I Will Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever

Psalm 23:6 – and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. 

Today’s article is inspired by the last chapter of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

Going home. With the Lord forever.

The sheep started out at the house, and he was guided to the still waters and green pastures. Then he was taken up to the summer grazing pasture in the high tablelands, and as he went he was led by the shepherd through the dark valleys. Now they are coming back home to spend the winter. They made the journey, they came through disease, friction, fear, threats from predators and dark valleys, etc., and now they are coming home to be at peaceful rest with the Good Shepherd.

The shepherd was always there. Always attentive. Always looking over the sheep and caring for their needs. Always looking out to see where they need to go next and keeping a vigilant eye for predators.

As a Christian, you journey with God as he leads you to green pastures and still waters. When you are diseased or pestered by the things of this world, He treats you and brings you to healing. As you are faced with fear and the threat of predators, God protects you with His rod and His staff. You travel with him through the valleys of the shadow of death. You don’t stay there, you travel through it. As you are surrounded by enemies, God feeds you and prepares a feast for you. He even anoints you to heal you and show you that you belong to Him.

One day, He will bring you home. His home. You will be at peace forever with Him. No one will take you from that home. There will be no more fear, friction or flies. Not another dark valley to tread. No more enemies lurking in dark places. Safety, rest, healing and contentment with the Shepherd in His house forever. That’s awesome.

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
(John 10:9-10)

Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me

Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 11 of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

Two thoughts about “goodness and mercy” following us all the days of our life.

From one perspective, we can think of how God’s goodness and mercy as our Good Shepherd will always be with us. His vision, tender care and protection will always be with us. He is our “rear guard” (Isaiah 52:21; 58:8). He goes before us and follows us from behind. We are completely encircled by God’s goodness and mercy as His sheep.

Another perspective is that the trail God’s sheep leave behind is goodness and mercy. Under the management of a bad shepherd, a flock of sheep will completely destroy a pasture and leave it bare, full of parasites, and erosion will wash ruts left by sheep into a gulley. But under the disciplined and loving care of a good shepherd, the pasture is left in good shape, maybe even better than before.

Let’s take a moment today to thank God for being such a wonderful Shepherd, and for the fact that His goodness and mercy always follow us!

Your Rod and Your Staff, They Comfort Me.

Psalm 23:4 – 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.

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 8 of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

Two essential pieces of equipment for the shepherd were the rod and the staff. We also know that David and many other shepherds carried a sling as well. Shepherds in the field traveled light, but the rod and the staff were always with the shepherd. And in this Psalm by David, those two pieces of wood were somehow a comfort to the sheep. But why?

Why is the sheep comforted by the rod and staff of his shepherd?

Rod

The rod was a shorter, club like device that the shepherd used for multiple purposes. Protection – A shepherd became deadly accurate in throwing this rod and used it effectively to protect the sheep from wolves and other predators. Discipline – sometimes a wayward sheep would wander away into danger and the shepherd whizzed this by the sheep to scare her back to the fold. Counting/Inspection – The Old Testament spoke of those who “passed under the rod,” and that referred to when a shepherd would have each sheep pass under his eye to inspect it and count it. He was not only making sure all sheep were present, but he was checking for any problems or diseases with His sheep.

Under the shepherd’s rod, you were his. You belonged to him. He looked over you and made sure you were healthy. Your loving shepherd uses the rod not only to keep you in line, but to keep you safe. It is no wonder that the rod is a comfort to the sheep.

Staff

A shepherd’s staff is a long, slender piece of wood, usually with a crook or hook in one end. There are many images, both today and in the Scripture of a shepherd leaning on his staff (Hebrews 11:21). Keller points out three ways he would use the shepherd’s staff. Drawing the sheep close to him – This is a picture of intimacy. The shepherd is pulling that lamb or ewe close to his side for inspection or to get a baby lamb by its mama. Guiding sheep – Not by beating it, but by pressing the staff against the side of the sheep. Rescue – Sometimes a sheep is caught and needs rescued and pulled from danger. The loving shepherd would use his staff with the crook on one end and help pull the sheep to safety.

It is no doubt why David looked at those two pieces of shepherd’s equipment as a huge comfort to the sheep. But of course, he was talking about himself as a sheep with God. God’s rod and God’s staff were a comfort to David. It is a comfort to know that God knows we are His. We are comforted by God’s inspection and discipline, even though for a season it might be uncomfortable. It is a peace of mind to us to know that our Shepherd is protecting us from predators sent by Satan himself. And I love that the Shepherd draws me close to Him with His staff, just as the Holy Spirit draws us to the Father’s side.

Intimacy. Protection. Relationship. Training. Rescue. Jesus’ rod and staff are truly comforting.

Even though I walk through the valley…

Psalms 23:4 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.

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 7 of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

In order to get to the mountain meadows, which might include the “table” or plateau above where the summer pasture is for the flock, the shepherd has to lead his sheep up the mountains. This includes going through ravines and dark valleys. Dangers can abound in such places, but the shepherd is there by their side.

In his book, Keller, talks about his reasons for taking sheep up through the winding valleys. One is that as mentioned, his goal is to take them up to the summer meadows to graze. A second is that those valleys were generally the gentlest grades up the mountain. Thirdly, he pointed out that valley is usually well watered. And a fourth reason is that there is usually good grazing along the way in those valleys.

