Sheep and Shepherd, Psalm 23

Sheep and Shepherd, is a beautiful relationship that God want believers to possess. It is very comforting to know God is the Great Shepherd (Heb 13:20), because the Shepherd has the responsibility to look after the sheep, feed the sheep, protect the sheep, help the sheep out of troubles, cure the sheep when it is sick, find the sheep when it is lost, and bring home all to safely as every sheep is accounted for. And what is the part of the sheep? Nothing, but calling out “mbek” for the flock and follow the Shepherd.

Contrast to sheep which is associated to being dumb but humble animal, the bible also mentioned “Goat”, which is associated to being independent, smarter but proud animal, going their own way. It may be smarter, but when it went its own way and fell off the cliff, it would still die, although “die smart”. But I’d rather be dumb like the sheep, just follow my Shepherd, yet living a blessed life, taken care of by my good Shepherd. Do you agree?

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God wants you to see Him a Shepherd. In fact, when you see God as a Shepherd, automatically Faith springs out into action. Something happens to your body and soul when you know and believe God is your Shepherd. First of all, bodily healing happens. Healing is tied up with Jesus Christ being your Shepherd.

1Pe 2:24  who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed..

This verse is very often used as one of the healing verses, to cure diseases. But do you know that this verse is tied up to the relationship of sheep and Shepherd? See the next verse:

1Pe 2:25  For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

We were once like sheep who wandered away, and that is the reason we were bodily sick! But now you have turned to the Great Shepherd, the guardian of your soul, and therefore you are now eligible to receive the healing by the wounds that Jesus Christ had carried for you on the cross. By His stripes you were healed.

When we see God as our Shepherd, not just our body being in good health, but also you’d lack nothing in your life,

Psa 23:1  A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The context is about sheep and Shepherd relationship, and what happens to the sheep being in such relationship? David who was a shepherd all his youth years before God anointed him a King, understood well what it takes to be a Shepherd. David was known in the Bible as the man after God’s heart. He knows the heart of God. Long before Jesus came to introduce God as a good Father, David described God as the Good Shepherd.

Jesus is not just your Savior, do you also know Him as your Shepherd? When you realize that God is your Shepherd, you shall not want (= lack – NIV), lack of what? No qualification at all, it covers just everything you can put. Like a blank cheque for you, to fill-up the blank, it can be your health, your marriage harmony, your life-partner, your salvation, your life provision, mental soundness, etc.

Psa 23:2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

Psa 23:3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

Note verse 2 & 3 of the Psalm, that the Shepherd does everything. He makes you to lie down in green pastures, where abundant healthy food is available, food that will empower you to be spiritually strong. What food is that? Green grass is the picture of the fresh new grass, the picture of the New Covenant of Grace. Furthermore, God want you to relax and rest by the quiet (still) waters, that you will find peace of mind. How can you find peace of mind? The answer is also in the New Covenant of Grace, that God had supplied you with His Righteousness by faith as a gift; you don’t have to work to earn it. God had done all things that man cannot do for himself, eternal forgiveness of all sins through the cross that give you eternal peace of mind. In short, when the sheep has food and rest, the sheep will not lack for anything in life.

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The number one need of the body of Christ today is food. Christians are hungry for the truth that will set them free. Feeding on the New Covenant of Grace will produce Christ love, peace and joy, which subsequently produce true holiness and obedience, motivated by love not fear. Next to being hungry, is rest (peace). How can Christians have peace if they are not even sure going heaven, whenever they die? Many teaching today is still focusing on sins, being sins-conscious, and continuous confessions of sins; while all sins, past, present & future sins, have been dealt with on the cross, all sins have been forgiven the moment you accepted Jesus as your Lord & Savior (the perfection of Jesus blood as compared to the blood of bulls and animals of the Old Covenant). New Covenant confession of sin is not to get forgiven, but you ask because you stand to know that all your sins have already been forgiven. You don’t come as “beaten dog” but as a child. It is a kind of sincere communication with the loving Father, out of gratefulness, and thankfulness for what Jesus had done for you on the cross. And this will lead you to love Him more, every time you fail. Jesus said in Luk 7:47  when you know your sins are forgiven much, you will love much. The same if you think your sins are forgiven little, you will also love a little. Apparently, many Christians are still being taught that Jesus only forgave them a little, as they are still responsible for their future sins. Likewise, many people feel they are not so sinful comparing to others, as such they do not need Savior. The truth is: every man is born a sinner because of Adam’s sin (not of their own sins). Everyman is equally sinful and needs savior desperately.

Psa 23:3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

Restoring soul is related to healing, in Hebrew “Nafes” = breathes back life into me. When God breathe life into you, He restore you from all illnesses, sound of mind, depressions, etc.

