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Overview


‘The Shepherd God’ is an extended reflection on Psalm 23. The book begins with an introduction relating my own experiences before six main chapters take one part of the Psalm as a starting point. Each chapter is divided into a number of points that help us to better understand the Psalm. Finally, the book concludes with an epilogue which considers how we might find peace, worth and purpose in a busy world.

The main chapters are structured as follows:

Chapter One: The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Three aspects of a shepherd’s role that help us to understand how God is our shepherd:

  • Faithful provision of basic needs
  • A personal relationship based on trust
  • Protection at any cost.

Chapter Two: He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

Three ways in which God brings peace to the lives of his people:

  • God makes his people stop and rest
  • God takes away the need for fear
  • God gives his people genuine refreshment

Chapter Three: He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Five points for following the right path through our lives:

  • God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect
  • We need to renew our minds
  • God’s word illuminates our paths
  • We should submit to God
  • God wants us to display his character to all those around us

Chapter Four: 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.

Three points for understanding – and coping whilst we are in – the ‘darkest valley’:

  • Dark times are inevitable
  • We have a future hope
  • God is with us in our suffering

Chapter Five: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Three ways in which God demonstrates love for all of his people:

  • God desperately wants us to spend time with him
  • God withholds nothing from us
  • God wants us to make peace with our enemies

Chapter Six: Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Three amazing truths relating to God’s endless love for his people:

  • God’s love is unconditional
  • God’s love is eternal
  • God calls on us to build his house.

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The Darkest Valley

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.

Psalm 23:4

Canyon in Death Valley National Park. Image by Simon Lucas.

A few years ago I found myself in a job that I hated. The bleakness of my situation drove me into despair and depression. At the time it felt almost as if I was in a tunnel, unable to see the light at either end. I felt like there were enemies all around me, plotting my downfall. I had no idea how to escape from that truly horrible situation. Of course, the reality of human life is that at some point most, if not all of us, will experience times like this. It might be that we find ourselves, like I did, stuck in a job that we don’t like, or in a bad relationship, or battling addictions or facing an uncertain economic future. Whatever the nature of our circumstances, the result is often similar – we feel as if life is dark, depressing, and uncomfortable.

It is times like this that the Psalmist points us to in this famous verse from the Psalm. David describes these times as a ‘valley’. When we’re in that valley the temptation might be to cower away in the corner, hoping that the end will come to us. Hiding can seem like the best solution.

That logic is flawed, however. What point is there in hiding in a dark valley? What we need to do instead is march on with confidence, battling through the troubles and difficulties, realising that sooner or later we will reach the light once more.

The Psalmist once again inspires us with hope and confidence. Even when we are in that deep, dark valley, God is still with us. He is walking alongside us, and what’s more, he is equipped to tackle any threats that come our way. No matter what circumstances jump out at us, no matter what enemies, God is equipped with a rod and a staff, and is well prepared to defend us. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing that can threaten us when we walk with God; he is, after all, the supreme power of the universe! We can draw comfort from God’s presence, and the understanding that he will protect us against any evil that might come our way.

David said in Psalm 23 that he fears no evil for God is with him. Jesus is not only with us, but he paid the ultimate price and died to protect us from evil, and to ensure that we have a bright future ahead of us in heaven when we die.

David trusted that God would protect him at the darkest times of his life, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God lead us through our dark times and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

As featured on Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Inspirational Breakfast’.

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He guides me in paths of righteousness

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:3(b)

Image source: broraz.com

Sat-navs are fantastic gadgets. Just pop in the post code of the location you wish to get to, and it’ll take you there. That’s the theory, anyway. A couple of years ago I found myself driving through Arizona. I was on a fairly busy interstate when my sat-nav told me to turn off, which I duly did. Very quickly I found myself lost in the midst of a vast desert, whereupon my sat-nav decided it no longer knew where I was or where I wanted to be. I was well and truly lost, and it took me some time to find my way back onto a major road.

There are times in our lives when we feel lost. We feel like we have pulled into a desert with no clear exit and simply don’t know where to go. Maybe we’re stuck in a job that we don’t like, but can’t see a way out, or we’re in an unhealthy relationship, or we simply want some guidance about where to go next. Where do we turn?

