Week 16 April 15-21, 2018

One of the most vivid portraits that Scripture uses to illustrate our relationship with God is a flock of sheep in the care of a good shepherd.

This timeless illustration reminds us that we are like sheep who often go astray (Isaiah 53:6), but God is our trustworthy shepherd who sacrificially cares for our lives.

And while there are echoes of this metaphor throughout the Bible, there is no single passage that uniquely reveals why sheep need a shepherd better than Psalm 23.

In just these six verses, the inspired words of King David teach us four essential ways that the Lord sovereignly guides us through the green pastures and dark valleys of our lives. This psalm proves the Lord is our good shepherd because He… (1) knows us; (2) feeds us; (3) leads us; and (4) protects us.

First, the Lord is our good shepherd because He knows us better than we know ourselves. David begins Psalm 23 in verse 1 by stating, “The Lord is my shepherd.” This means that God is not just a shepherd, but He is my shepherd and He knows who I am and what I need. The Lord who created us knows every hair on our heads, and this alone makes Him more qualified to shepherd us through our lifelong journey home than anyone else.

Secondly, the Lord is our good shepherd because He feeds us and satisfies all of our needs. David finishes verse 1 by proclaiming, “I shall not want.” When we faithfully trust in God’s daily provisions we have no need to stray from the flock in an effort to provide for ourselves. If we are in the care of the Creator of the universe, we shall not want because He knows all of our needs and also has eternal access to everything at all times to meet those needs as He sees fit.  

Third, the Lord is our good shepherd because He leads us through every stage of our lives with purpose. He is the only one who can see the end from the beginning so only He truly knows the right path at every twist and turn. We learn in verses 2-4 that in His presence we can “lie down in green pastures” and walk “beside still waters” along “paths of righteousness” even if we have to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” to get where we are going.

Finally, the Lord is our good shepherd because He protects us from snares and distractions that would end our journey prematurely. At the end of verse 4, David says that the Lord’s rod and staff bring comfort, because with the rod God guides us by protecting us from our own sinful selves, and with the staff God sustains us by protecting us from our enemies. In verses 5-6, David concludes the psalm by proclaiming that the Lord gives us such trustworthy protection that we can be seated at a table in the very presence of our enemies as our head is anointed with oil, our cup overflows with blessings, and God’s goodness and mercy follow us as we seek to dwell with the Lord in His house forever.

However, what David only partially knew about God as a good shepherd we now know in full as Christians on the other side of the cross. Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 23 as the ultimate good shepherd who knows us, feeds us, leads us, and protects us. He accomplished this through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection on our behalf.

In John 10:11-15 Jesus explains how He uniquely fulfills the shepherding role that is described in Psalm 23. Christ states, 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Let us remember today that although we are sheep who are often tempted to go astray, we have Jesus as our good shepherd to guide us back home again. He who knows exactly who we are, feeds the deepest needs of our soul, leads us down the one true path we should go, and protects us from any obstacle that would end our journey too soon. Are you listening closely today to the voice of Christ as He shepherds your soul on the journey towards His Heavenly Kingdom?

Why Sheep Need a Shepherd

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A Kingdom without its King

When Samuel anoints Saul the first king of Israel, the Lord reveals this request is granted because the people refuse to accept God Himself as their King. In 1 Samuel 8:7, God says to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” This rejection of God as King is an echo of the original sin of Adam and Eve who rejected God’s Kingdom rule and sought to be kings on the throne of their own lives.

When Bitterness Becomes a Blessing

In Ruth 1:20, the widow Naomi laments her desolate condition of losing her husband and two sons. She says, ““Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Her reference to the name “Mara” points back to Exodus 15 when the Israelites complained about drinking the bitter waters of “Marah” in the wilderness. Ironically, God used these bitter moments to bring ultimate blessing. In Exodus 15, God instructed Moses to throw a log into the water to make it sweet, and in the book of Ruth the bitter brokenness of Naomi leads her back to Judah where God later restores her family and her fortune.

The Duties of a Deacon

Acts 6:2-4 is the first New Testament passage that demonstrates the duties and purpose of a deacon in the local church. In these four verses, the apostles explained the need to commit to prayer and the preaching of the Word instead of serving tables. So, they instructed the disciples in verse 3 to "…pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. This is why deacons are known as the "servants" of the church who meet physical needs while pastors concentrate on spiritual needs.  

Tips to Keep You on Track

Week 17 Readings:  April 22 - 28

-Day One:  1 Samuel 9-10; Acts 8

-Day Two:  1 Samuel 11-13; Psalm 38; Acts 9

-Day Three:  1 Samuel 14; Psalm 124; Acts 10

-Day Four:  1 Samuel 15-16; 1 Chronicles 1; Psalm 39; Acts 11

-Day Five:  1 Samuel 17; 1 Chronicles 2; Acts 12


          Our reading plan will take us deeper into 1 Samuel this week as we witness the transition of Saul being removed as King of Israel and the throne being handed over to David. Pay close attention to what happens in 1 Samuel 13. In this chapter Saul impatiently makes an unauthorized sacrifice as he tries to take matters into his own hands when leading the Israelite army into battle. When the prophet Samuel arrives he informs Saul in verse 14, But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” Although we learn as we continue to read through 1 Samuel that David is a flawed man who commits great sin, God anointed him king because he was a man who passionately pursued the Lord. As we read this passage, let us learn from the mistakes of these men, but let us also have the motive of David to be people after God’s own heart.