As we take a journey through Psalm 23 and John 10, it is my prayer that this devotional will restore your hope, strengthen your faith, and give you a deeper understanding of the good Shepherd’s peace, provision, and protection and help keep you feeling safe.
Embrace the Unknown
In moments of uncertainty, pain and suffering, we often lean into Psalm 23. David, a shepherd boy, became the king of Israel, but not until he faced a season of adversity in the wilderness. When his call to be king seemed a mere dream than reality, he found comfort to reflect on Abba Father as his protector and provider.
Years ago, and sometimes still today, I realised I do not truly know the love and kindness of God. Not only did I not know who God is, but I did not know who I am as His child. I sometimes feel like a lost sheep walking in circles trying to please a shepherd I did not know. Often I viewed Him as an angry God, ready to chastise me for the slightest mistake. Mostly living in fear that God would punish me for the life I lived apart from Him by allowing something bad to happen to the people I love or to me. I admit, I can slip back into embracing those lies at times. However, God has continued to be gracious and loving toward me by showing me if He wanted to punish me for my sins, He would not have punished Jesus by way of the cross.
God (the good Shepherd) sent Jesus (the lamb of God) to provide all we need to be able to enter into the presence of a Holy God.
Much uncertainty in days of COVID-19
In the days of COVID-19, the entire world is turned upside down and plagued by uncertainty and fear. Out of nowhere, this invisible enemy has infiltrated our homeland, invaded our living spaces, homes and besieged our bodies, our faith and our minds. Our safety and security is compromised. Many of God’s children were left paralysed with fear of the unknown.
We ask God to step in and defeat this toxic enemy, but it seemed like the enemy defeats us as it continues to spread.
In scary and unknown times, our greatest need is to go before the Father and ask Him to remind us who He is. He is a Good Shepherd, providing for and protecting us. He is the only One that has the power to change our circumstances. If He doesn’t change our circumstances, then we can trust He has a loving plan we cannot understand at the moment.
Who Told You That?
Who we listen to and believe will determine whether we lay down in trust or stand in fear.
God’s grace to those who least expect it
Have you ever wondered why a good Shepherd would need to make his sheep lie down in green pastures? Wouldn’t green pastures and quiet waters be a sheep’s best life?
The thing about sheep is that they will not lie down if they are afraid, threatened, or hungry. In other words, if a sheep senses freedom from fear, aggravations, and hunger, only then will they lie down and rest.
People are like sheep
I guess people are more like sheep than I realise! I know for me it has been hard to rest in my own green pastures when everything around me shouts: “FEAR, DANGER, DUCK, TAKE COVER!”
How hard has it been for you to rest in your own personal green pastures? During the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus was called an “invisible enemy”. It is true for every follower of Jesus; we have an invisible enemy, and it is not just illnesses like COVID-19. A believer’s enemy is Satan. Satan tempted Eve to not trust God and to believe that God is withholding what is good from her. Eve’s biggest mistake was not that she listened to Satan, but that she believed him. Our enemy’s lies create in us the same belief; God cannot be trusted, and He will not accomplish or provide what is best for His children. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Fear is a liar
What a liar is fear when it causes us to doubt God’s protection and provision for our needs and wants. Fear is a liar when things go haywire and we believe God has abandoned us right when we need Him most.
Jesus said He is a good Shepherd who lays down His life so that His sheep can have life abundantly – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Jesus is the source of our life. We find our meaning and purpose in Him. If we do not believe Him, Jesus’ words and truth will not help you or me. There are a lot of voices shouting to get our attention and devotion. We have to be careful who we listen to, but more importantly who we are believing.
If you are gripped with fear and at the brink of despair, I can confidently say the words you are believing are not your Shepherd’s. When Eve repeated Satan’s lies to God in the garden of Eden, God asked her, “Who told you that?” (Genesis 3:11). When we are consumed with fear and doubt, we should ask ourselves that same question. “Who told me that?”
When we listen, believe, and trust His words, we can lay down in our green pastures no matter the chaos raging around us.
The term “cast down sheep” means a sheep has tipped over lying on its back with its feet in the air, frantically struggling to stand up without any success. The only thing the sheep can do is lie there, frightened and frustrated, until its shepherd comes to help. If he is close to the shepherd, the shepherd can immediately turn him over and put him back on his feet again. Sadly, if the sheep is too far away and too much time has passed before the shepherd can come to its rescue, it will die. Now, I am by no means a shepherd, so this term helps me have a deeper understanding of what David is referring to when he says, “The good Shepherd restores his soul.” Every shepherd has had a cast down sheep at some point or another.
I can’t help but think there are a lot of God’s sheep who have been led away from their Shepherd and have found themselves helpless on their backs, desperately trying to flip themselves over to stand on their own feet. However, life is showing us we are not capable of turning ourselves over and getting ourselves back on our feet. We need a good Shepherd close by, and thank Jesus, we have One.
