Holy sheep

Yep. I said it to get your attention. 

For my whole life, I have used the letters “HS” as an abbreviation for “Holy Spirit.” 

Like a lot of things in our English language, apparently those letters are now a texting term that means something VERY different! 

Last week, I was speaking at our chapel service at Possum Kingdom Lake. I have a lot to do in the next two months and I had given myself several days out there to be still, think, pray, write, and prepare to teach Bible studies. I am recording four Bible studies out of Psalm 23. 

I won’t title the study “Holy sheep,” but I could have! 

We often associate the twenty-third psalm with a difficult time in our lives, and it is often quoted at funeral services to give comfort. It is a good psalm for those times, but it is equally important that we use it as praise for God’s care in our lives today. David actually wrote it as a praise.  

The real key to the blessing of the twenty-third psalm is this: The Lord can’t be your shepherd until you admit you are a sheep. The point of the psalm is to teach you how to be a “holy sheep.” (Hence my blog title!) 

Before he was a king, he was a shepherd

David was the youngest son and unable to go to war against the Philistines. That’s probably why he was in the fields, watching over the sheep. Sheep were a valuable asset to a family for food, clothing, and income. Anyone who has raised a son knows a young boy gets easily bored and looks for something to do. 

David didn’t have a video game or an iPad so he challenged himself with his slingshot. David was smart. He knew if he got talented with the slingshot, he would never have to get too near to a wolf in order to chase him off. 

David was very brave when he laid down Saul’s armor and just took his slingshot out there to defeat Goliath. David knew he was good at hitting what he aimed at. That said, he also knew that without God’s help to guide his aim, he would probably die. Faith + talent = success. 

David had learned a lot from caring for his sheep. He knew his sheep needed a shepherd to find a green field, still waters, and the rest they needed to stay safe and healthy. David also knew that a shepherd needed daily help from the Good Shepherd along the way. 

Psalm 23

Theologians believe that Psalm 23 was written as David’s praise for God’s provision and protection in his life. David was forced to run from Saul for many years. It was the Lord who had protected David from Saul and other enemies. Sometimes God protected David from himself. David’s praise in the psalm can be ours today. 

The twenty-third psalm begins: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1–3). 

Psalm 23 is a unique song of praise because of the word translated as my. Usually, psalms were written as corporate praise. In other words, typically the psalm would have said, “The Lord is our Shepherd.” Instead, it is written about David’s personal relationship with God. Psalm 23 describes the personal relationship God wants to have with each of his sheep so that they can live a holy life. 

You and I are sheep, in need of a Shepherd. A relationship with God has always been a personal, private decision to choose God’s provision for our souls. The rest of the psalm is the praise able to be offered only by those able to say “The Lord is my shepherd.” 

Our Good Shepherd

Why does God want us to consider ourselves sheep in need of a shepherd? 

Like David, each of us has talents and abilities. David knew he was good at slinging stones and hitting his target. The real story of David and Goliath is the strength and trust it must have taken for David to face a giant, knowing his talent would only be successful if God used it. David understood he was a sheep so he trusted his Shepherd. 

When we place our faith in God as our shepherd, we have everything we need. Contentment in life is about enjoying what we have instead of striving for something we don’t really need. “I shall not want” is the choice to be contented with all that God has provided. 

God leads us to green pastures and still waters. Sheep were constantly moved around from place to place. They would eat everything and then move to a new field to do the same thing there. Sheep didn’t know which direction to wander so they had to be led. Sheep have no real way to defend themselves so they needed a shepherd with a rod and a staff. And Israel is full of wadis that could turn from a dry riverbed to a quiet stream and then to a roaring river. If their coats were wet and heavy, the sheep would easily be swept away.  

Our Good Shepherd wants to guide our lives so that he can provide us the care, provision, and protection we need. But he would rather guide us along his paths of righteousness instead of calling us back from our own paths of independent, self-reliant strength. 

The Shepherd’s goal

God wants us to be holy sheep. A good shepherd knew how to separate his sheep from others and keep his flock secure while he led them to their pasture. The word holy means set apart. The shepherd’s job was to guide and protect his flock. 

God wants us on the path of righteousness, the path that makes us right with God, for his name’s sake. God wants us to be his sheep so that we will follow his Shepherd, Jesus Christ, all the way to heaven. 

If you wonder how much God values his plan for your life, just remember the parable Jesus told about the lost sheep. Jesus would leave everything to come find you! 

Can you say “the Lord is my Shepherd”?

The whole world is mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II. She will always be one of the most unique stories in world history. She faithfully attended chapel services, and her faith was an important part of her life.  

When she passed away, I thought about what it was like for her to enter heaven’s gates. She had once said, “For me, heaven is likely to be a bit of a come-down.” She had the best this world could offer, but I bet if she could, she would say, “I was wrong about that.” 

The Good Shepherd has led her to the “green pastures” of heaven and there is nothing left to want.  

Can you say “the Lord is my shepherd”?

 If so, just remember you are called to be a holy sheep! 

Stick to his paths of righteousness and his mercies will follow you all the days of your life. You will one day live like a queen or king when you “dwell in the house of the Lᴏʀᴅ forever” (Psalm 23:6).  

We don’t stay sheep forever!