Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Psalm 23

King David starts out his now famous 23rd Psalm with the simple statement, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want..."

As an agriculturist, I am always intrigued by the agriculture allegories in the Bible. But this one has a significant fascination for me. I have helped raise sheep and believe me, there is not much of a more ignoble animal than a sheep. However, what I have learned is that the focus is not on the sheep in this Psalm but rather the shepherd.

The Bible has much to say about shepherds. When David as a young man was asked by King Saul as to his qualifications to be a warrior and to face the giant Goliath, he simply replied, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep."

Now what in the world would make a shepherd qualified to fight a giant? For one, he passionately protects his flock. David was literally offended that anything (not less anyone - including a giant) could mock or stand up to the people (read flock) chosen by God. Secondly, he had experience in fighting the monsters, the bear and lion, that attacked the flock. He literally recalled that he chased the beasts, snatched the unfortunate lamb from the mouth of the offender and then, grabbed the beast by the hair and slay it. So, what's the big deal about a giant when you've taken care of lions and bears?

Later in the New Testament, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. He talks about how a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (like David going after the bear and lion). Moreover, the Good Shepherd is so familiar with his flock and his flock with him that they hear and respond to his voice. They even reject the voice of the imposter.

Here is the Kingdom lesson I get from this. From Psalm 23 and from John 10 (the Good Shepherd), the key to abundant life if found simply in the sheep (you and me) hearing and following the voice of the Good Shepherd. Abundance, in a Kingdom perspective, is not measured in things, titles, or even accomplishments. It is measured simply in hearing and obeying. What a radical thought.

The Lord is my shepherd...when I hear and follow Him, I will have no want...

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