March 8, 2017 @ 09:27 am by Daniel Kessel
"A shepherd pays such attention to its sheep, and we serve a God who pays that kind of attention to us."
In this episode of That'll Preach Jacqui Lewis reflects on Psalm 23. What does the metaphor of God as a shepherd really mean? To hear more from this text join us this Sunday in the East Village or online at www.MiddleChurch.org every Sunday at 11:15 AM.
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Intro: A shepherd pays such attention to its sheep, and we serve a God who pays that kind of attention to us.
I'm Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church, and you're listening to That'll Preach—a show that's one part sermon prep and one part devotional. And the next episode starts right now. Here we go!
Today we're going to be talking about Psalm 23. I know so many of you have it memorized. And because you have it memorized, you thought this was written by David, and you remember from your Sunday school that he was a shepherd boy. So we tell ourselves that this psalm is a metaphor, that somehow God is like a shepherd who will take care of the sheep. That is absolutely true.
But let me tell you some particular things that I learned from reading a book called "A Shepherd's Look at the 23rd Psalm" by this writer named Joseph Heller. Yes, a real shepherd. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." I have everything I need. "The shepherd makes me lie down in greet pastures," so I can eat. "He leads me beside still waters," so I can drink and not drown in the rush of an avalanche of water.
"He restores my soul"—this one kills me. Do you know that sheep are, okay, not very smart, and they will eat and eat and eat until their stomachs blow up and almost explode? And they'll lay down in the grass because their stomachs are so huge and if they don't get stood upright they will die. So, when the psalmist says God restores my breath, he means God will stand me up on my feet so I don't die.
Isn't that fascinating? I love this: The shepherd anoints the sheep's head with oil. Now, I have dreadlocks and my hair gets dry, but no, this is not what's being talked about. The sheep will get maybe a tick, or a mosquito, or a fly, and go against a tree or a fencepost and scratch and scratch and scratch themselves against the hard surface until they break their skin and bleed out. A good shepherd anoints that sore with oil.
Do you see what I'm saying? A shepherd pays such attention to its sheep, and we serve a God who pays that kind of attention to us. Even if we go through the valley of the shadow of death, even there, God is present to stand us up on our feet when we overdo it, to protect us from our own bad impulses, to restore our breath, to keep us cared for. What a beautiful poem this psalm is.
About This Blog
That'll Preach, a podcast with Jacqui Lewis: part sermon-prep, part devotional.