In the first church I pastored in the late 80s, I remember a special prayer time with the Lord. I was feeling overwhelmed and somewhat discouraged. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and I decided to get away from the office for a time of prayer. The quietest place I knew to “walk and pray” was a nearby cemetery. As I was praying and crying out to God in my heart, my eyes fell on a small grave marker. Beside it sat a stone lamb with these words carved under it: “The Lord is My Shepherd.” This simple truth from Psalm 23 spoke powerfully to my heart as I realized the Shepherd of my soul was right there with me—“on duty”—watching over my heart. This week in my devotions, I again read Psalm 23, and verse four stood out to me: “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.” Our Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, rose from the dead and is equipped with all authority. He has everything we need. His power is more than enough to take care of us in every situation. The shepherd’s staff reveals to us how the Lord gently guides and directs the sheep as needed. Having a curved end, the staff can “catch” the sheep when danger looms. The shepherd’s rod reveals the power of the shepherd to fight the enemy of the sheep—those wolves and bears that try to kill and destroy. As believers, we do not need to fear the rod because it exists for our protection and safety. However, if we as sheep harden our hearts in stubbornness and sin, our Shepherd may use the rod as a form of discipline for our good. If we are honest, we will admit that we need the Lord’s discipline at those times when we persist in going our own way. The Shepherd prefers the gentle use of the staff, but He will use the rod to protect us from reckless paths that lead to death. He is the Good Shepherd in every way, and He knows just what we need! Is He your Shepherd?
Pastor Mark Boucher