In this devotional thought, I want to use one of the most popular, most favorite, most read, and most memorized passages of scripture. . . The 23rd Psalm. But first, let me give you some things to think about before I have you read what David wrote.
The Cowboy is an American hero. And as many of you know, I like cowboys. I always have. Growing up I had cowboy boots, cowboy hats, a rope to lasso with, and I had a sister to practice my lassoing on. Today, I have several cowboy hats, I have probably 15 pairs of cowboy boots, I have buckles and boots and hats. I like bull riding and I go to the finals in Los Vegas every year. I like John Wayne and Westerns. Our family room is well decorated with a western and cowboy theme. I like Cowboys!
In the bible, a Shepherd is also a hero.
When you compare the two, on the surface the Cowboy and Shepherd appear to be similar. They both work outdoors and sleep under the stars. They are both rugged and have demanding jobs. They both take very few baths. They both have leathery skin. They both are never off duty and have to always be alert. But that is pretty much where the similarities end.
Here are some of the differences in the two. It takes several Cowboys to drive a herd of cattle. A flock of sheep has one Shepherd. The Cowboy hoots and hollers and uses ropes and whips to drive his cattle. The Shepherd walks ahead of his flock and he leads and guides them. If a sheep wandered off or got lost, the Shepherd went and found it. The Cowboy uses a hot branding iron to identify which cattle are his. The Shepherd knows his sheep by name. The Cowboy ultimately drives his cattle to the market to be slaughtered. The Shepherd is gentle and when one of his sheep gets hurt, he anoints it, to heal it. And so, as you can see, the Cowboy and the Shepherd treat their animals differently.
In John 10:11 Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’. As much as I like Cowboys. . . I am thankful and I am glad that Jesus didn’t call himself the ‘Good Cowboy’.
Now, you are probably familiar with the 23rd Psalm. Maybe you’ve read it at times to give you comfort. Maybe you’ve memorized it. Maybe it is highlighted in your bible or hangs on your wall at home. Well, I would like for you to read it again today. But before you do, let me tell you a few more things about sheep.
Sheep aren't smart. They have no sense of direction and they tend to wander - they need a Shepherd to lead them. Sheep can get easily excited - they need a Shepherd to calm them. Sheep have no natural defense - no claws, no horns, no fangs. They are helpless - they need a Shepherd to protect them.
With all that said, I hope when you read The 23rd Psalm, that it speaks to you a little differently than it has before. Here it is:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still, quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 And even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 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 with blessings. 6 Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
After reading this amazing Psalm written by David, let me give you five thoughts to help you during this time of uncertainty.
#1 You Are Not Alone
God is walking through this valley with you. Verse 4 - You are with me.
#2 Turn Towards The Light Have you ever thought about how you can’t see your shadow and look at the light at the same time? You cannot look at both at the same time. The best way to deal with life’s shadows is by turning to the light. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’. (John 8:12)
Valleys are different for a believer and a non-believer. The difference isn’t the absence of the shadow. It’s the presence of the Shepherd.
#3 God Gives You Everything You Need
Psalm 23 tells us over and over that God gives us everything we need. He gives us rest. He gives us refreshment. He gives us strength. He restores us. He leads us down the right path. He gives us protection. He gives us blessings. He gives us comfort. He gives us love and mercy. He gives us security. He gives us hope. He gives us everything we need!
#4 Our Reward Will Last Forever
The 23rd Psalm ends with – and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Forever is a long time. Forever means eternity. I want to remind you that these valleys won’t last, and heaven will be worth any valley we go through on this earth.
#5 Be Glad That Jesus Is A Shepherd, And Not A Cowboy
We all have wandered away like sheep, each of us has gone his own way. (Isa. 53:6)
During this time of anxiousness, worry, unrest and uncertainty, we need a Shepherd. We don't need a Cowboy to herd us, we need a Shepherd to care for us and to guide us. Jesus is not a Cowboy, and we aren't cattle. He’s a Shepherd, and we are his sheep. As much as I like Cowboys, I am thankful that Jesus is my ‘Good Shepherd’ and not my ‘Good Cowboy’. And I hope that you also are thankful and glad about that!
Take some time today to soak in The 23rd Psalm with the ‘Good Shephers’.