Path of Righteousness is the food path of the sheep. The sheep is being led on the same grassing path, from down the hill circling to the top of the hill (see picture). When the sheep has reached the top, the Shepherd will lead the same path all over again. The Righteousness in the New Covenant of Grace is not your own righteousness, but it is Righteousness by faith and a gift of God. No one is righteous but Jesus. God’s requirements of righteousness can only be satisfied by God’s own righteousness, and Jesus has died on the cross to give us His righteousness. As Pastors and Leaders, you need to lead the sheep over the same path every meeting, the path about Jesus Christ and Him crucified only. Just like Apostle Paul in his teaching & preaching (1Co 2:2)

sheep path of righteousness

The word “He leads me” twice mentioned. How difficult is it to follow Him? You may ask then, How He leads you and how to hear my Shepherd? The only qualification needed is just being a sheep. When the sheep believes he is loved and in peace, the sheep will hear His voice. Jesus said Joh 10:27  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  You don’t have to go for extra seminars on “how to hear God”, because Jesus said when you take your position as sheep, then you will hear His voice. Out of the rivers of peace in your belly, you will hear Him. He will speak to you from inside your heart, like you speak to yourself. And you will know His voice too.

Psa 23:4  Yea, 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.

Notice verse 4 is no longer “He” but “I”. When God do it, it is always good, when God lead, it is always good. But when I (no longer the Lord leads me), what happens? You may end up in the valley of the shadow of death. But, David knew that even though at times he was lost out of his own mistake, he did not want to be led and think he could do it on his own way, yet David knew that “You are with me”. How come? Because David knew God is always faithful, even though at times David was not faithful, and indeed, Jesus promised to leave the 99 just to find the 1 sheep that is missing. And, when Jesus found that 1 sheep He will rejoice and have a party, just like the prodigal son returning to the Father, the son was only expecting to be a hired servant. Yet, the Father ran to kiss him while he was still far away, brought him the best robe, put sandals for his feet, and ring of son-ship on his finger, then killed the fatted calf and lavishly was throwing a big party. Why? This is our lavish God who love us so much and do not want us to feel guilty over our mistakes. God want you to live victoriously, with a mindset of a victor and not a victim!

Note also on verse 4 is the word “shadow” of death. It is not real death, only a shadow. David had a revelation of Jesus having disarmed all principalities and power of darkness  (Col 2:15); and Jesus triumphing over death, was raised from death because we had been made right with God (Rom 4:25).

“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”. The rod of Shepherd is not to beat the sheep, but to whack any wolves which try to harm the sheep. The staff of Shepherd is not to beat the sheep but to help the sheep that falls into a pit. A staff will have a crooked end, able to hook out the sheep. God use the staff to hook you out of your troubles too. And, the word “comfort” is also very comforting picture of Holy Spirit being the comforter. The presence of our Shepherd alone will drive out all fears.

Psa 23:5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

We normally want to eat in the absence of our enemies. Enemies here can be our sickness, the negative medical report against us. But God want us to rejoice despite the negative report and proclaim well being even at the presence of the bad symptoms. Because Jesus had defeated the enemies. Imagine the sheep was eating at a table, while the captured wolves being tied up to watch the sheep eating. The wolves could only snare and growl at the sheep, only a “shadow of death”, enemies could not harm the sheep any longer.

“anoint the head of sheep with oil”: during those days, the sheep’s head was poured with olive oil, to ward off flies, because flies laying eggs inside the ears of sheep could kill the sheep with the maggots from the hatched eggs. In the bible: flies typify evil spirit (Beelzebub = ruler of Devils).  The oil irritates the flies, and wards them away. Oil in the bible also typifies Holy Spirit.

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“my cup runs over”, because God always give exceedingly, abundantly, and above all we can ask or think (Eph 3:20). God always over answer our prayer, because He is a big God.

The last verse is probably the most important of all verses, Psa 23:6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

It started with “surely”, not perhaps, not may be, not probably, but definitely; goodness and mercy (Hebrew “Hasset” = Grace) shall follow you. The word follow in Hebrew is stronger than merely follow, but “pursue & hunt you down”. Remember this Psalm is in the context of sheep and Shepherd. When goodness and mercy follow you as the sheep, it means they are behind, following the sheep. And, what was the sheep doing? The sheep is following the Shepherd. Therefore, as long as the sheep is following the Shepherd, then goodness and mercy shall follow the sheep. If the sheep stops following the Shepherd, so do the goodness and mercy. Therefore, my friends don’t stop following your Shepherd, what is so difficult being a sheep? And what is the cost of following your Shepherd? Nothing. What is the benefit? Everything good in life will come your way

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