The Divine Shepherd

Reading: 1 Samuel 17.31-40
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want" (Psalm 23.1).

What was David thinking about when he wrote these words?

We have sometimes imagined him sitting under a tree with his sheep nearby grazing in the green grass beside a pleasant stream.

But his words weren't a kind of how-I-wish-for-earlier-times, for he had learnt to see the care of the Lord in all circumstances.

Haven't we all sometimes longed for the simplicity of our childhood life? Things seemed simpler, less complicated, then. With adolescent years, we longed to be adult, to have full responsibility, to make all the decisions of our own life. But then we discover that decisions and responsibility can weigh heavily upon us. We also discover that, with increasing years, we are much less adaptable to change - and we live in a world of constant change! And, with that greater span of years, we develop a broader view of what is happening in the world, a view which tempers and sometimes destroys our youthful optimism.

David's boyhood faith had not been destroyed - it had been deepened and matured by the experiences of the years. It was as a man who had lived under many pressures that he wrote, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want."

I wonder if he remembered that episode which proved to be the first step away from his shepherding - the time when the Philistine giant Goliath was defying the army of Israel to send someone to fight against him.

When David came from his father to check on how his brothers were doing, he was shocked that no one had gone out to fight Goliath.

David's attitude to the situation was quite simple (the others thought it naive!) - "This is not just Goliath, a Philistine, challenging us. It is a pagan man defying the armies of the living God! It is not just simply a question of our personal honour but our faith in the living God! Do we really believe in the God be believe in? Do we really know that he is there, alive and powerful!"

When presenting the case before King Saul, David doesn't only list his personal prowess and achievements in defending his father's sheep - he affirms his faith in this living God! "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (v. 37).

Saul, of course, says the correct thing - "Go and the Lord be with you!" But was that the spirit with which he had really inspired his army?

Finally, David went out (without Saul's heavy armour) to meet the real challenge of the enemy - "I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied" (v. 45). The Philistine would be defeated so that "all the world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands" (vv. 46-47).

Now there's a simple straightforward faith! "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want" - but this faith has to be lived out in situations sometimes filled with danger.

Someone had explained the law of gravity simply to a little girl. One night her mother noticed that she was deep in thought. "What are you thinking about?" the mother asked. The girl replied, "I was thinking about gravity, and I've decided that gravity is God at the centre of the world, protecting and keeping his children right side up when the world is upside down."

There's a lot to think about there! In today's world there are some people who would say there just isn't any God. And others who agree that there is a God then go and live as if he isn't there!

There really is a God! He really can be depended on! And as we live, we really need to trust him! Then the words will be full of reality and truth for us -

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want."

PRAYER: Father God, you gave me life. You give me love. You give ne needed help and strength. You never fail, but I so often fail because I forget you. Help me to trust myself each day to your loving care. For Jesus' sake, Amen.

My Shepherd, My Lord

In love he cared and nurtured me,
My Shepherd, my Lord.
I needed him and nothing cared
In simple faith my life was shared
With him, my Lord.

Yet as I grew I needed still
My Shepherd, my Lord,
Though foolishly I thought I knew
Life was for me to please and do
Without my Lord.

But how in love he brought me back,
My Shepherd, my Lord!
With adult soul and strength and heart,
I cannot live from him apart
I need my Lord!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 2000, 2001
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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