Friday April 29- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 

(John 10:11-15)

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”

The shepherd has the care and protection of his flock of sheep utmost in his mind.  he doesn’t slumber and sleep, he is always vigilant.  The sheep recognize they are privileged to have a goods, caring, loving shepherd.  Goodness and mercy flow from him to his sheep.  They bask and thrive in his care.

From our Good shepherd there flows goodness and mercy to us.  He loves us.  He forgives us.  He will  not leave us alone.  He is ever searching for his lost sheep.  He wants us to have a close fellowship with him.  His love, mercy and goodness will follow us all the days of our lives.

“And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

The Psalm opened with the affirmation, “The Lord is my shepherd!”  And  now it closes with “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  In between we saw the way the shepherd cares for his sheep and connected that with how Jesus is our Good shepherd and cares for us.

I read a book of a shepherd looks at the 23rd Psalm. He tells of the ranch next to his where the owner cared nothing for his sheep.  They were thin, weak, full of disease, they only had polluted water to drink, scrub poor grass the eat. They stood at the fence looking longingly at the shepherd’s sheep and their green pasture. They tried to get through the fence to be in his flock.  His sheep would never leave his care.  They were glad to be there  – home – with their shepherd.

We can see that these two flocks of sheep one tended by a good shepherd and the other by a care -less shepherd, if he could be called that – more like a hireling, and we can see the people around us.  there are two groups, one who are the sheep owned by Jesus and the other who have been seduced by Satan. Jesus flock is fed with him, he is our bread he is our water. while Satan’s group is fed empty, false promises.  Satan’s group is running after things to fill their hunger and nothing satisfies – because only Jesus satisfies – only He gives life – real life the only REAL life. Once we have “tasted” of the Lord would we want to go anywhere else, but stay in his “house” close to him?  Only he gives the abundant life.  Only Jesus, our Good shepherd gives eternal life.

ME

There is a lot in this Psalm. Is Jesus my Good Shepherd? Am I the sheep of his pasture? Do I appreciate what a Good Shepherd I have? Do I desire to stay close to  him forever? Can I say with the little girl, “The Lord is my shepherd, he is all I want.”

(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)