1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
so at new life i’ve been attending a sunday school series that pastor brian’s been teaching about the dynamic of shepherd and sheep in our relationship with Jesus. much of the content and direction of the series is based on phillip keller’s book a shepherd looks at psalm 23. it’s been awesome, and i wanted to share some of the really cool stuff. the following is a mixture of content from the book, content from sunday school, and my own thoughts.
at the outset of the series, brian opened up discussion to talk about metaphors in the bible. there are tons of ways we see the relationship between us and God depicted. Father and children, King and kingdom, Husband and bride, Head and body are all examples. the imagery of a shepherd and his sheep is also quite prevalent.
the thing is, i am not a shepherd. nor have i ever really spent a lot of time around sheep (i’m actually trying to think if i’ve ever been around one… yes. camp tecumseh. the mini-farm. check). so this metaphor, while i understand it on a surface level, isn’t extremely relevant to me. is it important that i dig deeper to have more than a superficial understanding that a shepherd leads sheep?
pastor brian’s answer was an emphatic yes. God is described using so many metaphors in the bible because no one metaphor can contain Him; He is infinite. it’s important for us to understand each one of their implications, including that of Jesus being our Shepherd, because only when we understand the nature of our relationships can they be strengthened. how strong is a child’s bond to her father if she doesn’t recognize that he will protect her? how can a boy truly know and appreciate his mother unless he grasps the fact that part of her role is nurturing him? in the same way, if i’m not seeking to understand every facet of my relationship with Jesus, i’ll be missing out on a lot.
ergo, the metaphors.
but what about the metaphors that many people might feel disconnected from? if someone has a bad relationship with their dad, the idea of God being a father might not sit well. if a woman has been married to someone who was unfaithful, the metaphor of Jesus being the Bridegroom may not hold much weight.
i think this reveals two things: first, people are imperfect. second, Jesus is the opposite. we will never find any perfectly satisfying or fulfilling relationship here on earth, because we are all flawed people. but Jesus fulfills every aspect of every relationship. He truly is the perfect father. He loves us, protects us, disciplines us for our own good, and guides us. He’s the perfect bridegroom… faithful (even when we are consistently unfaithful), loving, tender, selfless (and everything else).
i want to chase after this God.
i know i didn’t actually get into the shepherd metaphor at all. but that will come soon. for now, i want to seek after the Lord. learn more about what this relationship looks like from all sides. sometimes i forget the wonder of this reality. i forget that the Creator of the universe died so that i could be His son.
i will gladly be a sheep of this Shepherd.