In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to not know what to do, and it’s even harder to admit we don’t know what to do. Fear of the unknown will leave the happiest person feeling cast down, disheartened, and often confused to know who to trust. Psalm 23:3 reminds us that God wants to restore our souls and shine His light on the path He has chosen to walk with us.
His path, for you and for me, is for us to be close to Him at all times. So close that when we find ourselves stuck on our backs, feet sticking straight up in the air, He can reach out and restore us back to our feet. There is no better or safer way to walk a path than touching arms with Jesus.
We were created to walk with God. The journey He chooses will be perfect and personally designed for us. As a follower of Jesus, we must remember He does not follow us, even if we think we know the best way to go.
Yes, life as we know it is uncertain and unknown. Although, I believe if we stay close to our Shepherd, He will do whatever it takes to turn us over and plant us on a firm foundation because that’s what good Shepherd’s do.
When I read Psalm 23, I picture David sitting in a beautiful field watching his sheep enjoy green pastures, his legs propped up on a log, hands behind his head, relaxing by a refreshing stream of water.
The truth of the matter is, when David wrote this Psalm, he was hiding in a dark cave and exiled from his own people with a death sentence hanging over his head.
We cannot be certain what David was thinking as he penned Psalm 23, but we do know there’s a shift in his writing. For the first time, David uses the personal pronoun “I” and begins his conversation with his Shepherd rather than talking about his Shepherd. David reassures himself that he may face life-threatening circumstances, even death itself, but he will not face these things alone.
A pattern between David’s process to become a king and my faith journey as a follower of Jesus is emerging. When I decided to follow Jesus, I expected life to be free of pain and suffering. I was told Jesus picked up His cross and died for my sins so I could live life happy, free, and abundantly. No one told me God would ask me to pick up my cross and die daily as a pleasing sacrifice to Him (a truth that would’ve been helpful to know). (Matthew 16:24) So, when I faced pain and suffering, I was shocked and left with two options.
One, change my belief system or two, change my circumstances. Since I couldn’t change my circumstances, I started to study the Bible to learn what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. I looked at His journey in this world and the life of His disciples. I was comforted to discover they endured pain and suffering, too. Jesus was misunderstood, accused unjustly, and rejected by those around Him. After Jesus left this world, the lives of His disciples were no better.
As I write this, my heart breaks over the numerous lives that have been marked by fear, loneliness, pain, and suffering. Our nation is fighting an invisible enemy in the form of COVID-19; this enemy attacks our dreams, bank accounts, relationships, faith and even our day-to-day lives. This being said, God is fully aware we are not capable of fighting our battles alone. So, He sent Jesus, our Good Shepherd to lead us through these valleys and place our feet firmly on higher ground. And nobody understands life in the valley better than Jesus!
However, we must remember God will never allow us to walk through a painful and dangerous valley without taking our hand to guide us. He is leading us along the narrow pathway so that we can experience the presence of God. In my heart, I can almost hear Jesus whisper, “Keep moving, don’t stop now, you are closer to Me than you know!”
Covered with Comfort
It is said a shepherd’s rod is like an extension of the shepherd’s right arm. It stands to show the shepherd’s authority and strength, a symbol to bring comfort and assurance to the sheep. Predators wait patiently on the outskirts of the shepherd’s flock, looking for their moment to kill. The shepherd uses his rod as a defence and deterrent to protect his sheep against anything aiming to attack. Sheep are also prone to wander, much like people, and can become lost without food or water. The rod gently corrects and guides the sheep along the right path, the path leading them to safety and true life.
Much like a sheep’s shepherd, our Good Shepherd is always prepared to use his rod and staff to protect us from what may harm us and tenderly keep us on the best path. Whenever God sees His children moving towards dangerous territory, He will call them to Himself. Using the Holy Spirit and His Word, He guides and directs us, corrects and comforts us. His love for us will compel Him to stop us from what isn’t best, even if it means a moment of temporary pain along the way.
I can remember many times when I was going through very difficult and dark circumstances. I wanted to walk away from God, even deny God, and sometimes demand instant gratification from God to solve my difficulties NOW!. Consider this “Look back at a time in your life and wonder what God would have done if you had only obeyed him?” Even when I was mad at God for not doing what I asked, I knew I did not want to live with regret and miss God’s best for my life. Today, I think of this often when I see all the moments He held onto me when I was willing to let go of Him.
When we say yes to following Jesus, the power of Jesus’ resurrection lives in us to comfort us, bring us peace, counsel, and direction.
The world wants to tell us a good God will not allow bad things to happen. God tells us a good and loving God sent His Son to save us from this world. No one is exempt from facing tribulations, sickness, heartache, and pain. We can face each of these with joy and confidence that Christ will comfort and direct us. We can trust a loving Shepherd to stand in authority over this world, rod in hand, while guiding, comforting, and protecting us throughout each day.
