It’s 4 a.m. and I’m wide awake. I take several very deep breathes to relax my body and mind, hoping to drift back to sweet slumber. But I can tell I won’t soon be falling asleep. I’m learning to tune in to when He wants a hang out with me. I open the eyes of my heart. I look up and our eyes lock. I smile knowingly. I love these times. I should have known He would be waiting. He wants to take a meditation walk. I choose a familiar passage. Do come with us…
The Lord is my shepherd (1)
Not one lord among many – but THE Lord. Singular. His name in the Hebrew is the formidable Tetragrammaton – YHWH. The name is deemed so sacred it is not to be pronounced. One of its vocalizations is Yahweh. Yahweh was then Latinized and became Jehova, a commonly used proper name of God. Another title used by the Jews is Adonai, my Lord. Yahweh is derived from hayah which simply means to be or to exist. Thus, He calls Himself I Am.
Jesus boldly made this defiant, ground-shaking statement to the established spiritual leaders of His day, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM! (2) ” In so doing, He signed His own death sentence by declaring Himself God, equal to Jehovah.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created… all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross (3) .”
That one, and not another, is my ra’ah, my shepherd. My personal shepherd. He belongs to me and I to Him. We recognize each other. Call to mind the anxiety of being alone in a crowd and the antipode – the powerful feeling of being in a crowd and sighting someone you recognize! My shepherd and I have fellowship with each other – a symbolic and practical unity characterized by a tight bond of belonging and incredible intimacy.
We evoke oxytocin release in each other. We are so one that we are identified with each other. We resonate with each other. We understand each other, though He boggles me. He is my guide, my protector, my defender, my provider, my healer, my keeper and sustainer, my owner. He receives me, waits for me, fights for me, tends me, listens to me, nurtures me, comforts me, grooms and enjoys me. I was wired for Him and we are in phase, on the same frequency.
A shepherd is a professional. He knows His job. He is all about sheep. He thinks sheep, eats sheep, sleeps sheep so to speak. He is watchful and tender and would die for his sheep – my shepherd did die for His sheep. He put His money where His mouth was: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (5) I have learned to trust Him. It is like needing a brain surgeon and finding myself in the office of a renowned and experienced one who was confident about taking on my case. I would automatically and gratefully trust him.
Yet what does a sheep know? The shepherd must initiate and sustain this relationship. No matter how smart I am, I am just a sheep. I know not much, just that I am loved and that I belong. I know to follow Him. I must remember every minute that I am not my shepherd nor anyone else’s, other than a young child under my care. I can be a model sheep to other sheep but I am no shepherd. My job is to point all others to Him.
I love the words “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me (6).
He is no real shepherd who only owns one sheep. Mine owns multitudes and of many shades and stripes. He places me among them for my benefit and that of the fold. I am not an only child. I am not a lone-ranger. I am part of a family. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God(7).”
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ(8).” How, you ask? It is nothing short of a mystery! “The mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus(9).” (emphases mine)
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (10).” When I traveled to the United States for college, my wise parents gave me many treasures but one stands out: “Find God’s people!”
I belong as tightly as a building stone in a wall among other stones.” “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (11) .” “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (12) .” If others are suffering and you aren’t feeling it, come closer to the shepherd. If others are rejoicing and you aren’t feeling it, come closer to the shepherd.
To a hostile group of accusing Jews Jesus said, “But you do not believe , because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one (4) .” Much like a Celtic knot, this is a “relationship of oneness”- they in each other, I in them, them in me, me in the body – it’s enough to make my head spin!
My shepherd is the head of the body, the church – innumerable believers, past, present, and future. Nor is He at risk of fading out like a trend. The irritated Jewish leaders tried to silence the apostles after Christ’s ascension. “Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”
“And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and flogged them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (13).”
This same good news that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace (14) .
In my meditation, I only got a couple of verses into this amazing Psalm, yet it lasted hours. I’m delighted to bring you along through my writing. I think this part is the longest because He was laying a foundation of understanding in my heart. When I walked into church later this morning, Mike was teaching on fellowship – the unity between God and His church, and between sheep among each other. So bleet little sheep. Relax into your “sheephood” and relish your ra’ah.
Unless otherwise noted, all references are from the NIV
- Psalm 23:1a
- John 8:58
- Colossians 1:15-20
- John 10: 26-30
- John 10:11
- Psalm 131:1-2 (NKJV)
- John 1:12
- 1 Corinthians 12:12
- Ephesians 4:4
- Ephesians 2:19-22
- Romans 12: 4, 5
- 1 Corinthians 12:26
- Acts 5: 34-42
- Colossians 1: 6 (NLT)
Sheep and shepherd image retrieved from:
Triquetra heart-knot image retrieved from: