling to eat as much as possible before we head back to the pen.

Can you trust Jesus? I encourage you to daily (and even “momently”) express your trust in God in prayer, declaring that He is enough. Remind yourself that true rest is found in Jesus, and not in your movies, or the games on your iPhone, or a higher income, or more ice cream. After all, if a hungry needy sheep can be that content in his shepherd, I want to be that content in Jesus.

I Shall Not Want

By Erin Bird

Let’s continue the series we started two weeks ago on the most famous Psalm in the Bible – Psalm 23.  This week, I want to look at the second half of verse 1: “I shall not want.”When I look at this phrase all by its lonesome, stripped out of its biblical context, I see it as a lie. Because my inner child wants lots of things!

  • I want good food,
  • I want love,
  • I want comfort,
  • I want to watch Netflix,
  • I want a new “toy,”
  • I want to read a book,
  • I want honey in my tea,
  • I want to be warm,
  • I want respect,
  • I want, I want, I want…

Humans are VERY selfish creatures. Whether it’s due to an addiction, or loneliness, or envy, or pain, we internally “want” on a regular basis. Even the most un-narcissistic person in the world has moments when he or she “wants” something, even if just for another person.

So what’s up with King David? How in the world does he say, “I shall not want?”

I Shall Want… Jesus

lamb enjoying the sunshineTo understand David, put the phrase back in context. In the past two weeks, we looked at the phrase “The Lord is my Shepherd.” If you are a Jesus-follower, then Christ is to be your life’s guide, your inner leader, your object of worship. Just as a sheep finds its comfort and protection in the presence of its shepherd, we are to find our identity and safety within the person of Jesus and His gospel.

And when Jesus is your source of joy, comfort, and contentment, you can truly say “I shall not want.” Or another way to say it: “Jesus, you are enough.”

  • So when you are struggling with an addiction, pray “Jesus, you are enough.”
  • When you are lonely because you aren’t married, cry out “God, you are my shepherd. I shall not want.”
  • When you are worried about how to pay for that car repair, remind yourself, “Jesus, you are enough.”
  • When you are stressed about a project at school, take a deep breath, and exhale “Jesus, I shall not want.”

Please note:

  • Praying or reminding yourself “I shall not want” is not a magic formula. It is simply a reminder that Jesus is your shepherd, and in Him, you can find true contentment.
  • Also, praying these words once won’t cure your emotional malady. This is a moment-by-moment prayer that reminds you to return emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to your loving Good Shepherd again and again and again.

So today, whenever you find yourself wanting things that you know will not draw your heart to Jesus, simply say a breath prayer of “Jesus, You are enough. I shall not want.”

Jesus is My Shepherd

By Erin Bird

Last week, we began a new series in Psalm 23. We only looked at the first phrase, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” But before you try to jump ahead to the next half of verse 1, there is more I’d like to point out to you about this opening five-word phrase. And what I want to point out is that if you are a Jesus-follower, then Jesus is your shepherd.

In John 10:11-16, Jesus describes himself as a shepherd. But not just a typical shepherd. He calls himself a “good” shepherd.

I don’t know about you, but when someone starts describing themselves as “good,” I get turned off. I admire humility. So for someone to say “I’m good” or “I’m the best” smacks of boasting and unhealthy pride. But when Jesus calls himself the “good shepherd,” he’s not boasting. Rather, he’s stating the truth. He’s good because of what He is willing to do for His “sheep.” Verse 11 sums it up:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

False Shepherds

Too often, I think we humans are prone to wander and follow false shepherds.

  • We buy into the lie that the Entertainment Shepherd will bring us comfort,
  • that a new Romantic Shepherd will bring protection,
  • that the Extra-bowl-of-ice-cream Shepherd will bring fulfillment,
  • or that the Higher-income Shepherd will lead us to greener pastures.

Their enticements sound so good, we fall for their trick and follow these false shepherds, only to discover they never truly satisfy. You know why? Two reasons:

1. Because these shepherds demand you lay your life down for them.
2. When trouble comes, they will flee like hired hands.

Sheep on dusty mountainside with their shepherdFor instance, you may fall into the arms of a forbidden lover and find a temporary escape from life’s wolves. But that fleeting euphoria leaves, and eventually you’ll discover the affair didn’t truly rescue you from anything. Rather, the affair was a wolf-in-shepherd’s clothing, consuming you yet letting the problems of life remain or even compound.

But Jesus, as a good shepherd, loves you as you are meant to be loved and need to be loved. And you can see his shepherding love and commitment clearly through the cross. He laid down his life, dying to protect you, to rescue you from the wolf of sin, so He could bring you into the green pastures of His love and grace.

So today, take a moment to read John 10:11-16 slowly, pondering Jesus’ shepherd-like love for you. Then take a moment to run to Jesus in prayer, thanking Him for being a good shepherd.

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