Eating with the Enemy
In Psalm 23:5, David says, “God has prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat, but I prefer to be surrounded by people I trust, not in the company of my enemies.
Middle Eastern hospitality is of high value and importance. When someone enters the host’s house, the needs of the guest always supersede the needs of the host until the visit is over. David is picturing God as his host, who will meet his needs and protect and defend him in the midst of his enemies.
Since we know David was running from Saul at the time of Psalm 23, it could be safe to assume David was speaking of Saul being his enemy. Over and over God protected David from being killed by the hands of Saul. However, David never convinced Saul that he was not the man Saul believed him to be. Saul thought David wanted to harm him and steal the throne, when in reality, Saul was trying to harm David, and it was God that took the throne away from Saul.
There will be times when we will be the victims of people’s gossip, be falsely accused, or maybe someone will assume wrongly about who we are. We all have enemies in some way or another. I find a lot of comfort in knowing Jesus had a lot of enemies as well. His enemies refused to accept the truth of who He was and continually questioned His intentions and motives. Nonetheless, Jesus never tried to defend His actions to anyone who refused to get to know Him.
The key to Psalm 23:5: God, not ourselves, will defend us against the hurtful lies intended to destroy our testimony, self-worth, and reputation as a child of God.
Not only is God a Good Shepherd, but like David, He is also a great warrior. We can be confident of this one thing:
In due time, He will expose the lies aimed to destroy us or our relationships. Just because we can’t see God preparing a table before our enemy doesn’t mean God isn’t behind the scenes prepping the courses. There is nothing sweeter than to wait and allow God to take anything formed against us and turn it around to become our greatest victory. He does a much better job at making things right than we do!
God is the perfect Host who satisfies His children with His presence and cares for our every need. One of the names of God is Jehovah-Nissi, which means God is my banner. Whenever we feel we are surrounded by people who would find more joy in our mistakes than in our victories, we can call upon the name of God and ask Him to fight for us.
Walk Me Home
You can’t outrun God. There was a time in my life when I certainly tried. Not only did I try to outrun God, I tried to run from myself. I was going through a very confusing season. It wasn’t a national crisis, but an identity crisis. I didn’t know the truth of who God is, and I certainly did not know who God created me to be. I had no concept of what it meant to be a new creation in Christ. When all hope seemed lost and life would seemingly never look the same, it was too hard to put the past behind me and reach forward to what was next. It was too hard for me to see any goodness in the midst of my pain, let alone a hopeful future.
When I read David’s words, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life”, I am reminded that good and merciful are also listed among the many attributes of God. It is not only what He does, but it is who God is. He will not withhold what is best from His children or leave them to fend for themselves. Like most children, we have a very limited ability to determine what is best for ourselves. David writes with the assurance that whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, we can be assured that although not all things are good, God is good in all things.
The Spirit of God fills the life of every New Testament believer just as His Spirit would fill the Old Testament tabernacle or temple. He is always with us; His mercy is everlasting and His goodness is forever faithful.
When we experience our darkest days, nights, weeks, or months, we may not see God’s presence or His hand guiding us. Yet, once we get through those bleak seasons, we are able to look back and be in awe of the God who never left us alone. Darkness always tries to hide the goodness of God. God’s light illuminates what the darkness tries to hide.
When we remember our Shepherd’s goodness, it is easier for us to trust him with what’s in front of us. In the midst of a crisis, it can seem He has left us in the dust. But the story isn’t over. While we wait for our good Shepherd and valiant warrior to bring us through this difficult race called life, we can simply reach out in faith, trust the Holy Spirit within, and grab the hand of God. There will be a day when we will be home with Jesus in His house forever. Let Him walk us there.
What’s in a Name – Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
As we have journeyed through Psalm 23 together, I pray you have felt God’s peace, comfort, and security each step along the way. More importantly, I hope you have seen more clearly the loving heart of your Good Shepherd. When most people read David’s Psalm, they are either looking for a way to find meaning and purpose for their suffering or trying to pick up the pieces from shattered dreams.
For many years, I approached the Bible as a textbook. When life wasn’t turning out like I had dreamed it would, I’d look to the Bible for answers to my “why.” God used studying the book of Job to show me He doesn’t always answer our “why.” Instead, He desires to take our focus off of our suffering and onto Himself. When we respond in faith and look to Him, He shows us His mighty power and great love.
I can honestly say, I do not know how anyone can live in this world without this assurance: not all things are good, but God is good in all things. God is not our free pass out of the storms of life, but He is our peace within the storm.
