Part 4
by Bill Click

The Shepherd giveth Life

Jesus said, "I am the good Shepherd, the good Shepherd giveth His life for the Sheep." As we continue this series, we move from a corporate understanding of the Shepherd's love and oversight into the more personal, individual aspects of His presence and care for our lives. By taking one of the most utilized portions of Scripture, (Psalm 23), reading it through devotionally and expounding verse by verse, I want to explore its personal meaning for my life, hoping to encourage you as well. I am going to purposefully avoid the names of God that are evident, because my goal is to make an application of the Word which makes a difference for us as believers, not just repeat the popular (& at times fanciful) interpretations.

Throughout this process you may get a glimpse of the way that someone else is encountered by God through the Scripture. And simply put, this is the way I read the Bible. By asking questions, embracing the answers and receiving comfort from God, I am encouraged to continue in the life He has called me to. Let me know how this affirms you in your walk with the Good Shepherd.

The KJV, NASB and older version of the NIV will be referred to as I look for added meaning and relevance for the abundant life He promised, that I receive. The Scripture references from other portions of the Bible are simply passages that occurred as I read through the Psalm (not a result of intentional, systematic research).

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." There is a Shepherd of shepherds in the universe, there is one through whom ALL creation was made: Jesus, Lord of all (Col.1:15-23). And He is not only mine, but I am His (1Cor.6:20; 7:23). I have the greatest Shepherd is the universe, the Lord. He not only once was my Shepherd, or will someday again be my Shepherd, He IS my Shepherd NOW. He is the present-tense leader of all those who look to Him (Psa.84:11-12). I not only never fear of being without His leadership, I am also confident that He is able to lead me NOW. He knows all, sees all, and everything belongs to Him (Psa.24:1; Ro.11:36).

I shall not want

I have always been a little uncomfortable and at times even bothered by the way that reads. The NIV says "I shall not be in want." But "in want" of what? To me it means "I will never lack the Shepherd's guidance." Some use this phrase as another proof-text example of prosperity, but to me that seems to be more clearly revealed later in this Psalm (v.5). I do not need it to mean prosperity, that case is already strong enough (Dt. 8:18; 3Jn.2). For me to apply this to prosperity would be to weaken the Lord's emphasis that I will NEVER lack His leadership in my life. Praise God for that!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures

Not only does He have beauty in store for me, but He has rest as well (Heb.4). Sometimes He has to make me receive what's mine by allowing my labor to become unfruitful– even impossible to continue, or so disgusting that it becomes more than evident that it's time to take a break. But there is more. Not only does He make me rest with Him in His beauty (when He needs me to), but He has designed me for rest with Him in His beauty. Adam was made to "walk with God in the cool of the evening," and I was made to be with Him in His creation as well. That's the reason for my life.

To me, this is another valid example of how restoration of the Apostolic dimension of Christ's nature and authority brings with it the final setting of the stage which precedes the church moving forward, fully equipped in relationship with God. Why? Because when Jesus called Apostles, He called them first "to be with Him" (Mk.3:14). His call on my life is to rest with Him in that beauty and simply be loved on by Him, receiving His love. And if I fail to freely choose that, He is faithful as my Shepherd to encourage and even require it of me. And He has as many ways to convince me of it as there are reasons for my need of Him.

He leadeth me beside still waters

He not only desires solitude with me, but He desires me to possess His serenity within. His leadership brings true Peace. And by the time I have fully reclined in His presence with Him in the midst of His beauty, I have been sufficiently emptied of all the inner dissonance and noise which prevents me from fully possessing that Peace. He takes me through a process of experiencing intimacy with Him in order to not only have relationship with Him, but also to become unified within myself. What a faithful God I have. I do not want to resist you, Lord. When I want quietness without first allowing myself to receive from your intimacy, I will realize that I am ahead of you, that quietness within is the reward of relationship with you, not its essence or even its substitute.

He restoreth my soul

As I receive from Him in His beauty, and allow Him to take me deeper into quietness within, my mind, will and emotions are completely restored. As a result of walking Him "in the cool of the evening," I lie down in His "green pasture" and allow Him to change my priorities– putting "to be with Him" above all things. I then begin thinking differently, desiring differently, and my feelings change.

Sometimes this process takes only moments, but other times it can even take hours. There have even been times it took days and even weeks. But my Shepherd did not leave me when I couldn't seem to "get it." My Shepherd did not stop taking care of me when I just couldn't seem to do anything right. My Shepherd didn't stop overseeing my life when I lost all sense of His presence, when I couldn't detect His guidance, when I didn't feel His accompaniment. And needless to say, at those times I did not understand His leadership. At all. But He does not change, even when I do (Heb.13:5-8; 2Tim.2:13).

I am led by The Best Leader– The Good Shepherd.