Thru the Bible radio has begun the book of Psalms. The Bible Bus’s extended excursion through this wonderful book weaves in all the Messianic references so a clear picture of Jesus Christ emerges. Perhaps the most pronounced foreshadowing occurs in David’s famous psalm: Psalm 23. Today’s Thru the Bible Sunday Sermon is titled, “The Psalm of an Old Shepherd.” It is a wonderful sermon, you can listen to it here.
I was born in San Francisco, and pretty much lived, and continue to live, near this metropolis so I don’t know much about country living, although I’d like to learn. I needed to do my homework to understand not only the significance to this “shepherd” theme, but the many other pastoral themes in the New Testament like sowing and reaping. Jesus speaks to fishermen, farmers, blue-collar folks like shepherds whose trades are far from my accounting/secretarial office experiences.
According to Wikipedia, “A shepherd or sheepherder is a person who tends, herds, feeds, or guards herds of sheep.” Also, “shepherding is among the oldest occupations, beginning some 5,000 years ago in Asia Minor.” Like David, Isaiah likens the Lord to a shepherd: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” It was to the night watch shepherds that the glorious announcement came 2,000 years ago:
“8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2
The connection between David’s shepherd and Jesus Christ is uncanny. John quotes Jesus in chapter 10 of his gospel: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The writer of Hebrews adds: “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep..” And finally, Peter, the fisherman, encourages us that, “…when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
There is something of a longing in the human soul for someone like a shepherd, one who protects, provides and guides. Even Ira Gershwin tapped into this yearning with his immortal lyrics from the classic “Someone To Watch Over Me.”
I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the wood, I know I could always be good to one who’ll watch over me.
In Psalm 23, the Shepherd not only provides peaceful green pastures and still waters, but also He protects while we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. A stroll all of us will take one day. And, finally, He wondrously promises an eternity – a forever – in His dwelling, foreshadowing that great verse in John: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”
In Psalm 23, David says the Lord, his Shepherd, restores his soul. Many believe David wrote this as an old man, after his great sin, and after he wrote Psalm 51 where he expressed his repentance when he cried out, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” God answered his prayer.
One night, years ago, I couldn’t sleep. What weighed down on my shoulders, I don’t remember, but I do remember it was during a time of real wrestling with my circumstances. Circumstances that I foolishly thought I had control of. Not long after this night, I learned, AGAIN, the meaning of Proverbs 3:5 and 6. This night, however, all I wanted to do was sleep, and I could not. I struggled to pray, and I could not. I tried to recite scripture and all verses fled from my memory except the “sublimely simple and simply sublime” psalm of the shepherd-king. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Well, those words raced right past me, but “He restores my soul” was the brick wall I ran into. I stopped there and pondered, and let the balm of these four words make its way into my troubled soul. It wasn’t long before the wrestling subsided, the peace restored and the slumber came. Four words. The Bible is a wonderful book.
This whole psalm restores not only our souls, but also our lives. Our souls are restored through the redemptive work of the Shepherd, Who, two thousand years ago, laid down His life for His sheep. Our emotional well-being is restored with peace, protection, provision and spiritual promises. And our bodies – sinless – will be restored on the Last Day. All the hope of Eden will be restored on that Great Day.
Jesus is The Shepherd of Psalm 23, He is David’s Shepherd; He is the Good Shepherd of John 10, the Great Shepherd of Hebrews 13, and finally, the returning and living Chief Shepherd of 1 Peter 5. He is our Shepherd, and He restores our souls, our lives, and, one day, our physical bodies.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I WILL dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”