Psalm 23, probably the most popular psalm, recited everywhere and herd on the mouth of every kid says;………….“1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 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. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 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.”
Wonderful experiences narrated by the psalmist all simple because the lord is his shepherd.
Never being in want, laid in green pastures, being led on a daily basis beside streams of waters, restoration assured, guided on the path of righteousness, immunity and assurance of absolute safety as he transverses the valley of the shadow of death without any iota of fear, enjoy direction and comfort, invited to a feast, a buffet in the presence of his foes, head never lacking oil and his cup running over. Then finally and most assuredly, goodness and mercy being his entourage, for every second of his earthly pilgrimage and him dwelling in the house of God for all eternity. This happens to be the reality in which the psalmist found himself, and articulated words to give them a form of written expression.
Such a description may seem like a mirage, but yet true. All these and probably lot more hinged on the premise of “The Lord Is My Shepherd.”
Sometimes I sit and ponder within myself, and even mutter out in words if such a life was the experience of any other in the scripture. Other times, I ponder, why this lifestyle is extinct in the life of the average believer in this modern day, even though we are in the dispensation of grace and not the law, where God seems to or rather is closer to us than he was while the law was still operational. We are in the day of the Holy Spirit who dwells and lives in us, the day and time where the word is freely available and very operational to everyone.
While the Israelites dwelt in Egypt, up till the time they journeyed through the wilderness, a lot of supernatural events characterized their dwelling and voyage. They prospered in Egypt and increased so much such that the Egyptians had to notice and eventually take precaution against them, the ten plagues, their journey through the wilderness, shoes and clothes not waxing old, none dying of any form of sickness, infirmities or whatsoever, the pillar of cloud and fire by day and night respectively, and lots more too many to exhaust the list.
Although there is a wide difference between the supernatural and the spectacular, it is also undeniable that all these events were both supernatural and spectacular.
Reading and studying the bible many times, it is obvious that Israel as a growing nation, never experienced as much plagues, mishaps, misfortune, and calamities as seen and experienced by “God’s people”. Christianity or better, the life, ZOE that Jesus gave his life for that we may have is literal, substantial and tangible. It can be seen, felt, touched and even shared. As a matter of fact, it is contagious. This therefore means until what we claim to believe in is better explained by our experiences even as visible to others, and our experiences are better explained by what we believe, we are yet begun.
The bible says in John 1:5 “ 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
Jesus undisputed is the living word of God, and he was the subject of the few verses above. This part of scripture states explicitly that all things were by Jesus, and nothing is, that wasn’t of him. It further says that in him, (Jesus, the son of God and the living word of God, who is the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person and upholds all things by the word of his power) is life, and that life is the light of men. Light, if of high intensity may be felt, but primarily light is seen. This therefore means that as a believer, your life ought to be tangibly visible just as that of the psalmist.
For until our lives (lights) illuminate the hearts and minds people around us who necessarily do not share same faith as us, explaining better to the world what we believe so that they, by reason of observation can understand scripture better, and also by reading scripture understand our lifestyle, I believe we are yet to begin. I will also like to add that this does not mean we become predictable, the bible says that a man born of the spirit cannot be predicted, just as no one can study and observe the pattern of the wind and be able to predict it (John 3: 8).
Let the word of God, be a script, and we be actors performing on the theater called earth such that viewers, spectators both alive on earth and in Zion understand the script better by watching us act, and they understand the play better when they view the script. Until then, we are yet to be living epistles. This is because Psalm 139 verses 16 tells us that all the days of our lives have been written in God’s book before one of them even came to pass.
The life that Jesus presents to us, the ZOE, when walked in circumspectly should yield inevitable to a state of constant success and absolute victory over all vagaries of life and in all aspects of human endeavor. A victory that is both unexplainable, and undeniable. An equilibrium peace.
This means that as believers, the proof of what we profess isn’t only internal, but external as well, even though, the outward should not be the absolute yardstick by which the success of the internal should be measured.
“Why then do Christians or believers, or people who believe the word of God suffer mishaps or undergo hardship, even though they obey and live out God’s words?” This I will answer in my subsequent piece.
The Lord Is My Shepherd, I shall NOT want, the psalmist in view makes clear to us that he’s living in a totally different world, a world governed by The Shepherd. Who or what then is a shepherd?
A shepherd is somebody tending sheep, somebody who looks after sheep. Somebody providing guidance, who is responsible for and guides a group of people especially a Christian minister. Synonyms include marshal, drive, guide, steer, propel, direct.
Merriam Webster dictionary was direct, says a shepherd is a person who tends a sheep, a pastor, and it also means to guide or guard and also to tend.
