Opening Prayer: O Jesus, Good Shepherd, see us gathered from near and far, proclaiming – You are our Master, our shepherd. You call and lead us to fruitful paths of peace and contentment. In You Jesus, is sweet labor and joyful rest. Never have You abandoned us, sweet Jesus, never have you failed us. Through dark nights and difficult moments, You carry us. There is no fear when you are near. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life; without you, who can survive?
O Good Shepherd, You are our only hope. Only You can make us one; only You can renew our land. Only You can lead us safely to our true home where at last, we shall see and adore You face to face forever. Amen. ~Rev. Antonio Tobias
Scripture: Psalm 23:1-6
Journal: What does the image of the Lord as your shepherd do within you? How does it comfort you? How does it help you with feelings of doubt, fear, or anxiety? Will you rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd today?
Sometimes a passage of Scripture can become so familiar that we fail to pay adequate attention to it. We fail to give it the space and the respect it needs to speak to us in a way where we can actually hear and understand what it is trying to say to us. Unfortunately, I know that I have a tendency to do this pretty regularly. As a matter of fact, not too long ago, I actually did it with these very verses.
You see, I have a tendency to be a bit of a sentence finisher; not only with people, but also with God. Oh, I might not finish the sentences out loud, but I definitely do in my spirit. When a passage is very familiar to me, I have a tendency to think. "Okay, I know where this is going.” And it makes me stop listening because I already know what’s going to be said. I'm sure it drives people crazy, particularly my wife, and rightly so.
Luckily, the last time I tried to do that with Psalm 23, God stopped me in my tracks. He didn’t allow me to finish his sentences for him. He had something very specific he wanted to say to me, and I am so glad. Because it was at a time when I was going through some rather uncertain and anxious circumstances and I needed to be reminded of the character and the power and the faithfulness and the trustworthiness of my God. He is my Shepherd. I have no need to want. He will provide for me, protect me, defend me, and guide me. He will make me lie down in green pastures. If I will truly believe in his desire and his ability to care for me, then I will be able to let go of my anxious, fearful, controlling behavior and have the freedom to lie down in his presence and simply trust in his love. He will lead me beside quiet waters—not chaotic, frenzied, crazy-out-of-control waters—but quiet and still waters where he will restore my soul.
Every image that God gives us of himself is actually an invitation, a picture to step into. Because with just about every image of God, there is a corresponding image of ourselves. In this case, he is the shepherd and, thus, we are his sheep. So, as we face whatever fear and anxiety and uncertainty we are in the midst of at the moment, all we need to do is remember that he is our Good Shepherd. When we cry out to him we will find ourselves being held in his strong and loving arms; and being grateful that, at least this time, he didn’t allow us to finish his sentences—because ours wouldn’t have been nearly as good.
Closing Prayer: God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life. (The Message)