The sheep is an animal that depicts the picture of innocence, gentleness, and dependence upon others. She cannot find good food for herself and she can’t feel the danger around her nor protect herself. The shepherd can lead her to green meadows, to springs of sweet and fresh water. The shepherd can also protect the sheep from the dangers of wild beasts.
David as a shepherd was well aware of his and his sheep’s relationship. He wrote this beautiful psalm in 1000 B.C. When David was a shepherd boy, he knew and accepted God as his Shepherd. It is written thus, in Psalm 23.
“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.” (Psalm 23:1-6 KJV+)
When David became a warrior, he thought of God as a strong fortress, a shelter, hiding place and a high tower.
“I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Ps. 18:1-2 KJV)
When God promoted him to be king, he accepted and honored God as his King.
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.” (Ps. 24:7-10 KJV)
David went through many difficult stages in his life but God in his great power delivered him. He was well acquainted with the life of a shepherd and his responsibilities and dangers. He also knew how a sheep feels when his shepherd is alongside of him.
David presents the same situation with regard to his relationship between man and God. Man is like a sheep and God is the Shepherd.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Ps. 23:1 KJV)
When David writes this line, that Lord is my shepherd, he refers to a personal relationship.
(1) Man’s Personal Relationship with God.
Sheep have a very special relationship with their shepherd and they know it very well. Sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. In the same way there must be a special relationship between God and man. There are many people who know about God. They have knowledge about God; they are well versed in systematic theology. They memorize Bible verses and can debate well on spiritual and religious issues, but they are not grounded with the Lord and they do not know God in the real sense.
To Know About God and to Know God:
There is a great difference between these two statements. We can collect information from other people just by listening to them and that information can be correct or incorrect. To know about somebody is one thing and to go to a person, talk to him, live with him, spend time with him and get to know him on a deeper level is another thing. There are many people who know about God but they do not know God on a personal level.
Saint Augustine said, “God created man that he should worship God, have fellowship with Him, serve Him and develop a relationship with God.”
We know many people who think that they know God, that they have a relationship with God. They regularly go to church. They sing songs with great zeal and enthusiasm. They clap with their hands. They give offerings. But deep down in their heart they do not have a real, continuous, personal, transparent, confident and cordial relationship with the Lord.
Whenever they need the Lord, they come close to him. Then when their problem is solved they abandon the Lord. They put the Lord in a cupboard like a useless item. Whenever they need the Lord again, they take him from the cupboard, clean or wipe away the dust, use him again, only to put him back in the cupboard afterward.
What is the nature of your relationship with the Lord?
Is it weak, dry, strong, full of confidence, continuous, permanent, deep, personal, real, shallow or temporary? When we have a good, positive and continuous relationship with God then we know that God owns us.
(2) Sheep understand that their shepherd owns them: God owns man.
Any person who understands that he is the special sheep of God and He (God) owns him, he is a blessed person. It is very essential to have relationship with somebody. Someone must own us; someone must be our owner.
When we are God’s people and he owns us, then in the sight of world and God, we have a very high, special and superior position. We belong to God and he belongs to us. He owns us.
“Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3 KJV)
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1Peter 2:9 KJV)
“…a peculiar people…” Peter wrote.
“Peculiar” also means a very special people, a very special property. When you own somebody or somebody owns you. He becomes yours and you become his, then you feel yourself very safe and secure. The Lord Jesus Christ said,
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14 KJV)
“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:15 KJV)
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28 KJV)
“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3 KJV)
Sheep feel so happy and relaxed that the shepherd owns them. They happily accept the authority of their shepherd.
(3) Sheep accept the authority of their shepherd.
The shepherd exercises his authority over his sheep. The sheep joyfully accept that authority. This authority also brings the responsibility to the shepherd of fully protecting the sheep. If a sheep is disobedient and stubborn then it can also expect to receive due punishment.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (John 10:27 KJV)
Sheep do not follow a stranger. Their shepherd leads his own sheep and they follow him. This is the beautiful picture of sheep accepting the authority of their shepherd.
(4) The sheep does not go ahead of her shepherd.
Usually sheep do not go ahead of their shepherd. It is a sheep’s nature to follow its shepherd. Whenever sheep go astray, the shepherd will use his rod or his staff.
“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 KJV)
(a) With the help of the rod, the shepherd brings the sheep back on the right track. This is the authority of the shepherd. With the help of his rod the shepherd disciplines the sheep.
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:” (Hebrews 12:5 KJV)
(b) With the help of the same rod the shepherd protects his sheep from the wild beasts. The shepherd hits the wild beasts and kills them.
Whatever the circumstances may be, he puts his life in danger to protect his sheep
“…the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11 KJV+)
But this is the condition: That the sheep are under the discipline of their shepherd.
(5) The sheep are happy in the discipline of their shepherd.
The shepherd meets all the needs of the sheep. He provides them with a good place of protection from severe summer sun and heat, from cold weather and rain. He provides fresh and cool water and leads them to green pastures.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Ps. 23:2 KJV)
Sheep can’t make all these arrangements for themselves, that’s why they accept the discipline of the shepherd, and they are happy. Sheep appreciate their shepherd’s arrangements. The ewe trusts the shepherd to take the best care of her. He is also interested in her future. She cannot challenge his management nor can she deny it. In the same manner God wants and does the best for us, in spite of the times when we may not understand those circumstances.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV)
When a person accepts God as his Shepherd and Lord, he surrenders himself before that authority and discipline. He says, ‘God owns me. I belong to God.’ Then as an obedient sheep he can enjoy all the happiness and blessings which are written in Psalm 23.
My dear friend! In a real sense, is God your shepherd? Do you have a deep and personal relationship with him? Is he the Lord of your life? Do you surrender before his authority and live your life under his discipline and management? If you are doing so then you must give thanks to the Lord and keep on growing in the Lord.
If your response is negative then you must make a decision and totally surrender your life before the Lord. Confess your sins, forsake your sins, come under the Cross of Lord Jesus Christ and ask him, “Oh Lord, wash me with your precious blood and make me holy, make me your son, your daughter.”
You must have faith that God, according to his promise, forgives your sins and you inherit his kingdom. He becomes your shepherd. In this way you establish a deep and personal relationship with him. Then you start leading a joyful, enthusiastic, positive, victorious and purposeful life. With boldness you can say like the Prophet David:
“The LORD is my shepherd;”