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.”

The Lord is My Shepherd

by Erin Bird

For several weeks this past fall, I found myself repeatedly going back to Psalm 23. In fact, I spent much of my annual spiritual retreat in November contemplating it and praying through this famous psalm. I found the poetic words comforting, yet convicting. So I would like to take the next several weeks here on the blog to walk through possibly the most famous psalm of the 150 psalms God collected into the canon of Scripture.

If you aren’t familiar with Psalm 23, I highly encourage you to take a moment to read all of it right now. You know what, even if you are extremely familiar with it or even have it memorized, still take a moment to read it. (It will only take you about 45 seconds to read.)

So now that you’ve just read this beautiful poem, let’s talk about Batman. 🙂

The Butler Shepherd

A couple of weeks before Christmas, LeAnn and I decided to try a new TV series to watch on Netflix. After considering several options, we settled on “Gotham,” a series that looks at the Batman origin story from the viewpoint of James Gordon, a rookie Gotham police detective. (We only saw the first episode as I was fasting from Netflix for the 21 Days of Prayer. So if you’ve seen the series and have determined it isn’t very good, tell us before we invest much time into the series!)

In the first (and only episode) we watched, young Bruce Wayne (who becomes Batman in his adult years) witnessed his mega-wealthy parents get robbed and murdered in an alleyway. When Detective Gordon and his partner arrive on the scene, Gordon walks over to a scared Bruce to talk and calm the boy’s nerves. As the detective and the boy talk about what happened, the Wayne family butler, Alfred, arrives on the scene. As soon as Bruce sees Alfred, he immediately leaves the conversation with Gordon, and runs into the arms of the one person he thinks can comfort him in his grief.

Sheep Run to the Shepherd

If you read Psalm 23a moment ago, you see it begins with the phrase, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Like Bruce running to Alfred for comfort, God wants us to run to Him for comfort and protection. A good shepherd always makes sure his sheep get enough food and rest, as well as protect the sheep from predators. A sheep learns that its shepherd is someone who cares for it and provides for it, and so a wise sheep will stay close to the shepherd and even run to the shepherd, knowing that its well-being is tied to this man who devotes his life to its care.

Sheep on mountainside as sun bursts through the cloudsSo for David to start his famous song with the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” he is acknowledging that God is a loving, ever-present, caring God. David is reminding himself and his readers that if one is going to find comfort in life, the best place to run is into the arms of a caring shepherd.

So will you run to God today?  If you participated in the 21 Days of Prayer, running to Him simply looks like the continuation of what you’ve been doing here at the start of 2020.  But if you haven’t been making it a practice or habit yet, tune into His protecting arms in prayer. When struggles come, simply breathe in a deep breath, and as you exhale, remind yourself, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

We’ll talk about the “Lord as our Shepherd” even more next week.

Like Riverwood on Facebook