The Good Shepherd: Part II

by Joanna Pierce on May 24, 2018

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever (Psalms 23:1–6, KJV).

He Comforts Us with Correction

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalms 23:4, KJV).

Valleys

When Israel was fighting against the Syrian army, they drew the people out into the valley. The enemy soon learned God was not only the God of the hills but the God of the valley as Israel prevailed in victory (I Kings 20). We’re taught early on in our spiritual walk God will take us to spiritual valleys. But, in these journeys, He doesn’t want us to fear, but to be comforted. Wherever we walk, He will be always be with us.

Valleys in our life are inevitable as God’s plan for our life will include both hills and valleys. Peter told the church not to be surprised when trials come (I Peter 4:12). Valleys are also impartial—everyone has valleys. God will rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:14); however, God will deliver the righteous (Psalms 34:19). Lastly, valleys are unpredictable. We never will know what tomorrow will bring (Proverbs 27:1), so we must trust God in every step.

The Rod and Staff

Our Shepherd’s rod and staff are to comfort us in life. The rod represents God’s power, authority, and protection. His staff represents care, compassion, and correction. These are elements of a physical and spiritual shepherd that impact our spiritual walk.

Sheep have a tendency to wander off, especially when they’re unsettled and wounded. Shepherds take their staff and pull their sheep back in, using it as an instrument for correction. Scripture tells us we’re all like sheep and have gone astray and sinned (Psalms 119:176; Isaiah 53:6). God sends discipline and His correction when we wander off like sheep. Discipline is not punishment; God is training and correcting us for the future.

In extreme cases, the shepherd will break or bind the leg of a sheep so they won’t wander off. God may put a limp in our step to keep us from hurting ourselves in the long run. He doesn’t mean to hurt us, but He’s helping us by putting spiritual guardrails in place. God cares about us enough so we don’t hurt ourselves.

We can’t fall into the trap of believing that God gets even. He’s not trying to punish us! In the end of the correction process, we will learn to seek God’s correction and learn the benefit of being afflicted (Psalms 119:71).

He Leads Us in the Paths of Righteousness

…he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalms 23:3, KJV).

Every decision we make has a right(eous) path to follow. God has mapped out ways for us to walk according to His Word. God wants us to use these paths so He can bring His glory into our life and allow it to be exemplified/shown in our daily life. Jesus promised to go before us, and as He leads, we should follow (John 10:4). We must learn to follow God’s voice calling out to us. If we continue to follow, listening to and abiding His voice will become easier.

We cannot follow a culture that does not follow God. Scripture tells us not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed and renewed (Romans 12:2). The world or any man should never deceive us into living any way other than according to righteousness (Matthew 24:4). We must follow the paths of righteous Jesus sets as an example for us. The Savior of our soul should be the only One setting our agenda and pathways.

He Prepares a Table Before Us in the Presence of Our Enemies

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies… (Psalms 23:5, KJV).

When our enemy attacks, God will prepare a table—a place of provision—for us. This table is literally a feast with God, and He will literally give us a banquet in the middle of our battlefield. God is about blessing us in public and not just in secret.

Three Enemies

There are three enemies that attack us in life. The first is the world system, which includes changed values, morals, ethics, etc. The world will always oppose God, and therefore, oppose us if we follow Him. We must be careful never to love the things in the world (I John 2:15). Even though we will face tribulation, we can rejoice knowing Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Satan is another adversary who has only an evil plan for our life. He will do anything in his power to distract and destroy us—he’s like a roaring lion, seeking who he can devour (I Peter 5:8). Paul warns in Scripture that we won’t always wrestle against physical enemies but spiritual wickedness (Ephesians 6:12). We must always be on guard against this old serpent.

Finally, the last enemy we fight is our own flesh. The more we mature in Christ, the more we learn that we, ourselves, are our largest problem. Paul discussed all throughout Romans 7 how he was constantly at war with his flesh. He knew things he wanted to do, but didn’t do them; he knew what would destroy them, but kept doing them. We must continue to go into battle against our own flesh, through prayer, fasting, and reading the Word. If we’re faithful, we’ll find God will have a table for us to sustain us during each battle.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on May 23, 2018 with Pastor Nave