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A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23
By Phillip Keller
"I SHALL NOT WANT"
A Psalm of David
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
When all is said and done the welfare of any flock is entirely dependent upon the management afforded them by their owner.
The tenant sheepman on the farm next to my first ranch was the most indifferent manager I had ever met. He was not concerned about the condition of his sheep. His land was neglected. He gave little or no time to his flock, letting them pretty well forage for themselves as best they could, both summer and winter. They fell prey to dogs, cougars and rustlers.
Every year these poor creatures were forced to gnaw away at bare brown fields and impoverished pastures. Every winter there was a shortage of nourishing hay and wholesome grain to feed the hungry ewes. Shelter to safeguard and protect the suffering sheep from storms and blizzards was scanty and inadequate.
They had only polluted, muddy water to drink. There had been a lack of salt and other trace minerals needed to offset their sickly pastures. In their thin, weak and diseased condition these poor sheep were a pathetic sight.
In my mind's eye I can still see them standing at the fence, huddled sadly in little knots, staring wistfully through the wires at the rich pastures on the other side.
To all their distress, the heartless, selfish owner seemed utterly callous and indifferent. He simply did not care. What if his sheep did WANT green grass; fresh water; shade; safety or shelter from the storms? What if they did WANT relief from wounds, bruises, disease and parasites?
He ignored their needs -- he couldn't care less. Why should he -- they were just sheep -- fit only for the slaughterhouse.
I have become increasingly aware of one thing ... It is ... the Master in people's lives who makes the difference in their destiny.
Despite an unparalleled wealth in material assets we are outstandingly insecure and unsure of ourselves and well nigh bankrupt in spiritual values.
Always men are searching for safety beyond themselves. They are restless, unsettled, covetous, greedy for more -- wanting this and that, yet never really satisfied in spirit.
By contrast the simple Christian, the humble person, the Shepherd's sheep can stand up proudly and boast. "The Lord is my Shepherd -- I shall not want."
I am completely satisfied with His management of my life. Why? Because He is the sheepman to whom no trouble is too great as He cares for His flock. He is the Rancher who is outstanding because of His fondness for sheep -- who loves them for their own sake as well as His personal pleasure in them. He will, if necessary, be on the job twenty-four hours a day to see that they are properly provided for in every detail. Above all, He is very jealous of His name and high reputation as “The Good Shepherd.”
He is the owner who delights in His flock. For Him there is no greater reward, no deeper satisfaction, than that of seeing His sheep contented, well fed, safe and flourishing under His care. This is indeed His very 'life.' He gives all He has to it. He literally lays Himself out for those who are His.
He will go to no end of trouble and labor to supply them with the finest grazing, the richest pasturage, ample winter feed, and clean water. He will spare Himself no pains to provide shelter from storms, protection from ruthless enemies and the diseases and parasites to which sheep are so susceptible.
No wonder Jesus said, "I am the Good Shepherd -- the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." And again, "I am come that ye might have life and that ye might have it more abundantly."
From early dawn until late at night this utterly self-less Shepherd is alert to the welfare of His flock. For the diligent sheepman rises early and goes out first thing every morning without fail to look over his flock. It is the initial, intimate contact of the day. With a practiced, searching, sympathetic eye he examines the sheep to see that they are fit and content and able to be on their feet. In an instant he can tell if they have been molested during the night -- whether any are ill or if there are some which require special attention.
Repeatedly throughout the day he casts his eye over the flock to make sure that all is well.
Nor even at night is he oblivious to their needs. He sleeps as it were 'with one eye and both ears open' ready at the least sign of trouble to leap up and protect his own.
This is a sublime picture of the care given to those whose lives are under Christ's control. He knows all about their lives from morning to night.
"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits -- even the God of our salvation.
"He that keepeth thee will not slumber or sleep."
In spite of having such a master and owner, the fact remains that some Christians are still not content with His control. They are somewhat dissatisfied, always feeling that somehow the grass beyond the fence must be a little greener. These are carnal Christians -- one might almost call them 'fence crawlers' or 'half Christians' who want the best of both worlds.
I once owned an ewe whose conduct exactly typified this sort of person. She was one of the most attractive sheep that ever belonged to me. Her body was beautifully proportioned. She had a strong constitution and an excellent coat of wool. Her head was clean, alert, well-set with bright eyes. She bore sturdy lambs that matured rapidly.
But in spite of all these attractive attributes she had one pronounced fault. She was restless -- discontented -- a fence crawler. So much so that I came to call her 'Mrs. Gad-about.' This one ewe produced more problems for me than almost all the rest of the flock combined.
No matter what field or pasture the sheep were in, she would search all along the fences or shoreline (we lived by the sea) looking for a loophole she could crawl through and start to feed on the other side.
It was not that she lacked pasturage. My fields were my joy and delight. No sheep in the district had better grazing. With 'Mrs. Gad-about' it as an ingrained habit. She was simply never contented with things as they were. Often when she had forced her way through some such spot in a fence or found a way through the end of the wire at low tide on the beaches, she would end up feeding on bare, brown, burned-up pasturage of a most inferior sort. But she never learned her lesson and continued to fence crawl time after time.
Now it would have been bad enough if she was the only one that did this. It was a sufficient problem to find her and bring her back. But the further point was that she taught her lambs the same tricks. They simply followed her example and soon were as skilled at escaping as their mother.
Even worse, however, was the example she set the other sheep. In a short time she began to lead others through the same holes and over the same dangerous paths down by the sea.
After putting up with her perverseness for a summer, I finally came to the conclusion that to save the rest of the flock from being unsettled, she would have to go.
... it was a difficult decision ... I loved her in the same way I loved the rest. Her strength and beauty and alertness were a delight to the eye. But one morning, I took the killing knife in hand and butchered her. It was the only solution to the dilemma.
She was a sheep, who in spite of all that I had done to give her the very best care -- still wanted something else. She is not the one who said, 'The Lord is my Shepherd -- I shall not want.'
It is a solemn warning to the carnal Christians - the backslider - the one who wants the best of both worlds. Sometimes in short order they can be cut down.
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