Well we might feel uncertain of the direction our lives should be heading in, but God our Father has a clear vision. He has a way marked out for all us, a path that will be pleasing, and that will best serve his and our needs. When we feel lost, we just need to trust that God knows what he is doing, trust that he will lead us, and pray that he will guide us.

If we let God guide us, that worry that inhabits us about whether we are doing the right thing will diminish, because we can rely on God’s encouragement. We can also draw comfort from the fact that the paths that he leads us down are “paths of righteousness,” paths that will help us to shape our lives to be more like Jesus. By following the paths that God has marked out for us, we will be blessed. And, when the time comes, that path will lead us to God’s eternal kingdom.

If you’re feeling lost, pray today that God will guide you along those paths of righteousness. If you think you know the way, pray anyway that God will reassure you, and continue to lead you along his paths. And pray that, one day, when the time comes, those paths will lead us to heaven.

David trusted that God would guide him through his life, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God to lead us along the right paths of life and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

As featured on Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Inspirational Breakfast’.

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He refreshes my soul

He refreshes my soul.

Psalm 23:3(a)

Image by freewine @flickr and made available under this licence.

Have you ever felt so tired that you feel that you could sleep for a week? As a teacher, I often feel like that as the end of term approaches, particularly the long Christmas term. After weeks of working flat out, the end is tantalising close, but then, on top of all the usual preparation, teaching and marking, I suddenly find myself having to write several hundred reports, arranging Christmas parties, and sometimes even preparing for end-of-term trips.

It’s tiredness like that that is sometimes described as “soul-sapping.” Not only are you tired, but it actually feels like your very life force is ebbing away from you. It’s at times like this that basic things become neglected; perhaps you feel your home life suffering, and you find yourself isolating yourself from our friends. Maybe you even feel that spending time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study drops down your priorities list.

Today’s verse is a warning against this neglect. God can help us through these difficult and busy times. If we spend just a few minutes of our busy day in quiet reflection, reading our Bible and praying, then the promise in this verse is that God will refresh our soul. Not only will he physically help us by sustaining us through our busy-ness, but spending time with him also puts what we are doing into context.

Work suddenly is not the be all and end all in our lives, since as Christians we have an eternal perspective. We should not focus solely on work, because we also need to spend time with God, and we need to ensure that we are doing his work, living a life worthy of Christ’s salvation. We also understand the importance of maintaining a focus on Christ in all that we do, whether it is at work, at home, or with our friends. We can support our colleagues through their busyness too by maintaining our calm, and working as if for our Father in heaven. By doing so, we can be witnesses for God, even though we are busy.

The realisation that God can refresh our souls can help us to put our daily life into perspective. Spending just a little time every day with him can really change our lives, and change our perspective on the world.
The next time you are tempted to neglect your daily time with God, just remember the promise of this verse, that God can refresh your soul. Talk to him, and listen to him, even if just for a few minutes a day.

David trusted that God would bring him true refreshment, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God to refresh our souls and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

As featured on Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Inspirational Breakfast’.

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He makes me lie down in green pastures

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters.

Psalm 23:2

Source: abidinginthevine.net.

When I’m tired and stressed, I like to head up to Reigate Hill on the North Downs near where I live. The views across the Weald to the South Downs are awesome. It makes me feel just a little less stressed and a little more normal just to sit there and relax.

When I’m really busy at work and feeling very stressed, however, it seems there’s no time to do anything but work. I’m sure you’ve been in a similar position and know for yourself that when you get in this position home life suffers and you find yourself being irritable with those who love you, and not making time for your friends. You even find yourself cutting yourself off from God, and not making time for Bible study and prayer.

God knows what is best for us, though, and if we let him, he will take care of us. He wants to lead us, shepherd-like, beside quiet waters. He wants us to lie down in green pastures. If we accept him as our shepherd and follow him like sheep, this will be a painless experience. There are times, though, when we refuse his leadership, when we think that we know better than he does, and we wander away from him. When we do this we can expect a slightly more abrupt leadership, however. He can make us lie down in green pastures of peace. This can feel as if a carpet is being pulled out from underneath us. There are times, though, when God has to show us that actually, he does know best. We have to trust in him, and realise that, as our creator, he knows better than anyone what we need.

