One of the most impactful things I’ve watched in my short pastorate was a documentary on actual shepherds. This documentary followed shepherds leading sheep, and I learned much about what it means to be an under-shepherd of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
The shepherds in this documentary never harassed the sheep. They were not cattle drivers. They were off of their horses, in the midst of the sheep, and the sheep trusted them. It was a beautiful picture of Christ in His creation, redeeming His sheep. Also, it was a beautiful picture of truly called shepherds in the church, leading and loving their flock.
“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.” — Psalm 23:1-3
This text gives us great insight as to how God leads His people. And even more specifically this text helps me see how I am to lead.
There are some beautiful characteristics of God in this text. We see that God cares for His people’s needs.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
We see that God is leading us by His providential care.
“He leads me by still waters.”
And we see that He protects His people because the Psalm goes on to say:
“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.”
I want to zero in on a couple things, and give you some simple applications for your life. I listened to a lesson by Dr. Steve Lawson recently. It served to stir me up, and notice some incredible things in this text.
Christ our Chief Shepherd has two primary functions in our lives.
1. He leads
By His Spirit, He is leading His people always. Not punitively like a judge, but lovingly like a Father. His regenerate children get to experience the supernatural leading of the Lord, and the swift discipline keeping them on the path. This discipline may hurt for a moment, but in the end it is the sweetest of assurances.
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” — Proverbs 3:11-12
2. He feeds
The green pastures in this text are a picture of God’s word. His word is our spiritual food, our soul’s nourishment, and through the trials of this life he makes us lie down in it. We cannot control the difficult things we go through, but thankfully God in His sovereign plan ordains our sufferings to drive us to our knees in dependence on Him. The green pastures are meant to nourish us hungry sheep. He provides the hunger, and His word to satisfy it. All to the praise of His glory alone. That’s why the Psalm says, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
So, the simple application is this: If Christ is leading and feeding, the question becomes are we following, and are we eating? Are we sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting, and are we deeply engaged in what God’s word says? If yes, then you can relate to verse 2b that says:
“He leads me beside still waters.”
In other words, when He is leading, and we are following we get to experience supernatural peace, even in the midst of suffering.
So, this text is a very simple call to all Christians, continue to follow, and eat.
The question then turns to pastors, who are to reflect Christ’s shepherding example. Are we leading, and are we feeding the sheep? Or are we harassing, and starving the sheep? Our duty is to give our congregations the pure word, and that will satisfy their souls. Not our ideas, systems, and every trending and quasi-Christian idea. We are called to preach, and lead by example. The greatest thing we can give our people is the Bible, and integrity in our personal lives. I’m looking in the mirror this morning, and I’m saying:
“Be like Jesus, lead and feed.”