The Shepherd

by Dottie Ryan

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. (Psalm 40:1-2)

As I sit out on the deck this somewhat warm, humid, overcast morning, I am reminded of the stark contrast between last week’s crisp, sunshiny day . . . and I can’t help but be thankful that every day is not the same – that each day – each moment – has its own flavor.   Yet I also see my propensity to want things to look different – to want them to look the way I think would serve me best; sunshine would do me nicely about right now.  And even as I write these words to you, they sting, because they show me too much of the me in me. It can be so difficult for this sheep to realize that my way died when the old me died (cf. Galatians 2:20).  So I must remind myself at every turn that: The LORD is my Shepherd . . . I live for Him. As is typical of sheep, left to my own devices I would wander off and not even have a clue I had done so . . .

W. Phillip Keller, in his little book A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23, says, “It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep.  The behavior of sheep and human being is similar in many ways . . . Our mass mind (or mob instincts), our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, our perverse habits are all parallels of profound importance.”  But he also goes on to encourage us: “Yet despite these adverse characteristics Christ chooses us, buys us, calls us by name, makes us His own, and delights in caring for us.”

As I sit here, secretly wishing for my life to look different this morning, I realize that I need to turn my gaze to the One who purchased me – and listen for the voice of my Great Shepherd – and trust His Sovereign lead. “This is the day that the Lord [not Dottie] has made…” (Psalm 118:24a).  Can I trust Him and rejoice and be glad in it? Am I willing to do that?

Keller further suggests, “It is a tragic truth that many people who really have never come under His direction or management claim that ‘The Lord is my shepherd.’ They seem to hope that by merely admitting that He is their Shepherd somehow they will enjoy the benefits of His care and management without paying the price of forfeiting their own fickle and foolish way of life.  One cannot have it both ways.  Either we belong or we don’t.”

Lord let this not be me! Help me!  I need you!

In a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, he gives a sobering reminder of the price that was paid by our Shepherd to purchase us. He says:

“If I had the power to do it, how would I seek to refresh in your souls a sense of this fact that you are ‘bought with a price.’ There in the midnight hour, amidst the olives of Gethsemane, kneels Immanuel the Son of God; he groans, he pleads in prayer, he wrestles; see the beady drops stand on his brow, drops of sweat, but not of such sweat as pours from men when they earn the bread of life, but the sweat of him who is procuring life itself for us. It is blood, it is crimson blood; great gouts of it are falling to the ground. O soul, thy Savior speaks to thee from out Gethsemane at this hour, and he says: ‘Here and thus I bought thee with a price.’ Come, stand and view him in the agony of the olive garden, and understand at what a cost he procured thy deliverance. Track him in all his path of shame and sorrow till you see him on the Pavement; mark how they bind his hands and fasten him to the whipping-post; see, they bring the scourges and the cruel Roman whips; they tear his flesh; the ploughers make deep furrows on his blessed body, and the blood gushes forth in streams, while rivulets from his temples, where the crown of thorns has pierced them, join to swell the purple stream. From beneath the scourges he speaks to you with accents soft and low, and he says, ‘My child, it is here and thus I bought thee with a price.’ But see him on the cross itself when the consummation of all has come; his hands and feet are fountains of blood, his soul is full of anguish even to heartbreak; and there, ere the soldier pierces with a spear his side, bowing down he whispers to thee and to me, ‘It was here and thus, I bought thee with a price.’ O by Gethsemane, by Gabbatha, by Golgotha, by every sacred name collected with the passion of our Lord, by sponge and vinegar, and nail and spear, and everything that helped the pang and increased the anguish of his death, I conjure you, my beloved brethren, to remember that ye were ‘bought with a price,’ and ‘are not your own.’ I push you to this; you either were or were not so bought; if you were, it is the grand fact of your life; if you were, it is the greatest fact that ever will occur to you: let it operate upon you, let it dominate your entire nature, let it govern your body, your soul, your spirit, and from this day let it be said of you not only that you are a man, a man of good morals and respectable conduct, but this, above all things, that you are a man filled with love to him who bought you, a man who lives for Christ, and knows no other passion.”

In Laurie’s lecture, she reminded us that, until we get this part settled in our own minds and hearts, we will stumble through the rest of the study.  She asked us, “Do we trust Him? Do we see? Do we understand? Do we believe?”  So I urge you to prayerfully lose some sleep if necessary to seek the Lord in all honesty, to cry out for Him to show us where our hearts and minds are concerning Him – Christ – Our Shepherd, and what we are willing (or not willing) to give up to be totally His.

Yes, each day – each moment – has its own flavor. In looking for what we think this moment should look like, may we not miss the “grazing” – the tender leading – as He guides us through the pasture along the journey of life this day.


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