If we allow God to lead us, he will help us to deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life. He will take us by the hand and lead us on that relaxing and restorative walk beside quiet waters to the green pastures that he has prepared for us.

Listen carefully to God today. Do you need to stop? Are you neglecting him, your family or your friends through working too hard? Stop and lie down in those green pastures now, otherwise you might find yourself being stopped, since God loves you and knows best!

David trusted that God would bring him peace in his life, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God to lead us to peace and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

As featured on Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Inspirational Breakfast’.

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The Lord is my Shepherd

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Psalm 23:1

Christ the God Shepherd

I’m slightly afraid to admit this on the radio, but I am a gadget fiend. Whenever a new product comes out, I find myself desperately wanting to buy one. I begin rationalising and convince myself that it’s not simply a case of wanting a new toy, but actually needing it. My life would be so much simpler if only I could have the latest gadget. I know I’m not alone in my feelings. This is, after all, how a capitalist marketplace works. We’re conditioned to want more, to desire better, and hang the expense.

Psalm 23 has proven to be a revelation in my life in recent years, so much so that I found myself writing a book about it. It’s a Psalm that we think we all know. Perhaps because it is so familiar to us, we don’t really think about its words.

‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ the Psalmist David begins. He himself had spent his early years tending his father’s flock, so he would have known exactly what it meant to be a shepherd. David knew that the most crucial role of a shepherd is to look after the material needs of his sheep. His sheep would be totally dependent on him for food and water. Without the shepherd, the sheep would surely die, since they would be unable to find food for themselves.

This is the image that David had of God: there was no doubt in his mind that God fulfils the same role for his people. He knew that God looked after him as he looked after his sheep. He trusted God to take care of all of his material needs. He believed this to the extent that he could say with confidence, “I lack nothing.” He knew that all he needed would be provided to him by God.

Sometimes our desire for more material goods can actually make our lives more uncomfortable. We work long hours, we try to gain promotions, we neglect our families, we can even abandon God.

Perhaps rather than falling into the trap of materialism we should strive to be more sheep-like, trusting in God to provide for our needs, and finding contentment in what he has already graciously given us, rather than constantly striving for more and more.

David trusted that God would provide all that he needed, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God to provide our needs and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

As featured on Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Inspirational Breakfast’.

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The Shepherd God: Free Samples

In order to provide you with a taste of The Shepherd God: Finding Peace, Worth and Purpose in a Busy World, I am happy to make the following extracts of the book available free of charge.

Please note that allcontent on ShepherdGod.com, including these extracts, is copyright © Simon Lucas, 2010-2017. All rights reserved.

The Shepherd God: Now Available

The Shepherd God‘The Shepherd God:Finding Peace, Worth and Purpose in a Busy World, published by Crossring, is now available to buy in both paperback and Kindle format.

Links for both editions in the US and UK Amazon stores are provided below. I hope that you enjoy reading the book and find it a useful and helpful read. If you do, please consider writing a review for Amazon.

Amazon Description:

“The sheer busyness of life in the twenty-first century can leave us feeling tired and disconnected, stressed and fed up. We can get to the point where we feel that life is just not worth living. In “The Shepherd God” Simon Lucas reflects on Psalm 23, one of the best-loved of Old Testament texts. He carefully considers the lessons that we might draw from the Psalmist’s powerful words. Alongside a challenging and thought-provoking analysis of the Psalm Simon shares his own powerful testimony of how the Shepherd God helped him to beat his own depression. This inspirational and refreshing book is ideal for both personal reflection or for group study.”

An early review:

“Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known and best loved passages in the Bible. But how often do people stand back and really think about the words?

“What Simon Lucas does in this book is work through the psalm, at each point drawing out some helpful implications for us today. For example, what does it mean to say “the Lord is *my* shepherd”? It was also good to see how Psalm 23 is fulfilled in Jesus Christ – another aspect which many may gloss over.

“The book itself is set within the framework of Simon’s own experience of depression, much of the book is related to his personal experience. As such, I would particularly recommend it for people who are struggling at the moment with hard times.

“Each chapter feels like a sermon (not a criticism!), and at the end of each chapter there are some questions to think about. As such I think the book may be useful for use in home groups or the like as a discussion starter.

“Overall this is a helpful book for thinking through what Psalm 23 means for Christians today, especially Christians who are struggling.”

