Thursday April 28- “Your rod and your staff they comfort me”

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:11-13)

“Your rod and your staff they comfort me.”

These are the instruments of protection and help the shepherd is skillful  at using, for himself and for his sheep.  The rod is a piece of a tree at the root that forms a ball.  The shepherd fashioned just for himself.  He practices throwing it and do so with precision. So when a wolf comes he can throw his rod and scare the wolf away.  If a sheep strays off the path he throws his rod next to the sheep to guide it back. The rod is also used to help separate the sheep’s woolen coat to check for any diseases or cuts.  It conveys  the shepherd’s authority, defense, power, discipline.

It is like the word of God which reminds us how Jesus used scripture to counter Stan’s temptation, or Hebrews 4:12 ” the word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword soul and spirit, joints and marrow.”  So the rod in the hands of our Good Shepherd is the symbol of his authority over evil, but also his authority over us, his disciplining us.

The staff is a long stick with a crook at the end.  With it the shepherd can expertly pick his sheep out of a thicket of brambles, of off a rocky ledge. With the staff the shepherd also guides and mages his sheep.  The rod can be a symbol of God’s spirit, who guides, comforts, keeps us.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies..”

The high country is the goal of the shepherd for his sheep.  It is a flat table land.  The shepherd went ahead to prepare the  area for his sheep.  He dug out the poisonous  weeds, clears the basins of water.  During the summer he is looking out for the predators – the enemies of his sheep.

Jesus does the same.  He has gone before us.  We stay close to him.  We feed on his word to help us cope with the fiery darts of the evil one.

“You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.”

The shepherd puts a  mixture of oil, sulfur and tar and over the sheep’s  head and nose to protect it from parasites, flies which drive a sheep crazy.

And Jesus anoints us with the oil of his spirit to help us in our daily frustrations with the world and life around us, to keep our minds focused on Him.

Our Good shepherd has set a glorious table before us with the riches of himself and especially as we feed on his supper , we overflow with praise and thanksgiving for who he is and what he did for us on the cross. We come to his table, he has prepared for us, in the presence of our enemy, the evil one and our cup of gratitude overflows.

ME

Will we allow and trust our Good Shepherd to guide us. Do we store his word in our minds to help us in time of trouble? Do we overflow with thanksgiving for his goodness and care?

(by Gerrie Wilkowski)

Wednesday April 27- “He restores my soul..”

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long “Where is your God?”These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:1-5)

“He restores my soul..” The shepherd restores his sheep who are “cast down.”  That is when they happen to get on their backs and can’t right themselves.  They are easy prey for wolves, hawks, cougars, coyotes. When he sees the hawks circling he runs to find the sheep that is cast down and will gently, slowly right it.

Christians are not exempt from being depressed, discouraged, distressed in soul, feelings of hopelessness and without strength.  David writes, ”Why are you cast down O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God,  for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” 

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…”

Sheep are creatures of habit.  If left on their own they eat the same grasses down to the roots, walk the same trails which will become gullies, drink from the same water area which will become polluted.  These are destructive habits. He rotates the sheep so they don’t eat up all of one pasture, so there are ruts, pollution.  They will get parasites, so the shepherd has to keep the sheep on the moves. Sometimes every week, sometimes every day.  The shepherd has a deliberate plan of rotation.  This type of land management is what David had in mind when he wrote of being led in the paths of righteousness.   The sheep need to be led to the new pastures as we need to be led in the paths of righteousness.

But we are creatures of habit also.  We don’t want to move out of our ruts, even if they are destructive, such as living with abuse or drug addictions.  It is more familiar staying in these ruts than going out into the unknown, where Jesus may be leading us.  It is a matter of trust.  Do we trust our good shepherd?  Are we willing to follow him?

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, for you are with me…”

In the spring the shepherd leads his sheep up to the high country for the summer.  There the grass and water is more plentiful. But to get to the high country he must lead his sheep through the valleys, slowly.  There is also grass and water along the way, but also dangers.  The valleys are formed by the mountains or high country.  Sometimes the cliffs are high and only a few hours of sunlight reach the valley floor.  It is dark.   There are predators lurking among the rocks.  There are possibilities of flash  floods, surprise storms.  But the shepherd is prepared.  He is on the look out for wild animals and ready to fight them to the death to protect his sheep.

