Reading from a very familiar Psalm written by faithful King David:
23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV)
Early the morning this was written, I was sitting on the floor with a nine-week-old puppy falling asleep in my lap. And these words came into my heart – He restores my soul.
Almost two years prior, my beloved 12-year-old dog was on a down-hill slide and could no longer even get herself into a comfortable position. As her health declined each day, my soul was filled with sharp pain. I knew her end on earth was near, and the sorrow of our coming separation was overwhelming. Tears came throughout the day, springing forth beyond my control, at times of their own choosing.
When the fateful moment finally came, I firmly concluded that I could never have another dog – the pain of loss was just too great. Although I had been through this exercise twice before, this one was just too close to my heart and the grief too much to go through again. I was done for good – or so I thought.
Today, my soul is restored. Completely. Every ounce of love I had for my previous dog has been poured into this new one from the start. We all got a big head-start on bonding and attachment.
The days ordained for her, and me, are known only to God, and all I do know is that I have right now. It is up to me to enjoy and live in the moment, to love her and others, and to follow the will of God as best I can today. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, and today is a unique gift of God to be experienced and savored, never to be repeated.
In times of pain and turmoil, anxiety and depression, or loneliness and boredom, we are very blessed to have a Good Shepherd who has promised in His holy word to restore us and lead us beside peaceful, still waters. He will calm and remove the sting of grief, strife, and pain. Though scars may remain, He will fill the holes in our soul with His loving presence. He cherishes us and has granted us His righteousness by offering Himself on the cross for us. We will not long suffer from want because He is always there with us to shield us and to provide us with healing and nourishment. As Jesus said:
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. John 10:11 (NKJV)
Having revealed Himself as our Good Shepherd, Jesus warns us that there are also false shepherds out there. These types appear to be for us, but are really only out for themselves. These may pretend to be followers of God but are actually followers of the evil one. They have self-serving motives, such as the lust for money, glory, and power, rather than gently and sacrificially leading God’s people down a path of righteousness. Jesus warns us to be alert and aware, and that by carefully inspecting their fruits, we will know if they are the genuine article. That is not to say that our earthly shepherds will be perfect – none will be. But they should be on a path of seeking to follow God, not self.
As followers of Christ, we will know His voice when He calls us – there will be no mistaking it. God and His true representatives – authentic, godly spiritual leaders – will never use manipulation, half-truths, or hidden motives to lead us into action. The Good Shepherd will guide us along true path of righteousness, in purity and truth, for our and others’ eternal benefit.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica to warn them about temptations that may come to those who act in the Good Shepherd’s name. A good shepherd will only want to lead for Jesus’ name’s sake, and not his own.
4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6 (NKJV)
The Good Shepherd is with us today. Do you know Him? If not, today is a great day to invite Him into your heart and life. He will never abandon you nor lead you astray.
Lord, help me to notice and appreciate the beauty that You have placed all around me today. Show me true shepherds who will teach me and help me to grow closer to You on my faith journey. Help us to do our part by supporting, encouraging, and praying for them as they will undergo much opposition from the evil one. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.