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The Lord is My Shepherd

The Lord is My Shepherd

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.

Psalm 23:1-4

What follows is the text of a sermon I preached on 29th April 2012 at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church, Horsham.

It was a cold, wet February day. I was having an extremely stressful time at work, and had decided to go for a drive up to Reigate Hill. I was under enormous pressure, and felt a compete failure in all aspects of my life. Everything at work was going wrong. I was working so hard that I had neglected my friends and family. I had become such a negative person that I could not see why anyone would want to spend time with me. I was depressed. I felt utterly alone.

Then a song came onto the CD player in my car. What struck me first was the chorus, the words “oh no, you never let go, through the calm and through the storm, oh no, you never let go, in every high and every low, oh no, you never let me, Lord, you never let go of me.”

Those words brought me to tears.

Suddenly it struck me that I was not alone at all. God was with me. He always had been, and he always with me. I realised that even when I hit the darkest points of my life, as I had at that moment,that God would never leave me.

After I had listened to the chorus over and over again, I replayed the full song and was struck by the first verse, which goes, “even though I walk, through the valley, of the shadow, your perfect love is casting out fear. And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life, I won’t turn back, I know you are near.”

The reassurance that God loved me, and loved me perfectly, even when I felt caught in almost a perfect storm of busyness and isolation, was exactly what I needed to hear at that point in my life.

Having listened to the song a few times, I parked up my car and went for a walk on the North Downs. Whilst walking I pulled out my Bible and turned to Psalm 23. I knew that the first line of the Matt Redman song was taken from this psalm, and I wanted to see what else psalm 23 had to say.

I learnt a lot from Psalm 23 on that day. I would love share some of that with you today.

We’ll spend some time looking at just the first four verses of this famous and well loved Psalm, and consider how Jesus is our shepherd. We’ll consider four points – I lack nothing, he makes me lie down, he guides me along the right paths, and living in the darkest valley.

On to our first point, then, I lack nothing.

David begins this psalm with one of the most famous statements of the Old Testament. He declares, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Just as he was a shepherd for his father’s sheep, and spent his days looking after sheep, he believed that God was his shepherd, who looked after him.

One of the most crucial roles of a shepherd was to look after the material needs of his sheep. His sheep would be totally dependent on him for food and water. Without the shepherd, the sheep would surely die, since they would be unable to find food for themselves.

In David’s mind there was no doubt at all that God fulfilled the same role for all his people. He knew that God looked after him as he looked after his sheep. He trusted God to take care of all of his needs, and, as we see in the very first verse of the psalm, said with confidence, “I lack nothing.” He knows that all he needs will be provided to him by God.

Living in a materialistic society and an affluent country it is very hard to understand this. We are surrounded by so much stuff, and see other people with so many things, that there is generally always something that we want. It can be very hard for us to say, then,as David did, that we lack nothing. There’s always something else that we want.

Within our society, however, there are always people who are wealthier than we are, and have more than we do, or have nicer things than we have. Our neighbours may have a flashier car. Our friends might have a nicer house. Our colleagues might go on nicer holidays. It can be hard for us to look at people who have things that we might like and wonder why they have them and we do not. Can we really join in with David and say, “I lack nothing?”

There is, however, a crucial difference between what we need and what we want. We might want a better car, a bigger house and a more exotic holiday, but do we really need these things? Of course we don’t.

Sometimes our quest for a better lifestyle can actually make our lives more uncomfortable. We work long hours, we try to gain promotions, we neglect our families, we can even abandon God. Perhaps rather than falling into the trap of materialism we should strive to be more like David, trusting in God to provide us with all that we need. A flock of sheep trusts in their shepherd to provide them with food, water, safety and rest, and he gives it to them, because he loves his sheep. Perhaps we need to be more sheep-like, trusting in God to provide for our needs, and finding contentment in what God has already graciously given us, rather than constantly striving for more and more.

David trusted that God would provide all that needs, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God to provide our needs and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

On to our second point, he makes me lie down.