He leads his sheep through the valley, they don’t stay there.  There is green pasture and bright light once through this rough area.

So it is in our lives, spiritually and physically.  Jesus said we would have tribulation in this life, but He promises, “be of good cheer I have overcome the world.”  He will walk with us through our dark valley.  We will not be in it forever. Even if there is death. He promises a bright future with him. Where there won’t be any flash floods, predators, illness, hardship.

ME

Do we trust him in the deep valleys of our lives? Believing there is an end to our suffering, believing the promise of Jesus that He is with us always and will bring us to eternal life?

(by Gerrie Wilkowski)

Tuesday April 26- “…I shall  not want”

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  .Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

(Matthew 28:16-20)

“…I shall  not want”  This does  not mean that we will get everything we want.  But that the Lord will provide for us what we need.  It also means we will be contented.  The pastor asked the children if they could recite the 23rd Psalm.  One little girl, maybe four or five raised her hand and said she could.  He agreed to let her try it.  She said, “The Lord is my shepherd, he is all I want.”  That pretty much sums up the Psalm, doesn’t it?

He didn’t promise us a big house, car, money, etc., etc., etc. But that he would care for us.  There will be hard times, but our good shepherd is there with us.

Contentment.  Can we say with St. Paul in Phil. 4:11 “… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” 

“He makes me lie down in green pastures…”  

Sheep will not lie down eat or lie down to chew their cud if they are fearful of predators, if their is friction in the flock, if the sheep are bothered by pests such as flies, or if they are hungry. A shepherd is always on the look out for the next green pastures and practices rotate the flock so they won’t completely eat the grass to the very root.  Also he makes sure they are good grass, not poisonous ones. If the shepherd is near the sheep feel secure and will stop the tension in the flock..  He fights off the predators.  he has his bag of ointments to repel the flies bothering his sheep.

We can see how Jesus does the same for us. We trust ourselves to him and act on his promises.  There are so many in scripture.  “Lo, I am with you always,”  is pone of my favorites. (Matt 28: 20)

“He leads me beside still waters..”

Sheep will not drink from rushing streams, they are to skittish and frightened.  so the shepherd has to find quiet streams, pools, or deep wells of water.  Good, water that isn’t polluted.  If the weather is not hot sheep can go for weeks without water except what they eat with their early morning dew drenched grass. So the shepherd gets them up early in the morning.  We can see the analogy of our rising early and having our time in prayer and so we can drink deeply in his word.  Jesus told the woman at the well, John 4:14 “.. the water I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

“Christianity is  not a museum, but a restaurant to feed on for our spiritual lives..”

ME

Am I content with Jesus?  Do I want the blessings of God or do I want the God of blessings? Do I hunger and thirst for his word and being in his presence?

(Gerrie Wilkowski)

Monday April 25- “The Lord is My Shepherd…”

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)

“The Lord is my shepherd…”

We could spend the whole morning on just that phrase.  It is the title, the theme, the core , the foundation of the Psalm.

A good shepherd takes care of his sheep.  He is on duty 24/7.  He is always on the look out for predators, sickness, cuts.  He is constantly counting his sheep, searching for the one that is missing.  It reminds of us Jesus parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. The shepherd has his bag of ointments to care for his sheep.

If we say, “The Lord is my shepherd,” then we are the sheep.   Sheep need to be led, they follow along, not thinking where they are going.  They are timid, fearful, they have a pecking order.  It sounds like  us, doesn’t it? Isaiah writes this in chapter 53:6,  “All we like sheep have gone astray, each to his own way…” That is why humanity desperately need a shepherd.  A Good Shepherd, not a hireling.  Jesus tells us that a hireling will run away and leave the sheep when danger comes, because he care nothing for the sheep.

Let us make sure we follow the Good Shepherd.  here are other “shepherds” who want to us to go their way and will lead us astray.  But not Jesus. Why? Because Jesus owns his sheep. He says we are his.

When a shepherd get s new sheep he marks them, usually a distinctive mark on his ear, so he and anyone else will know those sheep are his.  And so we are marked, with the sign of the cross at our baptism.  We belong to the Good Shepherd.

ME

Can I truthfully say, ” The Lord is my shepherd?”   Am I willing to trust him with my life and follow him?

(Gerrie Wilkowski)