Welcome to The LORD My Shepherd – II. Some few days ago I wrote in The LORD is My Shepherd – I about the providence of God who is our Shepherd – he provides us food, drinks and garments to wear. Whereas in some cases he will miraculously provide for these basic needs, he has also endowed us with wisdom, knowledge and skills in addition to the natural resources around us that we may be able to produce our food. I have been provided for by the Lord in both ways – when hard pressed that I can’t get what I need, his miraculous providence surprises me. It is for this very reason that he has taught us to pray “give this day our daily bread.” On several occasions, I have also used my God given ability, my work and resources around me to have my basic needs provided. Indeed; he is our shepherd and in him, we shall lack nothing.
Today, in part II, I want to focus on the next verses and write about the protection that God gives us being our shepherd. In writing about the role of the shepherd in the days of David, I quoted from Eaton’s commentary and he has this to say about the protection a shepherd gives to the flock. “Often he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief.” So the shepherd does not only provide the protection for the flock while in the wild looking for water and pasture, even when the flock is brought back to the pen, he has to station himself at the entrance to watch over the flock through the night.
The shepherd often had a full time watch over the flock, both during the day as he tends the flock and through the night after returning the flock back to the pen.
Let’s read what David writes in Psalm 23.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:3b-5 NIV).
He protects us from unrighteousness
The nature of man is all but wickedness, for we are born inherently sinners. It is not because we sin that we become sinners, we sin because we are sinners. As a result, if left unguided into righteousness, all our ways will be very crooked. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We therefore need protection from falling into temptation and yielding to it that makes us continue sinning, this protection comes only in the guidance of the Lord – for he guides us in the paths of his righteousness.
I wouldn’t say I have attained complete righteousness, but I can testify that from the time I took refuge in the Lord through his Son Jesus Christ, his guidance makes me see what is wrong and right. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is able to guide us in all righteousness. For Christ came to save sinners, I am one whom he has saved and given me his righteousness. Now that “it’s not me who lives but Christ in me,” (Galatians 2:20) my continued subjection to him keeps guiding me all the time. Yet I have no immunity against sin, but he constantly and consistently guides me in righteousness and I long for righteousness than for evil.
Everyone who is in Christ yields to the guardianship of Christ in which he keeps guiding us from evil, directing our feet into righteousness. Sometimes this guidance comes to us by making all efforts to immerse ourselves into the word of God – to have a good knowledge of God’s word, because his word is like light to our feet and a lamp to our path (Psalm 119:105). Sometimes it comes as a very quick conviction at a very point when we are about to stray, he tells us “son, it is not that way I intend you to go, change direction.” And sometimes when we stubbornly disobey, he still convicts us unto repentance. Above all, our entire life is a pilgrimage that we need to walk through being guided by God. William Williams (1745), saw this and wrote the great hymn – Guide me, O thou great Redeemer. The first stanza of his song reads, “Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, pilgrim though this barren land; I am weak, but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand; Bread of heaven, feed me now and evermore.” May the Lord guide you daily in the paths of righteousness as you walk through this world full of unrighteousness.
The Lord protects us from dangers
Every day we walk through the valley of the shadow of death – thus we walk through dangers. Some of these dangers may be manifested to us and others even try so much to get hold of us but we often walk through thousands that we never notice. At such times, the Lord is with us and hence I can say, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Dangers that pose threat to the extent of taking our lives are most feared, we work so much to protect ourselves from danger. Yes, as much as we can, we should evade danger. However, dangers often come unforeseen, even if it is foreseen, there are times when whatever we can do doesn’t yield. The only thing we need is to have God our shepherd, that he becomes our protector. And when we walk through such darkest shadow of the valley of death, we shall not fear. I find the words of Matthew Henry commenting on this part of David’s Psalm very comforting. Henry writes;
“Though I am in peril of death, though in the midst of dangers, deep as a valley, dark as a shadow, and dreadful as death itself,” or rather, “though I am under the arrests of death, have received the sentence of death within myself, and have all the reason in the world to look upon myself as a dying man, yet I am easy.” Those that are sick, those that are old, have reason to look upon themselves as in the valley of the shadow of death. Here is one word indeed which sounds terrible it is death, which we must all count upon there is no discharge in that war. But, even in the supposition of the distress, there are four words which lessen the terror: –It is death indeed that is before us but, [1.] It is but the shadow of death there is no substantial evil in it the shadow of a serpent will not sting nor the shadow of a sword kill. [2.] It is the valley of the shadow, deep indeed, and dark, and dirty but the valleys are fruitful, and so is death itself fruitful of comforts to God’s people. [3.] It is but a walk in this valley, a gentle pleasant walk. The wicked are chased out of the world, and their souls are required but the saints take a walk to another world as cheerfully as they take their leave of this. [4.] It is a walk through it they shall not be lost in this valley, but get safely to the mountain of spices on the other side of it.”
Yes, as commented by Henry, the result of the danger is not what measures God’s care for us. Many times I hear people say God why me, sometimes, I almost find myself in such moments too. Every now and then, certain dangers will come to the extent of taking life from the physical body – I mean, death. And when it happens so, we often grumble and ask “if God were with us, why has he allowed this to happen to our loved one?” In death, we lose our loved ones, at the critical time of the pain of the loss of a dear one, we forget that death actually is gain but not loss. As above, Henry says in death, we the righteous one walk through to another world as cheerfully as they take leave from this wearisome world. He also says that in death, we get safely to the mountain of spices on the other side of it.
This was the same attitude of Paul towards death, he said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). We ought to have the same attitude towards death, until then we can boldly say, “Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not fear, for his rod and staff, they comfort me.”
And so, as God shepherds us, his goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall live in the house of the LORD forever. May Christ who is the Good Shepherd be your shepherd forever. I challenge you who hasn’t made Christ as your shepherd to consider yielding your life to him, such that he becomes your shepherd. He then will provide and protect you, lead you all way through to eternity and surely, “His goodness and mercy will be with you all the days of your life.” And you will have a room in the masons he has gone to prepare for his saints such that “You will live in the house of God forever.”
This message is written by Rev. Julius Izza Tabi who is a pastor in the Anglican Church of Uganda, Ma’di & West Nile Diocese. Julius served as an assistant Chaplain and lecturer at the Arua Campus of the Uganda Christin University. He is currently a candidate of Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues at Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet alias the Norwegian School of Theology, in Oslo, Norway. For pastoral assistance you can email him or check how you can reach him here.