Invariably, the psalmist communication makes us understand that The Lord IS His guide, guard, and tends him. Courtesy of this that he has yielded to, he enjoyed life from a different platform and reality.
Jesus speaking in John chapter 1 verse 1 to 9, said 1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
This part of scripture tells us that he (Jesus) is the legit shepherd who comes in through the door into the sheepfold and his sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own by name, and they hear his voice and he leads them out. When he puts them forth, he leads them and they follow him, simply for the reason that they know his voice. Now he also said to us that a stranger’s voice they will not follow, but rather flee because they do not recon with the voice.
He further said he is the pathway and access to the flock (you and I, as well as the whole human race who received the new life he offered by his death) because we are his disciples and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 95: 7 and 100: 3). Anyone that passes through him shall be saved (this means salvation in any other name or any other pathway is not salvation, scriptures says, there is no name under the heavens given by which men shall be saved (Acts 4: 12, Rom. 10: 9 and 13); such a person shall go in and out and consistently find pasture, supply. And lastly he said, I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.
It is important to note that while give and giving refers to the present, gave is in the past, gives or giveth (as in old English) refers to a present continuous. The line above assures us that the good shepherd continuously stands in our place.
Now having established that Jesus is the good shepherd, and he is also the living word of God, invariable, the living word of God is and should be the one that tends and looks after us, guide and direct, instruct and regulate us in all our doings and as regards all that pertains to life. The living word of God also guard and tends us.
The bible says in Col. 3: 16 say, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
It also says in Acts 20: 32, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”
We are admonished and commended to hear only the living word of God calling us by our name, leads us out, puts us forth and we follow simply for the reason that we know it’s in the word we are guaranteed of a victorious life in all facets of life. Another word or sets of instructions or guidelines we will not follow because we do not recon with such. Just as using the remote of Mercedes Benz automobile to open a BMW automobile is an effort in futility although they both are automobiles, so also every effort by another shepherd to call us and by extension, guide, guard, instruct, admonish, advice and any other thing, we are absolutely insensitive and irresponsive and dead towards the voice or instructions of another.
This portrays the life of a willful and locked yieldedness to the voice and leadings of Jesus.
God is a loving father, our creator, friend and lots more and he is also a king. A king rules in a domain or territory and it’s called a Kingdom (until the kingdoms of the earth, becomes the kingdom of our God [Rev. 11: 15], knowing fully well that we have been called and made kings and priests unto our God, and we shall reign in the earth [Rev. 5: 10]). His word is law and it’s obeyed to the letter. Every nitty-gritty must be taken into cognizance. His commands are unquestionable, and every instruction passes is adhered to with immediate alacrity. For where the word of a king is, there is power (Ecc. 8: 4). An ignorant person may not understand such veto and autonomy, perhaps maybe till his head is requested for on a platter.
He has loyal subjects (you and I, who have yielded to his calling and are loyal to him), who have lifted up their hands and pledged their locked and unwavering loyalty to him, willing to give all that we have and even lay down their lives where and when necessary, just in a bid to be of service to the king, and he (the king) not under compulsion or obligation but rather, out of responsibility, from a kind heart, in his excess bounties and benevolence and in response to their service of sincerity and love, sets out to ensure that their every need is met in terms of welfare, health, security and all facets of life thinkable.
Having established how necessary and important it is for the word of God to be our all in all, and also our “supposed” attitude of yielding ought to be, it is therefore conclusive to say that,……Until a believer attains these points, the experience of the psalmist cannot be the description of his life.
……..the lord is my shepherd, I shall not want………
One may ask, where then is the place of grace and God’s mercy? Undisputed, those are provisions in God that helps us in that God bypasses our limitations and unqualified nature, He overlooks our infirmities and does not seek for reasons from us to save us.
Grace, simply defined as an unmerited favor, gives or rather presents us with what we do not merit, places us in places we never worked or dreamt achievable by ourselves, it also is a divine supplement of God to us, aimed at and substituting not complementing, but rather substituting our infirmities and incompetence for supply of strength, adequacies and abilities. It is the fuel upon which the economy of God runs, because anything void of grace cannot be accepted by him. By default, we do not have the ability to do much naturally, how much more supernaturally or even please God? For it is him who is at work in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Phil. 2: 13).
While grace grants to us what we do not merit, mercy on the other hand saves us from what we merit, probably courtesy of our rebellion and trespasses some times.
These two, do not in any way annul the government of God. He is king.
