It faces faithfully good times and bad, dangers and delights, and remembers throughout that the master force of life is the Good Shepherd.

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3 Psalm 23 is one of the best-known passages in the Bible despite its rural, agricultural setting--- It is brief and simple artless and sunny yet thoroughly realistic It faces faithfully good times and bad, dangers and delights, and remembers throughout that the master force of life is the Good Shepherd.

4 Phillip Keller s book is a wonderful guide. He shows clearly how the way of a shepherd with a flock of sheep, a life he knew personally, parallels closely the spiritual life of the Christian, and the care and guidance of the Lord, who is my shepherd ---- the Good Shepherd, Jesus of Nazareth.

5 Sheep, as vss 1-3 tell us, need good pastures and good water, and a shepherd who knows his flock is careful to provide both. When there is need for rest, recovery from injury or sickness, he is there to provide needed care. When dangers lurk, the shepherd is there to guide and protect. So too with human beings.

6 Human beings, like sheep are habitual creatures. To be spiritually healthy, we need to feed on truth and goodness daily. Christ in his life and teaching has given us truth and grace to nourish us. But all around us are things to feed on or to drink which will only poison us. How many of us have spent time reading magazines and books, or watching TV, movies and the Internet containing material that we know is bad for our mental and spiritual health? How many of us have followed the ideas and habits of the world to the point we found ourselves in danger of becoming confused or lost? He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.

7 Where sheep graze there are often hidden dangers and predators. The possibility of injury or death is never far away. And there the shepherd must be on guard, to protect the flock, to round up the strays, to find safe grazing grounds such as a mesa or table might be.

8 St Paul referred to death as the last enemy. We live in its shadow. But those who trust in Christ as Shepherd can and do walk through the valley of the shadow of death because the Good Shepherd is with them. He comforts us, with his Word of truth, and through his Spirit to indwell us and give us a sense of his presence. V 4, One of Psalm 23 s most comforting verses, says--- 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 staff, they comfort me.

9 Even though the shepherd is present, enemies remain. And yet being unafraid and confident, he provides for his sheep a table, and an anointing. Philip Keller thinks of the table as a tableland, a mesa, a good grazing ground easily defended against predators. The oil reminds him of an ointment he prepared to cover the head and nose of sheep to protect them from nose flies.

10 For us as Christians the table reminds us that Jesus, among other things, invites us to his table where we may be refreshed with the bread and wine of communion, and the continued blessing of his Holy Spirit. Where there is genuine faith in the Good Shepherd, there the living water of the Holy Spirit springs up to refresh, to persuade, to renew us in his truth, even in the presence of our enemies.

11 What makes all of this difficult for us is that, like sheep, we have the habit of going astray. The influence of our peers, the pressures of our culture---all of which the Evil One uses for his own purposes---can lead us into unhealthy and destructive paths. How important it is that we keep our eye on the Good Shepherd.

12 This verse reminds us that our lives will be a journey until the very end, and that throughout our lives we will need the shepherding of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Surely goodness and mercy and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

13 But this verse, which is complemented through the message of the NT, also reminds us that at journey s end there is a house where God the Father dwells, where no evil lurks, and where all tears and fears are wiped away. In our Father s house a great feast is being prepared, hosted by the Great Shepherd we know as Christ the Lord. And where all who come to dwell there will do so in everlasting peace and joy.

14 Psalm 23 teaches us that life is difficult and dangerous as well as good---but makes very clear that there is hope and strength because God is with us through his Word and through his Spirit, and one might add, through the presence of fellow members of the flock. Whatever we face, whether temptation or danger or death, we are never alone. Following the leading of the Shepherd we shall all make it safely home to the house of our Father. A story

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