The good shepherd | Daily Office Devotional 2021/9/18

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even 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.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for ever.

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 must be numbered among the passages from scripture which have best captured the hearts and minds of Christians worldwide. It is brief, vivid, and moving, and for this reason is frequently read at the sickbed, in hospital, and by the graveside. It is easily memorised and has thus become a staple resource for assurance and mutual encouragement.

I think that this psalm’s power comes from its stark opening statement—“the LORD is my shepherd”. This little phrase tells us who God is in a simple metaphor, plain and dignified. The shepherd leads, protects, and provides for his sheep. This is what God does for us, chiefly by sending His Son to be our shepherd, the head of the Church, God’s people on earth.

Jesus, the good shepherd, walks with us through the toughest of times, and does not leave even in the darkest of all situations—namely, the darkness of death. To the natural human mind, it would be unthinkable that someone who had died would survive to tell the tale and live to guide others through death. But we believe that this is what our Lord has achieved. Christ has risen from the dead, and in so doing has proved himself to have power to lead us through death into eternal life.

The good shepherd leads and protects his sheep through death, but also provides for them in this earthly life. Jesus sustains us with all we need and does so extravagantly. He gives us the one thing ultimately necessary for life, which is His word of salvation, an outpouring of love that He promises never to take away (Luke 10:42). And as a sign of His love in the midst of an unbelieving world, Jesus also prepares a literal table before us. There, he showers us with gifts of infinite worth—not ordinary bread, but His body given for us, and not ordinary wine, but His blood shed for us (1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:23-26).

Our Lord is the good shepherd (John 10:11). This is why we have the assurance that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life. Let us seek Him and hold fast to His word, allowing ourselves to be led by His rod and staff, so that at the end of all time, when this evil world has passed away, we may dwell in His house for ever.

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