Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Master Shepherd from Psalm 23

Psalm twenty-three is perhaps one of the most familiar psalms ever to be penned. David, a shepherd himself, wrote this psalm with many shepherding metaphors interwoven through this psalm. For my preaching lab in seminary yesterday, one man preached a message from this psalm giving us a picture of Jesus Christ as the Master Shepherd and how we must, as undershepherds, endeavor to imitate the shepherding as exemplified by God Himself.

In this sermon, he listed fourteen marks of how we must imitate the Master Shepherd. For lack of time, I will list them and give a brief description under each.

1. We must make certain that we know that the Lord is our Shepherd.
The Lord is my shepherd – Do we as pastors, teachers, elders and deacons even know the true Shepherd ourselves? Do we really know the gospel which we are declaring? Do we really love the Savior whom we are inviting others to savor? May we, as shepherds, make certain that we know and love the true and great Shepherd.

2. We must know how to satisfy the sheep.
I shall not want (or literally, “I shall not lack”) – Do we know how to satisfy our sheep so that they are lacking in nothing. Do we know the full counsel of God so that we can nourish our sheep from the rich truths of God’s word?

3. We must know how to make them lie down in safety.
He causes me to lie down in green pastures – The picture of green pastures is that of a shepherd leading his sheep to a place where they can, after they have eaten and are full, to lie down in lush, green, peaceful and safe pastures free from all harm. Do we lead them to safety so they can lie down and rest in safety?

4. We must lead them by finding still and safe waters for them to drink from.
He leads me beside still waters – The shepherd of these sheep knows where the quiet and calm waters are as opposed to the rough and rushing waters of a river that can overpower a sheep by drowning it in the engulfing waters. Can we lead our people to the sweet, pure and still waters of God’s Word so they can be satisfied free from harm?

5. We must know how to help and restore our sheep.
He restores my soul – Do we know how to restore our sheep when they veer off the proper path? Do we know how to chastise them with love and gentleness so that they can be restored to a right relationship with the True Shepherd?

6. We must lead our sheep into paths of righteousness.
He guides me in paths of righteousness – Do we lead our sheep into paths of righteousness that will be edifying for them? Are we careful with our exegesis, our application, our habits and preparations as we prepare to lead our sheep?

7. We must lead our sheep for God’s ultimate glory.
On account of His name – Do we lead our sheep for God’s ultimate glory? Or do we zealously desire the applause and accolades from the sheep? We must be such shepherds that are leading and shepherding so that the True Shepherd receives all honor, glory and adoration!

8. We must know how to lead our people through the dark and tough valleys.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear evil – Do we, first of all, recognize where the deep and dark valleys are? Second of all, do we as their shepherds, know how to lead our sheep through these dark valleys? Sometimes, people must go through dark and tough times in life (suffering, death, loss of job, etc.). Are we prepared as their shepherds to lead them and show them God’s goodness in the midst of these trying times?

9. We must lead with a rod and a staff to protect, guide and redirect our sheep.
For You are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me – Just as the shepherd uses the rod to protect his sheep by batting away wolves, so we must be equipped and ready to protect our sheep by using the Word of God to veer away false teachers and enemies of the gospel who teach things which are “not in accordance with godliness.” Do we use the staff to lovingly and gently redirect our sheep onto the right path after they have sinned?

10. We must observe, understand the context and prepare our people for where we are.
You have prepared a table before me, in the presence of my enemies – Though I think this metaphor is referring to God as Host, I’ll continue with the shepherding imagery for the sake of my topic at hand. Are we able to go before our sheep and prepare the way for them, to prepare the table for the Word of God to be brought to bear in their lives. Do we know how to teach them so the family, their work environments, or mutual relationships can be used to be a light and a witness before a lost and dying world?

11. We must watch over and protect our sheep.
You anoint my head with oil – This is the shepherding image when a shepherd would anoint the nose of the sheep so that bugs and insects would not crawl in there and irritate the sheep and literally drive the sheep crazy. Do we know how to “anoint our sheep” so that false teaching does not creep into their lives and destroy the pure and undefiled Word of God?

12. We must take care of and abundantly supply the needs of the sheep.
My cup overflows – Can we give our sheep an adequate dose of the riches contained in God’s Word so that they leave full and eager to study the Word more on their own throughout the week? How wonderful it is for us as preachers to so excite our people, to so inflame their hearts, to so ignite a passion in our people that they would leave with a greater vision of God’s greatness and a passionate desire to live every moment for God’s glory.

13. We must lead so the sheep know that goodness and prosperity will ultimately come.
Surely goodness and covenant lovingkindness will pursue me all the days of my life – Can we give them the “big picture” so that our sheep know that God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty are the overarching themes of all that He does. Do we lead them in such a way that they know that as hard as things may be in this life, the loyal, covenant-keeping and steadfast love of our God will be a real and perfect realization when we enter glory?

14. We must point people to eternity.
And I will dwell in the house of Yahweh forever – The end goal of all that we do is to worship and bring glory to our God not only in this life, but also for all of eternity as we will bow before our great King and worship our awesome Shepherd crying out “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”


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