To parallel this to our lives under the Gentle Shepherd, Jesus, we know that on the way to that higher ground with God, we have to walk through dark valleys. Death and danger are there. But in the valley as we face those trials, God is with us all the way. We are well fed and watered through those valleys. It is in some of the darkest valleys of our lives that we find the greatest refreshment from our loving Shepherd.

Keller also pointed out the phrase, “I walk through” this valley. We don’t stop there. That is not the end. The shepherd walks the sheep through this valley. And the sheep are secure, because of the presence of the loving shepherd. The dark valleys are temporary and even necessary to reach that higher meadow in the mountains. But they are just that, temporary. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Remember that Jesus as our Shepherd walked this valley for Himself, and He knows the terrain. He was a sheep, the lamb who was slain, and now He is risen to be our Good Shepherd. As you can see in our final verse below, Jesus was not alone in those valleys, because His Shepherd was always with Him.

John 16:32-33 – “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”

I Shall Not Want

Psalms 23:1
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 2 of the book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller.

When David wrote, “I shall not want,” what did he mean? First of all, he did not mean the absence of physical poverty and exemption from life’s pain. David certainly had his share of adversity. Besides, physical prosperity does not produce spiritual fulfillment. Read the 23rd Psalm and look at all the loving Shepherd, God, does for you as His sheep. David is saying that he lacks for nothing under the Shepherd’s care. He also makes it clear that as a contented sheep, he is not looking at other pastures for satisfaction.

There are two stories Keller tells in this chapter that stuck with me. One is of the neglected flock in the field adjacent to his. The neighbor shepherd was severely negligent in his care, and you could see it in the sheep. These sick, hungry and pathetic sheep were huddled by the fence longingly gazing into Keller’s pasture. Because of the lack of care of the shepherd, the sheep were “in want.” This story was showing that the sheep who are well managed are truly not in want like David said.

The second story, however, looks at the other side of the fence. Inside the well-maintained pasture of the loving shepherd, there was a wandering ewe. This ewe was beautiful, healthy and bore excellent lambs. Keller noted how she was constantly finding an exit. She was not content, even under a shepherd, flock and pasture that provided everything she needed and more. This sheep taught other sheep her ways of wandering. Eventually Keller had to make a decision for the whole flock, and he put her down. Even in the green pastures of the Good Shepherd, some sheep will wander. As God’s sheep, we grow into contentment to realize that there is nothing outside of that flock and pasture that will fulfill us. We are truly contented in the Shepherd’s flock.

Am I contented under His care? Or am I a wandering sheep that is constantly looking for fulfillment outside of His pasture and flock? Is there anything we lack as sheep in Jesus’ pasture?

The Mark of the Shepherd

“The Lord is my Shepherd…” (Psalm 23:1)

In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller wrote about the distinctive mark of the shepherd that is made on each of his sheep. Out in the open field, sheep would get mixed with those of other flocks. Sheep would wander. They get sick or injured. It was important that the shepherd had a clear identifying mark to say, “That is my sheep.”

For some shepherds, it was a “lug mark,” a distinctive notch made in the ear of each of his sheep. Today, shepherds might use ear tags, or some use “smit marks” which is a uniquely colored symbol on each sheep. The more “modern” way to do this is to microchip each sheep, like many pet owners do today.

In the Old Testament, if a servant fulfilled his 7 years of service he would be granted freedom according to the Lord. However, if the servant loved his master and wanted to stay forever as a servant, then the master would pierce the servant’s ear. This would serve as distinct mark that the servant belonged to his master (Exodus 21:6).

As God’s people today who have taken on Jesus as our Lord and Owner, our “Chief Shepherd” puts His unique mark of ownership upon us. When we believe in Jesus as Lord and are baptized into Christ’s death, we are given the seal of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:14). This serves as a mark of ownership, a sign of a relationship, and a guarantee that we safely belong in the Shepherd’s fold.

Romans 8:14-17 – For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Going along with having the mark of our Good Shepherd upon us, we need to understand that as sheep of the Shepherd we need bear His mark to the world.

One way we do that is through how we behave. If we have the mark and seal of the Owner and Shepherd, then it will reflect in how we talk and act. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).

Secondly, if we bear His mark, then we also join in the sufferings of our Shepherd. Remember that Jesus the Shepherd was also the Lamb of God who suffered for the sins of the world. As we take on the ear tag of Jesus, we also take on his sufferings (Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 4). Listen to Paul as he wrote, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

Is the Lord your Shepherd? Do you bear His mark?

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

I’m reading a great book right now by W. Phillip Keller called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. It was recommended to me by a man who has served as a shepherd in the church. The author lived the life as a shepherd, a real shepherd, and he knows all about sheep. His brings his real-life experience as a shepherd to write about the 23rd Psalm. It is a powerful read.

I believe it is good for us as men to read this book for two reasons:

  1. We can draw closer to Jesus Christ as our Shepherd when we read the perspectives on shepherds and sheep.
  2. We can learn more about what it means to be a shepherd of people. God used this “shepherding” concept throughout the Bible to illustrate what God is looking for in those who would lead His children.

Here is the link to Amazon where you can buy this book. I have the paperback copy, but I really like the audio version!

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller

Psalms 23:1-6
(1) A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(2) He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
(3) He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(4) 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.
(5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.