“The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.” Ezekiel 34:4 New King James Version
During my years as a Pastor, my first sermon at a new church assignment was always on Ezekiel 34. God held Israel’s rulers and church authorities, those He called by the name of shepherd, accountable for their negligence, faithlessness, and greed. He also charged the people who were greedy and strong for the injuries done to the poor, weak, and feeble; God promised to care for His flock and to send the Messiah.
My reason for preaching on this chapter was to inform my new congregation of what I saw as my responsibility to them as a shepherd under the master Shepherd. Whether or not it had a large impact on them, it reminded me of the responsibility God was giving to me. With this in mind, I have decided to offer another view on one of the better known Bible scriptures, the Twenty-third Psalm.
The Lord is: He the master or ruler, one who has a responsibility for those in his care. Think on this for a moment. Considering God’s responsibility for those in His care, will He not do everything possible to protect them even from themselves?
My Shepherd: Here is one of the places we are exposed to the intimacy and passion of God for us. He is our Shepherd, the one who accepts responsibility for all our needs, protects us, and never leaves us.
I shall not want: This, I believe, is one of the more difficult challenges we face in this life and in trusting God. I think it happens for this reason, our internal dictionaries! God has His definition of what constitutes want and we have another. However, this tells us God will not allow us to suffer from any want in our lives which will bring separation from Him.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures: Rest is essential for us as we face a world manipulated by an enemy who hates the fact Christians exist. Rest is essential for anyone serving God because burnout comes swiftly when we don’t take the time we need in the Green Pastures God leads us to inhabit in our rest times.
He leads me beside the still waters: The pace most people try to carry off is accomplishing one thing for sure; it’s killing them. The hectic life lived by much of humanity begs to find some peace, a quiet place where we can simply be reminded how much God loves and adores us! Not everyone calls us the apple of their eye, but God does. We must learn to receive God’s invitation to come to the still waters.
He leads me in paths of righteousness: God has a message for us, something important He wants us to know. Righteousness means we follow God’s lead. Any other guide will lead us down the broad highway to destruction.
For His Namesake: This is one of the many ways God communicates just how all this works. It is likely one of the most powerful insights into God’s motivation. I have come to understand this simply means God does what He does because He is God. He also knows we are not able to be in Him unless He takes charge and enters us into relationship with Him.
Yea, though I walk: Jesus describes the salvation process as a journey. It is filled with possibilities and choices, potholes and speed bumps, speed traps and accidents, all of which we experience in the walk with God. The secret is to keep walking with Him!
Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: I am beginning to understand that this world is indeed the Valley of the Shadow of Death meaning we must recognize we need God’s Grace in order to walk in and through the valley.
I will fear no evil: In the experience of the Valley there is evil, but we do not need to fear. Moving through life without fear is definitely not an easy thing to do, but putting our trust in God is how we choose to face the fear.
For you are with me: This is why we can trust the process of releasing our fears to God. God is with us! This concept appears to be unique from other spiritual disciplines in that it focuses us to believe the truth that God really is with us and for us!
Your rod: God promises to protect us as we walk the path of righteousness. There is an enemy who seeks to destroy the relationship God has with His sheep. Therefore, God provides His rod of protection. He has a whole arsenal of rods to fit every occasion!
Your staff: There is an aspect of journeying in the Grace of God we often dislike. It is the discipline God gives us as He transforms, renews, and recreates us into the original model He intended for us. As disciples we need discipline, and as God walks with us He disciplines us for His namesake!
They comfort me: Even in knowing God is with us, there are times when we forget the comfort God’s staff and rod offer. Each in turn remind and inform of God’s love, grace, mercy, and everlasting presence in our lives. To borrow a popular saying, “It just doesn’t get any better than that!”
You prepare a table before me: I have friend who is from the Middle East. She told me that in that culture sharing a meal with one’s enemy officially ends hostility between the two. God longs for us to share that meal with Him because as those bound in sin, God is the enemy and He longs for an end to the hostility.
In the presence of my enemies: As the sheep of His fold we acquire a bevy of enemies. Some might be family, friends, teachers, leaders, the list can go on. But remember who walks with us, protects us, and provides for us. As He places a table of reconciliation in the presence of our enemies, we are called to be reconciled.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me: Everything in this Shepherd’s Song leads us here, leads us into the process of understanding God’s passion for His sheep! The challenge remains whether will we accept God’s definition of goodness and mercy as our reality.
All the days of my life: Here begins the knowledge of the life God has for us, a life beyond our wildest imaginings, each day filled with the joy of the Lord. Even as He wipes away the tears we have become so used to experiencing, He introduces us to our new life in Him. It is a new life in which our days will never cease.
And I will dwell: No one will be homeless in the New Earth. No hurricane, flood, fire, or other catastrophe can take our security because we will live with God. He will be our home.
In the House of the Lord: Our address will be found to be in the house of God. The house of God will become our new residence. No more saying good-by to those we love whether it is in death or the separation of distance or the division that happens between family and friends. No more loss of those we love, period!
Forever: Eternal life with our Shepherd, our God! It’s self explanatory!
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:3-5 New International Version