by Dottie Ryan
Through this study we are learning that God loves us. And this is so necessary for us to know and even experience if we are to follow Him — to fall in love again with Him. When God called us to Himself, it was just like when He chose the Israelites to be His people; it wasn’t because of anything they had done. It was in spite of what they had done and for demonstration of His glory. He showed His faithfulness to tend His sheep and take them the course best suited for them and their safety — albeit long, windy, and difficult at times. He led them. They just needed to know He could be trusted that they (and we) would “not want” along the way. His reputation, so to speak, was at stake (for His namesake). As Deuteronomy 7:7-9 (NIV) tells us
The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh King of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.
He loved Israel and swore to their forefathers that he would bring them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. And He cared for them each step of the way like sheep, going ahead of them so no danger would befall them and taking them the course where clean water would be found because He knew they were also thirsty. For His glory.
As I was reading further into Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, I began to be more thankful that He is deliberately guiding you and me through these valleys and winding paths up to greener pastures and being very careful to take you and me on the path necessary to nourish and strengthen our faith, although at times it may not “feel” like it. He is tenderly nurturing and caring for us as only a good shepherd would do for his flock of sheep. The following portions of the book struck me as I read them, and led me to more fully see Psalm 63 as more than just words. Keller writes:
In caring for his sheep, the good shepherd, the careful manager, will from time to time make a careful examination of each individual sheep. The picture is a very poignant one. As each animal comes out of the corral and through the gate, it is stopped by the shepherd’s outstretched rod. He opens the fleece with the rod: he runs his skillful hands over the body; he feels for any sign of trouble; he examines the sheep with care to see that all is well. This is a most searching process entailing every intimate detail. It is, too, a comfort to the sheep, for only in this way can its hidden problems be laid bare before the shepherd.
I’m reminded of the beginning of the study when we prayed Psalm 139 and asked the Lord to search our heart to see if there is any wicked way in us–and lead us to the way of understanding. Keller, in referring to the examination a good shepherd does to each sheep in his flock, says: “This is what was meant in Psalm 139:23-24.” He says, “If we will allow it, if we will submit to it, God, by His Word will search us…He will get below the surface, behind the front of our old self-life and expose things that need to be made right. This is a process for which we need not shrink. It is not something to avoid. It is done in concern and compassion for our welfare. The Great Shepherd of our souls has our best interests at heart when He so searches us.” So I wonder if the Shepherd has been searching you with his rod or his hand to shine light on things/attitudes/wrong beliefs in your life that might be harmful to you. If so, do you see them as love and tender care? Are you drawing even closer? Or are you shrinking back? Do not fear. He is a tender Shepherd. His rod and His staff…well, they comfort you! Rest in this.