If John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the New Testament, what some have endearingly called the “end zone gospel”, then the verses of Psalm 23 must be the Old Testament equivalent.
With soldiers, guidance counselors, and everyone dealing with difficult situations of loss or discouragement, this chapter surely has been flipped to.
Enjoying Christ as our Shepherd
Psalm 23 presents Christ as the Shepherd. What could be more comforting? In this Psalm there are 18 personal statements- my Shepherd, I will lack nothing, He makes me lie down, etc.
We will never graduate from our need of Christ’s personal shepherding. Jacob’s life testifies of this- near his end he recognized God as the One who had shepherded him his whole life (Gen. 48:15). Even for eternity the Lamb will shepherd us to springs of water of life (Rev. 7:17).
But eventually our Christian life needs to turn to shepherding others.
John 21 is the addendum to Psalm 23.
In John 21 the Lord charged Peter to shepherd His sheep. That was a real low point for Peter. He was recovering from the major failure of denying the Lord three times. Peter must have thought his spiritual career was over. How could he be useful to the Lord after such a blatant, repeated denial? How could he go on personally, much less take care of others?
Anyone who hasn’t had this kind of experience cannot shepherd others. His “care” would be tainted with self-righteousness, condescension, maybe even disgust.
If we pray that the Lord will make us shepherds, we may enter into a period of failure and disappointment. This is because we learn to shepherd by being shepherded.
We learn the divine medicine not by study, but by being patients.
It’s encouraging to know that only recovered failures can shepherd others. Peter’s failure was really the beginning of his usefulness. It stripped him of his natural self-confidence and pride. It humbled him. This is where true shepherding begins. Only then could Peter say, “Shepherd the flock of God among you,” not below you (1 Pet. 5:2). “Among you” doesn’t merely refer to geographic proximity. It implies a realization that is crucial to shepherding- that there is no hierarchy in shepherding. That all are on the same level and in need of shepherding.
Learning to Shepherd
We all need to learn to shepherd. Shepherding is not just the job of a few hired pastors at a church. Every born again Christian has the capacity and responsibility to shepherd others. If we would extend the sphere of our concern beyond our self and learn to shepherd others, then the church would experience a long-lasting and dependable revival.
Revival meetings would decrease- in a good way. We wouldn’t need them anymore.
This would be a revival from the bottom up. Based on the realization that we really need each other. That all are on the same level. Based on the mutual dependence of the members in the Body of Christ for supply and care, rather than based on an emotional, knee-jerk response to a touching message.
There is a profound duality in the New Testament where we are simultaneously sheep AND shepherds. The Lord Himself experienced something of this duality. He is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and the Great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20).
Shepherding was the last burden on the Lord’s heart at the end of the Gospels. Every writer of the New Testament mentions shepherding except James. And according to the significance of this cluster of Psalms, shepherding is the bridge to bring in Christ’s second coming mentioned in Psalm 24.
Obviously, it’s a big deal. Don’t let your personal failure become bigger.