So what are the promises of God when He is Your Shepherd?
The first thing you do not lack, when the LORD is your shepherd is: REST.
This reminds me of Genesis. In Genesis, everything was made in 6 days. The sixth day was a kind of orientation day, where God explained Adam and Eve’s job description to them. They woke up on the seventh day ready to go to work, but that wasn’t what God wanted. The seventh day was a day for Adam and Eve to feast on the fellowship they had with God – to rest. To enjoy God’s presence.
In Gods order of creation, Resting in His presence comes before doing His will. Resting is feasting on the presence of the shepherd.
Genesis: Resting with Jesus, readies us for service of Jesus. Rest precedes work
This also reminds me of the Redemption. The gospel is a bit like the 6th day. You are introduced to a loving God, who tells you of all He has done on your behalf to give you a new birth into his new creation. And justification, being saved by faith in Jesus, is a bit like the 7th day. A day to rest in the presence of God. A day to know that you are his, to know that you belong to him, to enjoy fellowship with him.
Redemption: Resting in Jesus, readies you to live for Jesus. Rest precedes work
So it makes sense that when the LORD is my shepherd, the first thing I come to realise that I do not lack, is rest – an invitation to feast on the presence of the Shepherd. Regardless of circumstances, he makes me rest in him.
So then, why would we ever not rest?
A shepherd, Philip Keller, writes that there are four reasons a sheep will not rest: they can be summarized as Fear, Friction, Flies, and Famine. If any of those factors are in play. The sheep will not rest. However, the sheep are incapable of dismissing any of them. They are entirely vulnerable to all of them. Only the genuine presence of the shepherd removes these obstacles.
There are dangers. Sheep are helpless. They have no defences. But when the shepherd is amongst them, sheep become visibly calmer.
Life is full of uncertainties for us. Today could bring disaster, or danger, or distress into your life. Each day has potential for its own troubles. Life is full of unknowns and complexities. We would choose to escape them if we could, but we can’t. The only thing that changes everything, is the awareness of the presence of our shepherd and the knowledge that my Shepherd, my owner, the LORD, my friend has everything under His control, far beyond momentary appearances, He is working out his eternal vision for my life; the restoration of my mind, body, and soul. “I can rest in His arms”.
Communities of sheep need help in their relationships. They have a social order. The bigger strong sheep will butt the weaker sheep away from the best food and resting spots. Sheep will even push each other off cliffs. They can be self-centred. The shepherd ensures that in a community of sheep, they are all cared for. The shepherd looks after the weak, young, vulnerable sheep and disciplines the bullish wayward sheep. One may even go so far as to say, he favours the weak sheep. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.
A church can suffer self-centred conflicts and competition. Every church, every flock of sheep, needs the presence of the Shepherd to put a stop to conflicts and competition, and to encourage and enable us to love one another, forgive one another, be kind to one another, and to look out for one another. In his presence, the church rests from conflict and competition because our eyes are collectively turned upon Jesus. You’re only able to fight when looking focusing on your-self or others. Once we’re looking to him, we no longer have cause for conflict or competition. The absence of conflict and competition in the presence of Jesus is peace and rest in the lived experience of the believer.
3. Flies: The sheep cannot rest in their environment. A myriad of flies and bugs and diseases pester them. The sheep must be in the Shepherds care so that they can be covered in his anointing ointment.
We too face annoyances, irritations, frustrations. I wrote a short poem about it: The music was too loud.
The songs are all too wrong.
The music was too soft.
The sermon was too long.
The church is far too big.
The building is way too small.
They all arrived too late.
They didn’t arrive at all.
The meeting is too early.
The coffee wasn’t great.
They children are chaotic.
There’s no one here to date.
They asked me intrusive questions.
No even one asked my name
They didn’t practice COVID safety.
If there’s a second wave, Kingscross is to blame.
But the presence of the Shepherd, through the Holy Spirit, anoints us with his balm. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love and joy and peace and patience and kindness. In other words, he covers me in a healing balm, to chase away futile frustrations.
When I feel like frustrating flies are hovering at my nostrils I can run bleating to him, asking for his help, and he can place his balm upon me, cover me, help me avoid silly disruptions.
4. Famine: The sheep must not be hungry or thirsty in order to rest. When they lie down, it is because they are satisfied that the shepherd has and will be able to meet their needs. ///// It’s here that we find a problem. In our culture of more-ism, providing needs always means enough to be independent and autonomous: Aka excess. But that is not what David pictured and it’s not what Jesus or any other Israelite imagined. David is king. He experienced opulence. Yet, because he didn’t have more-ism, he understood his soul.
If you’re lucky, during the short rainy season. You could maybe find a patch of grass like this. But generally, the region looked more like this:
Those lines are apparently where the shepherd leads the sheep along the mountain (R.V.L.). The sheep are able to reach up and down and feed along those lines. What they hope to find is called ‘green pastures’:
The shepherds use an immense amount of skill, knowledge, and energy to determine where to lead the sheep. They know that the Mediterranean breeze will cause condensation on one side of the mountain. They know where to find green pastures. Where the conditions are right, even in a desert. They also know where to find still waters. When it rains in the Negev, a place David and Jesus would know, there are flash floods.
Sheep can’t drink from fast moving water. These streams will kill them. But the shepherds know how to find calm streams of water, even in the Negev.
Jesus knows that we need to feed and drink. Jesus knows that we can’t follow him without good food and water. Jesus said: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” John 7:37. Life leaves us hungry and thirsty, and there is nothing in life that will feed your soul the way Jesus does.
More-ism causes us to feed on spiritual junk food, on poison to the soul, on fast food products that look good, sound good, but do nothing for us. Jesus feeds us in His presence. Even in the desert of life, Jesus know how to lead us to green pastures and still waters. He will give you enough so that you can rest.
Here is his wisdom. He gives you enough for today. The tufts of grass remind us that all things come from God – that we depend on him. Jesus gives you the grace you need for today. Jesus gives you the food you need for today. If you’re trying to fill your more-ism pantry, forget it. Jesus is going to give you what you need. With Jesus you will always have enough. And enough is what you need. More-ism will destroy you, but contentment in the presence of the Shepherd will give you life.
In all these situations please note that it is the shepherd who makes the rest possible. The sheep are vulnerable, disruptive, exposed, and needy. But the shepherd bears the burden of this. The good shepherd is good because he takes care of all these needs. All we can do, is come to him.
What is the vaccine to more-ism?
= Coming to the Shepherd. Resting in his presence.
In Matthew Jesus said that the sheep wondered off. He also said that he left the 99 to go and collect it. Sheep never return. They do not have a homing device. They are not sensible. Nor are we really. So Jesus, left heaven and entered the world to bring back Gods sheep. We cannot get home without him. And he puts us on His back and he carries us home. That’s the effort, that the heart, that’s how serious He is about caring for His sheep. And today, He invites his sheep, to come to him and rest. Rest from the fears that disrupt your life.
Rest from the frictions and factions with others.
Rest from inescapable futile flies that disturb everything that is beautiful.
Rest from joyless famine, from a dry soul, a dead spirituality, a meaningless life. Feast in Jesus’ presence –
Rest in Him.