January 23, 2017
Verses 3 and 4 of Psalms 23 introduce an important dynamic. I’m going to quote portions from these below:
“He guides me in right paths
for the sake of his own name.
Even if I pass through death-dark ravines,
I will fear no disaster; for you are with me;
your rod and staff reassure me.”
— Verses 3, 4 (CJB, adapted)
That phrase “Even if…” is important! Consider a shepherd in biblical times (and even in modern times) who is leading a flock of sheep to new pasture: over some mountains, and through some valleys… and he comes to a ravine, or river to cross. He has to make a decision. He calculates the abilities of the sheep, and the difficulty of the challenge.
Some of the little ones he may to have to carry in arms… some are a bit older, and he knows the challenge will build some muscle. He will probably allow the mature sheep to pass through the ravine with their current abilities… using His rod and staff to guide them, in case they make a wrong step.
It’s important for us to get used to the idea that the “right paths” are difficult paths: “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). These paths may some time pass through “death-dark ravines”; at these times we will find comfort in the presence of the Shepherd, using the tools of His rod and staff.
It would be a good idea to see a picture of a shepherd in action; this picture is worth a thousand words:
I can’t end this short discourse on shepherds without highlighting the importance of this pattern to parenting and church leadership. The pattern of shepherding, established and maintained throughout Scripture, is to be the pattern for every father (as the head of his home) and every pastor (as the head of his congregation).
The love and care of the shepherd, his commitment to feeding his flock with nourishing food, his diligence in training and educating his charges, are ever to be the standards to which our fathers and pastors must aspire.
The pattern is simple enough for a child to understand… yet many make light work at their stations, unaware of God’s signal displeasure with unfaithful shepherds: found (for instance) in Jeremiah 23. May we step up, men, to the high calling given to us by God.