Vol. 10 — No. 29 July 20, 1969
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my Soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
In Christ Jesus, Fellow Redeemed:
“The Lord is my Shepherd…” Not every one can say this, for there are many who are not of Jesus’ sheepfold. They are those who have perhaps heard that Jesus is the Son of God, the heaven-sent Savior of the world—but they are those who have delayed in unbelief. They are the self-righteous, who feel secure in their own mind, strength, wisdom or moral goodness. They are like sheep gone astray. By nature all men are such, as it is written: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Is. 53:6.
But “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6). Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son, came down from heaven and was made sin for us, died upon the Cross the accursed death for us, and arose again Victoriously for us and for our justification before God. By being made the Lamb of God who shed His perfect blood for us, Jesus became the Good Shepherd.
There are those who in faith sing joyously with King David, the Psalmist: “The Lord is my shepherd.” The Psalmist knew how weak, defenseless, and sinful he was by nature. He knew that by his own strength and wisdom he could not attain the righteousness and holiness which is valid before the holy and righteous God. King David has been called to faith by the gracious and merciful promises of the Redeemer God. The Holy Spirit had made him a member of the fold. In the 23rd Psalm King David sings of the comforting assurance in the knowledge that Jesus is his Good Shepherd. Thus every Christian, everyone who accepts Jesus as his righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, and redemption, will sing—
David here speaks after the manner of the country. Palestine is a country which in part is mountainous and also desert country. The sheepherders must search for cool, green meadows and still waters where the flocks may feed, drink, and be refreshed.
The Good Shepherd provides for our wants. He who has Jesus as his Shepherd lacks no good thing. Jesus once asked his disciples whom He had sent out in His Name: “Lacked ye anything?” They replied: “Nothing!” We know that food and clothing, house and home are important to our well-being. Yet, as we travel through life, we are beset by a weariness which is not caused by the abundance or lack of such material things.
Though you may become weary and worn, exhausted in body and mind, the Good Shepherd will grant you refreshment. The green pastures and the still waters are, above all, a reference to the life-giving Word of God. Like little children we often do not know what we want or need, or what is good for us. Our Shepherd, first of all, brought us into His grace by concluding a covenant with us. The water in Baptism is not simple water only—but it is “a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Tit. 3:5-7.
Indeed, our Good Shepherd leads us beside the still waters of His eternal Word. He not only assures us that we are justified before God by grace: that for Jesus’ sake our sins are forgiven, our evil conscience stilled and fear of punishment taken away. He also leads us into those words of God which strengthen us in our hope of eternal life. What comfort does the unbeliever have when he becomes weary of life’s struggle? Consider how the hope of an eternal life with the God of love permeates our thinking and doing every day! If in this life of toil and sorrow we did not have the hope of a better life—an eternal life with our heavenly Father, we would of all men he most miserable. Our Good Shepherd maketh us to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth us beside the still waters.
The world is saturated with law, with lectures on morality, with “blind leaders of the blind” who exhort you to lead a better life. When men become weary of this, they may turn to some Indian mystic who tells them to forget the struggle of life, just meditate and think “joy and peace.” However, in reality elsewhere the struggle for life and daily bread and clothing must continue.
The world is also saturated with sin, with selfishness, greed, hate and violence. Unfortunately we, like King David, according to our sinful flesh contribute to it. The Law, any law, condemns and kills. But our Good Shepherd restores, i.e., revives, our soul. He takes us out of death and gives us life. He leads us into the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. His Name is Righteousness. In Him there was no sin at all. He died unto sin, the whole body of sin, unto sin as a principle which rules carnal man. He revived us by clothing us in His perfection. This He does daily out of pure mercy without any merit or worthiness in us. He does it because His Name is Love—love for us, His blood—bought sheep, members of His fold. “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” Is. 54:10.
The Psalmist again returns to picture language. The Shepherd leads the sheep through the narrow mountain valley in the darkness. The mountain sides harbor wild animals which prey on the sheep. The shepherd leads the way. He beats rod and staff together—both to frighten away the wild animals and to lead the sheep in the right path. The sheep are comforted and quieted. They trustingly follow their Shepherd.
The application is obvious: the Christian flock in seasons of trouble, danger, sickness (yea, even sickness unto death) does not fear. Trustingly we follow our Good Shepherd.
Dr. Martin Luther here said: “David here prescribes to all Christians a common rule, namely, that there is no other plan upon earth by which a man may be delivered from trouble of every kind, than to cast all his care (trouble) upon the Lord, to lay hold of Him by His Word of Grace, to hold this fast and by no means let it go. Who ever does this shall be happy, be he in prosperity or adversity, be he in life or death; he shall hold on to the end and gain victory over all: pain, sickness, misfortune, evil world, sinful flesh, the devil and death.”
The Christian shall have victory. He who has the Savior as his Good Shepherd shall always live victoriously. The picture changes to that of a Christian seated at a victory banquet. Perfumed oil was used to anoint the heads of the celebrants. The cup overflows—the Christian is more than a conqueror over the wants and necessities of life. The enemy must look upon this festive, joyous occasion—he is captive in chains. Who are the enemies of our victorious life? Sin—flesh—tribulation—the devil—death. The Good Shepherd is our Conqueror. He has gone before us. All the enemies of man were defeated and destroyed by Him, our victorious Savior. By faith in Him this victory is yours. You are joint-heirs with Christ, now and forever. Your victory is the gift of God through Christ’s victory. Christ’s victory is your victory!
Because you are members of His fold by faith in the Savior, you shall not want—ever. Richly and daily in this life you enjoy the grace and blessing showered abundantly upon the followers of the Good Shepherd. Yet we live by faith. Our blessedness, our glory is not visible to the eyes of the unbelieving world. Our joy and peace of heart and mind they can somewhat sense. But the spiritual blessings upon which they rest and from which they flow are invisible, because they are spiritual blessings. Yet they are our very real possessions.
One day our true nature as sons of God and as possessors of all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places shall be made manifest to the eyes of all men. We shall be glorified in eternity with the eternal Son of glory, and His Father and Holy Spirit. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” John 14:2-4. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.