In Psalm 23, we get a vision of peace and tranquility. David says in verse three that God makes him lie down in green pastures, and leads him beside quiet waters. God, David’s shepherd, looks after him by ensuring that he always has sufficient rest and opportunity to sleep. I wonder how many of us here today would love to find that kind of rest? After a busy week at school, a day of sermon writing, and the rather lousy weather we’ve been having, the idea of laying down in a field on a warm, sunny day, sitting beside a babbling brook is very appealing. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. The lifestyles that many of us find ourselves living today are often very busy and very stressful, often through no fault of our own. The demands our employers make on us can often be very great indeed, and, particularly in a time of such economic uncertainty, we often feel that we have no choice but to get our heads down and get on with it.

If we trust in God, though, if we dedicate our lives first and foremost to following him as our shepherd, we can have the same confidence that David had that God will show us peace.

David makes it clear that the kind of peace that he finds through God is not limited just to a nice lie down every now and again, though. If we look at verse three, we can see that the peace that David finds in God “refreshes his soul.” This is the kind of peace that can only be found through knowing God. Augustine famously wrote, “you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are rest-less till they find their rest in you.” He, like David, knew that true rest can only be found through a relationship with God.

In our reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd, and in many ways we can see that he is the same God that is described in Psalm 23. It could even be said that he is the fulfilment of this particular psalm. Elsewhere in the Gospels, in Matthew 11 to be precise, Jesus confirms to his followers that he will give them rest. He said, “come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

If we want to find true peace, real inner peace, then that can be found only in one place – through God. We may try and find peace in many other ways, but true peace only comes from loving and knowing Jesus as a friend and as our saviour. The warring that we sometimes feel within us, that we cannot explain, can only be pacified by having a relationship with the God that made us, through his son Jesus Christ. If we want to find real peace, the kind of peace that refreshes not just our bodies and minds, but also our souls, then we need to trust in Jesus, and follow him as our good shepherd.

David trusted that God would lead him to peace and refresh his soul, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God to lead us to peace and refresh our souls, and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

Let’s move on to our third point, which is, he guides me along the right paths.

Sometimes, all we want in life is direction. As we try to make our way through our lives on our own, it can feel as if we’re meandering around, not really sure of the next step to take, not really certain if we’re heading in the right direction. It can be a real struggle as we consider which direction our lives should lead us in. Where should we live? Who should we marry? Which job should we take?

In Psalm 23, though, David trusts that God will lead him through life. He trusts that the Lord is his shepherd. I wonder if we trust that God is our shepherd? Just as a shepherd leads his sheep in the right direction, David knows that God will lead him along the right paths in his life. David says, in verse three of the psalm, “he guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

This final part of the verse, “for his name’s sake,” is very important. The right paths through the journey of our lives are those that we take for him, to bring glory to God. If we put our trust in God as our shepherd, if we seek to follow Jesus, the good shepherd, we should strive to put him at the heart of everything that we do in life. If we want to live the life that God has mapped out for us, we should strive to put him first, and seek to honour him in all that we do. Whether we are teachers, doctors, accountants, florists, bin men, whatever, as Christians our key priorities should be to love God, to love ourselves, and to love our neighbours. Our whole lives should be focused on honouring God.

If we want direction in life, if we want to feel that the course of our lives is more than meaningless meandering, then we should follow the shepherd God. He will lead us along the right paths, ensuring that our lives have purpose, whilst at the same time ensuring that we bring glory to his name.

Again, we can see Jesus as the same shepherd God that David describes in this verse.

In John 14, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

David says that God guides him along the right paths, and Jesus says that he IS the way. Jesus is the good shepherd who leads his followers along the right paths. He turns our meaningless meanderings onto straight paths that lead directly to a place with God in heaven.

If we make Jesus our shepherd, if we seek to follow him, then he will guide us along the right paths for God’s glory, but also the very best paths for us, since he leads us directly to heaven.

David trusted that God would guide him along the right paths and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God to guide us, and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

Onto our fourth point, the darkest valley.

I described earlier how I found myself in a very dark valley a couple of years ago, suffering from terrible depression as a consequence of, among many other things, a very stressful time at work. In the busy, stressful world of the twenty first century, it is almost inevitable that at some point in our lives we will all feel as if we have been thrust into our own dark valley. The particular valley we find ourselves in might be caused by something entirely different, but the result is often similar – we feel as if life is dark, depressing, and uncomfortable.

David experienced this darkness himself on many occasions. You only need to flick through the book of psalms to see that David often experienced severe low points in his life. Through all of these periods, however, he trusted in God, as we see in verse four of psalm 23, when he says, “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.”

