In John 10 Jesus is talking to the Pharisees (the Pharisees were the religious snobs of the day) and he says to them in verse 27 "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me". Those two words "follow me" radically changed the lives of those who answered the call. But, Jesus never let anyone make the decision to follow him without them knowing there is a cost and to count that cost. Before we get into the cost of following Jesus and those two words "follow me" we need to finish talking about the first part of this verse where Jesus calls us "his sheep".
Let's continue our study of Psalm 23 as we learn more about the sheep/shepherd relationship. We know David, who is the author of this psalm, was a shepherd (also known as the "Shepherd of Israel") and he understood his position in the flock.
So, let's dive in...
Verse 3a "He restores my soul."
There is a shepherd’s term called a "cast" sheep. This is a sheep that has turned over on its back and can’t get back up again. It happens frequently. And when it happens, all the sheep can do is lie on its back, with its feet flaying frantically in the air. Sometimes it will bleat, but usually it will just kick.
If the shepherd doesn’t arrive within a short time, the sheep will die. That’s one of the reasons why a shepherd is always looking over its flock, counting them to see if they are all on their feet. If one is missing, he thinks, "One of my sheep is cast and I’ve got to find it." This is the thought behind the parable of the 99 sheep and the one that went astray.
Many times a shepherd will search for hours for a single sheep, only to find it on its back, lying helpless. He will turn the sheep over on its side, rub its legs to restore circulation, then lift it to its feet. After a while the sheep will stumble and stagger, and then eventually walk steadily and surely.
That’s probably what David had in mind when he said, "He restores my soul" because that’s how our Lord treats us. We stumble and fall, we become so helpless. And yet our shepherd is patient and tender and helpful in getting us back on our feet.
I read the gospels and see the tenderness that Jesus showed toward sinners. I see how he restored Peter’s heart after his denial. And I understand that Jesus also restores my soul.
Verse 3b "He Leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake."
If sheep are left to themselves, they will continue to graze the same hills until they turn to a desert waste. They will gnaw the grass to the very ground until even the roots are damaged. They need a shepherd who will lead them to good grazing area.
We are a lot like sheep. As humans, we prefer to follow our own fancies and turn to our own ways. "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way." (Isaiah 53:6).
And so we need a shepherd who can lead us in paths of righteousness, and our Lord does just that. Notice that our shepherd is not a driver but a leader. He doesn’t stand behind us with a stick, saying, "Go on, and do that." No, he goes ahead and leads the way for us. "For to this you were called, because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps." (1 Peter 2:21).
More to come...