The Holy Land: Our Shepherd
Psalm 23:1-3 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. When you think about shepherds, serene, rural scenes marked by lush, green pastures and genteel streams spring to mind. Our time in Israel changed my mental landscape of shepherding altogether. Psalm 23 conjures these images. It’s a passage most of us know by heart. What was so enlightening about my time in the scene Israeli deserts and hills was the realization that these green pastures and quiet waters aren’t abundant. The right paths aren’t plentiful. On our journeys we saw shepherds guiding their flocks in otherwise harsh conditions. It is the shepherds who know the right paths to lead their sheep along to reach the promised pastures and waters. They know when to avoid streams of raging wadis and which mountain trails are too treacherous for their beloved lambs. In the same way, as believers, we have a shepherd who commits to tend for us. In this sinful world, quiet waters and verdant meadows are not abundant. Instead they are precious commodities that He promises to lead us toward. The world’s chaos and noise are like flooding wadis and barren deserts, but following our perfect shepherd insures that we will never lack. In fact, Jesus is a perfect shepherd because He was a perfect lamb. Most of us gathered to worship His resurrection on Sunday, and most of us spent Monday playing catch up after the holiday weekend, the miracles of Easter easily lost in the mundane weekly clutter. Let us remember, though, that this sinless, blameless Son of God led a faultless life, and He was slain on our behalf as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of billions. Shepherds are humble workers. They are among the “least of these,” but throughout Scripture, God continually chose among the ranks of the shepherds and least of these to become great leaders… great shepherds of His people, His flock. Even on Palm Sunday, as Jesus entered the city to praises and cheers, He didn’t walk in through the main city gates. Instead, He passed through the gate through which the shepherds would lead their sheep, humbling Himself and accepting the fate that the Father had set for Him. Without a Holy shepherd guiding our steps, we will surely perish in the bleak wilderness of this world. The deeper we travel along life’s paths, the more dependent we must be on our shepherd. Just as the Psalm promises us, when we follow His lead, we will find right paths, quiet waters, and we will never find ourselves in a state of want. He will always bring restoration to our souls. As Jesus prepared to be our sacrificial lamb, the Word says that for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. The terrain of the paths that we are walking may not always be flat or without rocks, but with Christ at our center, there is always joy ahead of us. Do not lose heart, dear friends. Your endurance will lead to your joy because your shepherd is at the helm. There are still waters ahead of you!