The Journey of a Lifetime (Part Two)

Psalm 23 has been a beacon of hope to people throughout time. Those who have no interest or faith in God will try to quote this psalm in times of peril and hopelessness.
The second lesson we learn is that it illustrates the importance of finding peace.
The good shepherd will lead his sheep to water, food, safety, and pasture. “Beneath the burning skies and the clear starry nights of Palestine, there grows up between the shepherd and his flock a union of attachment and tenderness. It is the country where, at any moment, sheep are liable to be swept away by some mountain’s torrent, or carried off by hill, robbers, or wolves. At any moment their protector may have to save them by personal hazard.”/1
The sheep will have to trust their shepherd completely. We must believe the same about God (Isaiah 49:8-12; Psalm 139:7-12).
As sheep, we are in constant danger. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Matthew 10:16 says, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We must believe that “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). That no matter what comes along, our Shepherd is prepared.
The writer of Hebrews seems to be expressing this intimate relationship when he writes of Jesus, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV).
Imagine finding yourself in the most dangerous neighborhood you have ever experienced. It is Saturday night at 3 AM. All is dark and fearsome. You wander through the back alleys and streets and hear gunshots, people shouting and running, broken glass, crashes and squealing tires. As your heart races, you enter an alley so dark that it appears to grab onto you. Sounds reverberate around you as you advance. Now, let me ask, with all of these conditions, would you walk through the alley? We do not walk when we are terrified. We run!
David says, “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” (Psalm 23:4). David says to be calm when we are in the shadow of extreme danger because the Lord is with us. This is truly the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
David presents another beautiful portrait of calmness in 23:5. Imagine you are on a battlefield in the Middle Ages. Your enemy is across the field. You hear horns blowing, horses pawing at the ground, and the shouts of impatient soldiers. They have blood in their eyes and the singular intent to end your life as painfully as possible. Yet, in the midst of intense danger, you prepare a table with a bountiful feast and sit down to eat a casual meal. Imagine the scene!
In the midst of emptiness, Christ brings supply. He takes care of his sheep when they are helpless on their own.
David says that the shepherd “anoint(s) their head with oil” (23:5). Sheep in the summer are viciously attacked by flies seeking to lay their eggs in their nostrils and to be a general nuisance. Phillip Keller writes that he would put oil on the sheep’s head and nostrils and that would prevent the flies from attacking them so they could find peace from their troubles. /2
Because our journey with Christ is so blessed, we realize that goodness and mercy shall always be with us and that as long as we are in his flock, we will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (23:6). Amen.
/1. Author unknown.
/2. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, p. 116.

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