Shepherd is my favorite name for God, hands down. I know Him by this name intimately as I’ve shared my story in past blogs. A shepherd stops at nothing to keep one his sheep safe, which depicts how the Lord cares for us, how He loves us and how He manages our hearts when we go astray. I love how Psalm 23 begins by reminding us of who He is—trustworthy and lovingly bringing us back into the fold, a gentle yet fierce Rescuer and Protector.
So often I get caught up in my own shortsightedness and assume God is not working on my behalf if my prayers aren’t being answered how or when I want them to. It’s our human nature to double fist our fear and doubts in to the picture even when God, time and time again, reminds us that He will fulfill His promises.
I find a lot of comfort in remembering the story of Joshua and how God tells him 3 times to “be strong and courageous,” because Joshua likely had a thick skull like all of us, prone to forget.
The book of Joshua begins with God saying: Moses is dead. You’re up for the task. It’s time to take back the land I promised to these people you’re now leading.
God is sweet in assuring Joshua 3 times that all he needs to do is “be strong and courageous,” emphasizing at least once to “only be strong and very courageous. ” Nothing more. Nothing less. And God will be with him the entire way.
I know I am guilty of relying on what I can see to determine my level of trust or course of actions to follow. I have the tendency, at times, to assume God is just like us, or like the people that have hurt me before. But our Good Shepherd cares for us and is behind the scenes at work for you, even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening. He's the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, so let's proclaim that promise by fixing our eyes, not on what is seen because what is seen is temporary, but on the unseen, the eternal promises that God makes to us in scripture.
He is the Father, “with whom there is no variation and does not change like shifting shadows." -- James 1:17
One of the most distinct words that come to mind when I think of God as our Shepherd is Rescuer. I know the Good Shepherd isn’t afraid to get down and dirty, because He comes after his lost sheep. The reality, though, is that the rescue the Lord provides comes in various forms. There’s the visible: where God visibly plucked me out of a horrific situation, for example. Then there’s the invisible, which is more subtle, but nonetheless extremely profound (i.e. seemingly unanswered prayer, a season of waiting, etc.). And that’s where the trust has to come in.
Our family is currently in a season of waiting for several things to happen. I’ve had to catch myself when I start going down the rabbit hole of thoughts like, Where are you, God? Do you even hear me? I’m praying for good things, though! I can’t see what you’re doing, so are you doing anything at all? We get caught up in the misconception that if we can’t see anything happening, then nothing must be going on at all. We’ve been begging the Lord for these good things to come, but what He keeps telling us is, This is my rescue. The fact that I have not answered in the way you desire, I am telling you no. The timing is not now and that is for your protection. I see things that you cannot see. I am your good shepherd, your protector. I have your best interest in mind, I promise. Do not mistake an unanswered prayer, as you call it, or a no as me not paying attention. This is a test for your faith in me, for your refinement and for my glory.
May we be a people whose roots are so deep in an understanding of who God is that we would surrender all of our desires, all of our prayers, to know that He is sovereign. The enemy wants to tell us is that nothing is happening, that we’re fools for asking for anything. He wants us to feel like we are self-sufficient and the god of our own lives.
Think of yourself like a tree. In seasons of waiting we feel like we are continually being cut down to the stump. How can anything grow out of a stump? God has reminded me these last few weeks, though, is that we cannot see the root system underneath with our natural eyes. We serve a God who is a living hope. He is in control where we cannot see. Even when we feel like we're really smart, we do not have the full picture, but the Shepherd does and He is standing over us, He sees us and He sees the infinite purposes of our lives. We have to remind ourselves that we are the sheep. We are not the Shepherd. Let us rewire those pathways of trust to know that when it looks like nothing is happening, that some of His most powerful work is being done behind the scenes. Our job is to lean in, pray and trust that He is All-Knowing and All-Sufficient.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:18
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
If you haven’t heard her new album, Look Up Child, already, Lauren Daigle’s Rescue lyrics cut straight to the heart. I hope you are encouraged regardless of your circumstances: https://youtu.be/3U4Q2R7ZZAE
He is a living and active hope. — 1 Peter 1:3
Hope is not what is seen but in what is unseen. — Romans 8:24
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. — Exodus 14:14
As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger...yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. – 2 Corinthians 6:4-10
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him— 1 Corinthians 2:9
We named our Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy Shepherd (“Shep” for short) to serve as a reminder of God’s faithful promise to lead and guide us. Although he’s only been a part of the family for 8 months, he has been trained up to be trustworthy and obedient to his nature. I am in desperate need of reminders to point me back to the Good Shepherd, who has taken me by the hand over and over and guided me through every season. I can be oh-so forgetful! When I look at Shep I’m reminded of what God has done, that He is good and faithful, that He is constant and my certainty. Constantly saying his name reminds me to declare and claim the Truth of who God is. (Silly, but you gotta do what you gotta do!)
Don’t believe in the lie of scarcity, but rather believe in the promises that He has something abundant for you. He has a plan for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you and to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) no matter what’s going on.
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when He finds it, he joyfully puts it on His shoulders and goes home. Then He calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not repent. — Luke 15:4-7
Starting this Psalm off with the imagery of a Shepherd sets the stage for all the goodness that’s left to come after the rescue. He doesn’t take you home to condemn you. Instead through His kindness He puts you over His shoulder and says, Let’s go home.
I can’t wait to take you through this Psalm 23 journey!
The best is yet to be,