David did not get everything right, but one thing he did get right was what he treasured most—his relationship with God. It didn’t matter if his life was good or if his life was threatened by the evil intentions of others, He called upon the name of God. Let’s go back through Psalm 23 and reflect on the different names of God:
- The LORD is my Shepherd: Jehovah Rohi, He is our Shepherd.
- I shall not want: Jehovah Jireh, He is our provider.
- He makes me lie down in green pastures and still waters: Jehovah Shalom, He is our peace.
- He restores my soul and guides me in His righteousness: Jehovah Tsidkenu, He is our righteousness.
- For you are with me: Jehovah Shammah, He is the God who is always there.
- Your rod and staff comfort me: Jehovah Nissi, He is our banner of victory.
- Surely goodness and mercy follows us: Jehovah M’Kaddesh, He is the God who sanctifies.
Proverbs states in 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” David, a shepherd boy who was known as Israel’s greatest king, a man after God’s own heart, knew his limitations, humbled himself and called upon the name of God.
As we fight whatever battle life throws our way, our greatest defense will be to humble ourselves and call upon the name of God.
Love is a Battlefield
As we read Psalm 23 in its entirety and reflected on the different names of God. It is worth noticing, the familiar words of Christ on the cross were also written by David in Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me.”
As a follower of Jesus, at some point or another, we all will struggle with the thought, God is not listening to my prayers. He has left me alone. He cannot be trusted, and it is up to me to be in control of my happiness. These thoughts are all lies against who Jesus is in order to weaken our faith in Him and steal our peace.
If you are a follower of Jesus and have given your life to Him, you can be assured that God has not forsaken us. During His most extravagant expression of love, with His last breath, Jesus declared, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) All of Heaven mourned.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15
Meanwhile, for three days Hell rejoiced. We all know what happened next. Jesus walked out of that same grave in Glory and in victory. What darkness meant to destroy, Jesus died to redeem. God defeated the powers of evil. As followers of Jesus, we can claim that same victory.
Jesus didn’t just say He loved us; He proved His love in ways words could never express by laying down His life for us. He paid off our sinful debt with His perfect life. Because of Jesus, we will never be forsaken but are always loved and worthy to call a Holy God our Father. Our place with God has been forever sealed with triumph!
The war was won long ago, but we are still in a battle. If we don’t know who we are fighting, we cannot win the battle. Jesus called Satan a liar, thief, and deceiver; his goal is to destroy who you are and your relationship with God. Satan is opportunistic, and he will attack when we least expect it. That being said, I’m confident that God, our defender, will fight to protect our hearts, strengthen our faith, and win this waging battle around us.
When COVID-19 invaded our worlds, the threat of death surrounds us every day. Our dreams and plans appear to be thrown down a dark pit never to be seen again. We must remember, there is no pit so deep that God’s love cannot reach to pull us out. Yes, my friend, there is no war or invisible enemy that Jesus has not already fought and won.
Jesus came to this earth to save us from our sin and point us to the Father. However, when you think about how often Jesus slipped away from the crowds to talk to the Father, we cannot deny the high emphasis Jesus placed on prayer.
When I was young in my faith with very little understanding of the Bible, I began to notice how often Jesus prayed. I wrestled with the idea if Jesus felt the need to pray throughout His journey in this world, how much more should I? Even though I respected prayer and saw my desperate need to talk with God, I was clueless. What should I say? How should I say it? What could I tell God that He did not already know? What if I said something wrong? The fear I’d say the wrong thing kept me from praying at all. I heard it once said, “Satan doesn’t care if we go to church. He doesn’t care if we go to the mission field. What scares Satan the most is a kneeling Christian speaking to their loving and powerful God.”
As we face the coming days, months and even years fearful of the many “what if’s,” our greatest defense is prayer. Many people have called prayer a Christian’s greatest weapon. I do believe prayer is powerful, but I’ve yet to see in Scripture the power being in the words spoken in prayer or even in the one praying. Instead, the power is in the One being spoken to, God Almighty.
Let’s learn from the best, Jesus! Overwhelmed with grief in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knelt down to pray. In great agony, His sweat became like drops of blood. He fell to the ground and uttered the words, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” (Mark 14:36) It was not the words, but the surrender to God’s will that gave Him the power to face His enemy, death. Now, that’s genuine godly power!
Even if it does not change our circumstances, prayer changes us.
Our weapon to fight any fear, crisis, doubt, or insecurity aiming to wage war against our minds, soul, and spirit is to surrender each longing, concern, and fear in prayer with a steadfast desire to do whatever God asks. Let me tell you, this isn’t easy to do! Jesus can testify to this. However, when we walk in God’s will, we can be confident we are walking on conquered ground. Our battles are already won! We can take our position as His child and enter into His presence to share our life experiences with our conquering King! Death could not hold Him down and the threat of death cannot get us down.
A life surrendered to His will is a life worth living!
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