In times past, all through scripture, we see instances where God instructed and it was dutifully followed,
Noah obeyed and built an ark, Elijah the great prophet was instructed to where ravens would feed him, he obeyed. Elisha was instructed to go to a widow, where he would be fed whilst the famine persisted. The story of the young and old prophet and the king of Israel disobeyed Gods instruction and that was his end. It would be wrong to say that in the Old Testament, grace was not operational at all, No, No, No, it was, although not as fully expressed as we see today.
This means when God instructs by his words, or spirit, ignorance of such is detrimental to believers. Such is termed rebellion, i.e. disregarding instructions of one’s superior(s).
John the Baptist got himself killed when he left preparing the way of the Lord (Jesus Christ) and became a marriage counselor (Matt. 14: 1-12). Paul was also a man who from his epistles, we can see how he diligently obeyed ever God given instruction, Acts 9 verses 4 to 6 tells us this. The bible in Ephesians 5: 15 says we should walk circumspectly, not as foolish but as wise. What does it mean and how can we walk circumspectly? The bible also says if we yield to the spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh, (Eph 5: 16) i.e. if we listen to the leadings of the spirit via the instrumentality of the word of God, we will not be found wanting in any of the statutes of our God. Obedience will naturally resolve rather than insurgence and rebellion. He said he’ll write his law on our hearts, and he will be our God, and we his people and that in that day, no one will need to teach the other to know the Lord (Heb. 8: 10-11).
Obedience is made easy when we intentionally subject ourselves and yield to the Holy Ghost.
At this point, I’d like to state that, grace and government are not to separate and distinct or parallel entities, rather, they are two sides of a coin, just as love and discipline are. Grace capacitates you to meet up with the demands of God’s government as a son not a child.
Jesus presented to us KINGDOM, and that is what it means for Jesus to be the Lord and Master over one’s life.
The word of God must be Lord and Master over us in all things, not just a few things. The lordship of Jesus, the word of God should cut across even the minutest and most insignificant facet of our life
Jesus said, I am the vine, and you are the branches, abide in me, and I in you, for outside me, you can do nothing (John 15: 1-10). This unquestionable means that if we abide (are guarded, tended to, guided, pastured, led, directed) in and by Jesus who is the word of God, then we have life, and can live and not exist or subsist. The whole essence of what we are in reality (which is the very life of God, ZOE will be so visible to men, as visible as light and by us, they will find direction and hope).
Until then, we are simply subsisting, cause in him was life, and that life is the light of men.
Before David was anointed king of Israel, he was a shepherd and the wilderness was his dwelling place and therefore he well comprehended the job description of a shepherd.
David, before confronting Goliath as recorded in 1 Sam 17: 34- 37……… 34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: 35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. 36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. 37 David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.
This portrays a good shepherd, who was willing and ready to lay down his life for his sheep, just as Jesus said he would and he eventually did on the cross of Calvary.
He was so confident because the God he had encountered while in the wilderness while with his flock had seen him through in times past, delivering him and his flock from the grip of wild beasts, therefore he was very confident in the same God’s ability to save, because if he has done it before, then surely he can and he will do it again.
Later on, in Psalm 84: 10, David told us that he’d rather be a gate keeper in the house of God,
10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
It is obvious that this Patriarch and Faith General knew the place of fellowship with God, God’s presence where he received guidance, instructions, life, solace and is strengthened by the instrumentality of God’s word. Little wonder such unbelievable experiences were the hallmarks of the description of his everyday life. This Patriarch and Faith General was so acquainted with the word so much such that at times of absolute despair, when even his own right hand men conceived the thought of stoning him, scriptures says, ……..and David encouraged himself in the Lord……. 1 Sam. 30: 1-6.
This therefore means that if our lives must be of significance and even great essence both in the spirit and the natural, if we must live the all round successful life, if we must be comfortable and comforted at all times, the place of the word of God being our shepherd is no-negotiable. If we must also have a similar and even better experience, then making God’s presence our place of constant habitation is also non-negotiable.
This requires discipline, consistence, diligence, resilience but it is possible. If a man like David could achieve such, then you and me, who have the Holy Ghost upon and within us can do more than the great psalmist did.
It is possible.
The psalmist said,
….. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee……… Psalm 119: 11.
……..Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path…………… Psalm 115: 105
What can you and I experientially say the word of God is to us?
May the great shepherd grant us enablement, to fix our hands upon the plough and not to look back, to count the cost and beacon on him to strengthen, engrace and equip us to embark on this great escapade and voyage of discovery and not look back until we too can say like the psalmist, ……..The Lord is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want………
Once more, It Is Possible. Cheers.