Shepherds were a prominent fixture in Old Testament times:
- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – all shepherds.
- Moses was a leader in Egypt, schooled in the ways of the palace, BUT he wasn’t called to lead the people of Israel until after he spent 40 years as a shepherd.
- David, the least of the brothers, out shepherding the flocks, was the one God chose to be King.
God repeatedly portrays Himself as a shepherd. (Gen 49:24, Ps 23, Isa 40:11, Ezk 34:11-24)
Jesus declares Himself the shepherd of God’s people. (Matt 9:6, John 10:1-18)
- Seems to me there might be something important about being a shepherd!
- And WE are repeatedly referred to as sheep: (PS 95:7; Ps 100:3; Isa 53:6, 1 Peter:25 are just a few.
This imagery was one that everyone understood in biblical times. When these Scriptures were read, everyone would understand their full and nuanced meaning with instant recognition of traits of both the Shepherd and the sheep.
Not so much today…
Apple Genius Bar Guy and smart phone users –sure!
but sheep? I am allergic to farms! (but grateful for google)
Sheep were: dirty, prone to wander, helpless to make it on their own, prey for lurking predators without a sense of danger or self-preservation, not the smartest animal in the barnyard. However, sheep are also affectionate, loyal and trusting of their shepherd, upon whom they were utterly dependent.
A good shepherd would be essential for the sheep to not only survive but thrive.
Being a good shepherd was a 24/7, boots on the ground kind of job.
It was a difficult, dirty, grimy, sleeping outdoors with the sheep, trudging to new pastures to feed, fighting of hostile forces that threated attack, being on call, aware, self-sacrificing and utterly invested in the wellbeing of the flock.
When the shepherd is a Good, the sheep flourish.
Honesty, I think it sounds a bit like being a mom … or a caretaker of someone we love.
A labor of love: often thankless, unpredictable, constant, no matter how we feel, heart breaking at times, requiring vigilance, preparedness, fore thought and prayer, exhausting, exhilarating, rewarding…
And this is the image God chooses to help us understand His love and care for us.
In Psalm 23 David outlines the blessing of having God as our Good Shepherd.
The first verse sets the stage and the rest fills in all the details.
The Lord is my Shepherd
(big pause and recall to mind all the images we just talked about )
I have all that I need.
-read that again…
I have All. That. I. Need.
(period end of sentence!)
Do you believe that?
- Really, truly, live like we mean it- believe that?
- Or like me do you read those words and pass over them so quickly that they lose their impact?
A few other translations:
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. (the Message)
The Lord is my Shepherd (to feed, guide, shield me), I shall not lack. (The Amplified Bible)
ADONAI is my shepherd; I lack nothing. (Complete Jewish Bible) Adonai is the way the Hebrews would speak aloud the “so sacred it was unspeakable” name of God, YHWH.
The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. (The Living Bible)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (KJV)
Read through these translations, and then look at the literal meaning of the Hebrew words in this verse.
want: (eh-sar) – to lack, need, be lacking, be in want,
shepherd: (roi from root ra’ah) – companion, keep company with, friend
- verb: to graze, tend, to pasture, break
- adjective: a keeper, one who feeds
- figurative meaning: a shepherd, herdsman Think about the images and stories you have heard/seen about this verse throughout your life
Add it all together…
Now…Write your own personal version of this verse.
mine would read something like this…
the Lord God, King of Kings, Creator of the Universe, Incomprehensible is my Shepherd –
the ONE who takes care of me, sees me, knows me… isn’t surprised by my shortcomings, or overwhelmed with my exuberance, even handles my ADD with patience… wants to spend time with me, take care of me, teach me, guide me… And___, and___ and____ . so because all this is true…
….HE is EVERYTHING I need, so when I think I might be lacking in…(fill in the blank), I need to re- read this.
Please take the time to do this exercise.
- If you aren’t a words girl, grab a few magazines and make a collage, draw, doodle, make a list…
- look at the rest of the Psalm if you need some ideas
- or think about all the things you need/want/ require just to get through a day
Have fun diving into this so you can really grasp the wonder of this verse…
The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.
There is something about this picture that draws me in… something about the innocence of children, their utter need, the trust in their faces… and how like sheep they are. I am continually learning about God and His love for me, as well as what a childlike faith looks like, from being a mom… and a daughter.
Please share your “translation of Psalm 23:1” with us! Words or pictures: post yours in the comments, or even on FB!
Digging Deeper :
Hebrew for Christians: offers insight into Psalm 23 and the imagery of God as our Shepherd.
Read the rest of Psalm 23 and think about how each of the images of what the good Shepherd does for His sheep can be translated into today’s vernacular and relate personally to your life.
- How does “He leads me beside still waters” specifically translate into your life, needs, experiences?
- Take time to pause and experience God’s care for you in these ways.
Today begins the 4th week of Lent and while I will continue to choose from the different Lectionary verses, the gospel readings for this week are all from John. I want to encourage you to read them each day and follow the drama.
Below is a paragraph from that introduces the Lectionary for this week offering you a deeper understanding of the rhythm and purpose of the Lectionary.
The Fourth Week of Lent:
With this week, we begin the second part of Lent. We ask more and more deeply to be with and like Jesus. We desire to celebrate the approaching mystery of our salvation with greater freedom and greater joy.
Each day’s gospel will now be from the Gospel according to John. We can’t avoid the feeling of being in a court room for a grand trial. There are “witnesses” and “testimony.” It is a battle between the forces of Darkness and the Light. The opposition to Jesus mounts. It is inevitable that he will be killed. But, we know that the ultimate Judgment in the trial is against Sin and Death. We grow in gratitude and grace as we experience more deeply that this is all “for me.”
Daily Lectionary Readings:
1 Samuel 16: 1B, 6-7, 10-13A; Psalm 23: 1-3A; 4,5,6; Ephesians: 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41
If you want to read through the New Testament during Lent (about 1/2 hour a day)
Read on Day 26: catch up day! I LOVE catch up days!!
We have completed Matthew –Acts.
Congrats if you have read along!