What strikes me first and foremost about this verse is the opening part; for David, it is an inevitability that at some point his life will seem dark and depressing. He does not say, “if” I walk through the darkest valley, but “even though” I walk through the darkest valley. He knows for certain that, even if he is following God, life will sometimes take a dark turn.

Even Jesus experienced darkness in his life. He spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, being tempted by the devil. He experienced loss, when Lazarus, a close friend, died. And of course, he experienced real darkness in the Garden of Gethsemane, when confronted by the enormity of his circumstances, and particularly on the cross when he died a humiliating and painful death.

David knew, though, that even at the low points of his life, even when darkness seemed to be encroaching on him from every angle, God would be with him still. He knew that he did not need to fear life in the darkest valley, because God remained with him at all times. He was comforted by the presence of God and comforted by his rod and staff.

As a shepherd, David knew the risks involved with his job. He knew that there would be times when he had to lead his sheep through dark valleys in order to get to the verdant green pastures beyond. He also knew full well that there may well be a time when it was necessary to put himself in grave danger, or even sacrifice his own life to protect his sheep. It seems crazy to us today that a shepherd might be willing to do this, but that was one of the requirements of the job.

Jesus declared that he was the good shepherd, as we saw this morning in our gospel reading. Just as a shepherd has to be willing to lay down his life for his sheep if necessary, Jesus was willing to lay down his life for his flock – those who follow him. He said, in verses fourteen and fifteen of John ten, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Jesus did exactly that. He loved his flock so much that he paid the ultimate price, and gave himself up for us. In order to save us from death, he gave his life. The gospel writer put this much better than I could when he said, in John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

David said in Psalm 23 that he fears no evil for God is with him. Jesus is not only with us, but he paid the ultimate price and died to protect us from evil, and to ensure that we have a bright future ahead of us in heaven when we die.

David feared no evil, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we are able not to fear evil and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

Despite being written around three thousand years ago, Psalm 23 is an incredibly rich treasure of encouragement for Christians living in the twenty first century. We’ve considered today how in many ways, Jesus, as the good shepherd, is the embodiment of the God shepherd that David describes. Through Jesus we lack nothing, we can have real peace our lives, we can have guidance, and we need not fear evil. A shepherd must be willing to lay down his life to protect his flock, and in Jesus we have a shepherd who did exactly that to save us from eternal death.

David proclaimed with confidence, the Lord is my Shepherd.  Will we accept Jesus as our provider, our peace giver, our guidance and our protector? Will we accept Jesus us our saviour, and worship him accordingly?

Can we, as David did, declare, the Lord is OUR shepherd?

I will dwell in the house of the Lord

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23:6(b)

Today is a Bank Holiday in the UK, so many of us will have the day off work. If you’re lucky enough to have a day off, what will you be doing with your day? Perhaps you’ll be catching up on sleep or doing some work around the house or garden. Maybe you’ll be hitting the shops to take advantage of the Bank Holiday deals. Or perhaps you’re fortunate enough to be escaping to a favourite spot, perhaps even for a long weekend? We all have favourite areas that we like to visit, perhaps a place we went to as children, a spot with sentimental significance for us, or maybe somewhere that is particularly beautiful. Bank Holidays give us an opportunity to visit those special places.

Today, in the final verse of Psalm 23, the Psalmist reflects on being able to spend forever in the house of the Lord. We all one day hope to be able to spend eternity with God; as Christians we realise that our life here and now is only temporary, and look forward to the period after we die or when Jesus returns, when we will be taken to be with our God. No matter how fantastic our favourite place on earth is, no matter how beautiful, awe-inspiring or incredible it is, it simply cannot compare to the magnificence of God’s home.

The only reason we are able to dwell in the house of the Lord is because of the sacrificial act of Christ. In the Old Testament, people were not able to go near the holiest place in the temple, where it was thought God resided, because they were too sinful. If we accept Jesus as our saviour, however, he has paid the price on our behalf, and we are able spend eternity in God’s house.

Wherever you are today, no matter what you’re doing, give thanks to Jesus for what he has done for us, and thank God for inviting us into his home. Enjoy your Bank Holiday, but look forward to what is still to come!