The Shepherd Boy/King

Reading: Psalm 23
David was the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz, and the youngest of eight brothers. He was the shepherd boy, looking after his fatherís sheep - he became the king.

It is difficult for those of us born and bred in Australia to picture the eastern shepherd-boy. We tend to have a mental image of some thousands of sheep, with gum trees here and there, dust rising, men on horseback controlling the mass movement with the aid of sheep-dogs.

The Palestinian shepherd had a much more personal task. For one thing, his flock was much smaller, perhaps a hundred or fewer. He came to know their individual characteristics and needs. They were not just nameless parts of a mass, but had their own sheepy "personalities". For their part, the sheep came to recognise and respond to their own particular shepherd.

The grazing lands were not fenced. The shepherd had to go in search of suitable pasture and water. He had to protect his flock from the weather and from wild animals. He had to retrieve any animal that strayed.

Ideally a shepherd should be strong, devoted and selfless. But there were some shepherds who were unreliable and who failed in their duty.

As a shepherd-boy David had done his duty well. When he became king, he tried to give the same care and attention to his people that he had learned in his early profession.

But life wasnít always easy for David. I wonder if, in later life, he longed for those boyhood days again! Opposition, temptations, and all the pressures of kingly rule born in upon him. How easy the hardships of his earlier life must have seemed compared to his present "cushy" job as king!

It was as a much older man, full of all the experiences of life, that David picked up his harp again and sang the praise of the Lord who had always been with him.

Perhaps it had begun as a boyish thought long ago, but now it was a conviction and a faith reinforced by life -

Now he was far removed from his earlier shepherding, but he could find no way of describing the Lordís care for him more apt than this.

A famous actor was once asked to say the twenty-third Psalm before a large audience. His recitation of the famous Psalm was magnificent and brought loud applause from the appreciative audience.

The actor noticed an aged minister near the front of the audience and called on him to come and say the Psalm too. When the old man, with lifted eyes and quavering voice, came to the end, there was complete silence.

At last the actor came forward and said, "The difference is that I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd."

The Psalm was written, not just as a fine piece of literature, a strikingly beautiful poem, but because David had come to know the Shepherd.

We need to know the Shepherd, too. We need to know him day by day as we face our lives with our own particular set of needs.

As we learn to trust him and to see his care in every experience, then added years will bring fresh depth to the conviction, "The Lord is my Shepherd."

PRAYER: Eternal Lord, thank you for your care of me. Thank you that you are with me in all of life, whatever happens. With you, I am safe, now and forever. In Jesusí name, Amen.

I Remember

I remember
the days of my youth -
my fatherís sheep,
pasture and water,
pleasant days.
But then,
places dark with danger
and the threat of snake and beast.
I loved those sheep,
I cared for them,
for each and every one of them,
and I think
(if sheep can love)
they loved me too.

I remember
other days too -
days of duty
of responsibility
and of temptation -
days of success
and of failure.

I remember them all.

And I remember
how the Lord has loved me,
has cared for me
in all of life.

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 2000
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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