My Shepherd

A long time ago I read a story about the Twenty-third Psalm. It is inspiring whether or not it actually happened as described. According to the story, two men were invited to recite the psalm before a large audience.

One of the men, a young orater, was especially skilled and polished in his delivery. He gave the words of the psalm with rhetorical flair and dramatic inflection. When he finished, the crowd erupted with sustained applause and cheers. They called for an encore.

The second speaker was an elderly gentlemen who leaned on a cane as he shuffled to the podium. In a muted, trembling voice he uttered the words of Psalm Twenty-three. This time the audience responded with reverent silence. They were awestruck by the power of the words. The people seemed to pray.

As they sat in silence, the younger man got up again. “Friends,” he said, “you asked me to come back and repeat the psalm in an encore. But you remained silent when my friend here sat down. Do you know the difference? I will tell you. I know the psalm. He knows the Shepherd.”

King David knew the Shepherd. When he wrote this psalm, presumably near the end of his life, he was expressing his personal relationship with God. “The Lord” is our English Bible’s euphemism for Yahweh, or Jehovah, or the I AM. It was the name by which God revealed himself as the eternally self-existent God, the One who was, and is, and always will be. David was saying, “this God is my personal Shepherd.”

In different ways, our Lord Jesus took this identity upon himself. When he declared in John 8:58, “before Abraham was born, I am,” he was claiming to be God. When he said in John 10:11, “I am the Good Shepherd,” he was claiming to be the Lord, the Shepherd of whom David wrote. Can you say with certainty that the Lord is your personal Shepherd? You know the psalm. Do you know the Shepherd?

The New Testament refers to Jesus as the Shepherd in three ways. John 10:11 says that “the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The Good Shepherd died for our sins. In Hebrews 13:20 our Lord is called the Great Shepherd of the sheep who “was brought back from the dead..” The Great Shepherd was raised from the dead for our justification. 1 Peter 5:4 refers to the Chief Shepherd who is coming again to reward those who have faithfully served him.

Do you know the Shepherd in a personal way as the One who died for your sins, who was raised from the dead, and who is coming again? You may know him as King David did. It is a matter of faith. Believe what the Bible declares to be true about Jesus the Shepherd. He said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28).

Elizabeth Elliot told the story of a little girl who was desperately ill and not expected to survive. Her caregivers taught her to be comforted by trusting in the Good Shepherd. The little girl learned to recite the Twenty-third Psalm on her fingers. Starting with her small finger, she would clutch each finger as she said each word, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” As she said the word “shepherd,” she would clasp her thumb in recognition of the Lord’s care for her.

One morning, after she had fought her illness for a long time, her attendants found her dead. She left a silent witness. Her lifeless hand was clasped around her thumb.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


I Shall Not Want

Last week I met with a friend who has been diagnosed with incurable cancer. She has been receiving hospice care. Before we prayed together, her husband, she and I joined hands and recited Psalm 23 as we remembered it from our childhoods. There was no better spiritual therapy for us in that moment.

This is why the 23rd Psalm is a favorite of many people. It is a source of strength for people who are troubled by anxiety, overwhelmed by difficult circumstances, or facing the reality that life is coming to an end.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalm begins. This is personal. This is relational. King David, who wrote the psalm, wrote from his personal knowledge of the Lord. He had been a shepherd boy in his youth, and he knew what it was like to care for sheep. He knew how dependent the sheep were on the shepherd’s care. As king of Israel, he knew he needed the guidance and care of his (“my”) heavenly Shepherd.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” The sheep need nourishment, rest and protection. God’s people need spiritual nourishment from the Word and regular times of fellowship with the Lord in prayer. David knew this and his psalms are filled with prayers and praises. “He restores my soul” expresses the healing, renewal and forgiveness we experience when we come to God in transparent faith and honest confession.

“He guides me along the right paths.” I have read that there are animals that have a homing instinct and they are able to find their way back home even over many miles of separation. This is not true of sheep. They have no internal compass, no sense of direction. Sheep can only find the right places if they follow the shepherd. The psalm is teaching us to follow in the steps of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

“I will fear no evil.” When facing the last enemy, death, that lonesome valley will hold no terror for the believer who knows and follows the Shepherd. Even people who do not think of themselves as especially brave, are promised supernatural courage because in that in that dark and lonely place they discover they are not alone. The Lord Jesus himself is with them.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” The believer who lives by faith and daily dependency upon God will find that his promises are faithful and true. He takes care of his own sheep, loves them and provides for them. David is describing the personal relationship of the sheep to the Shepherd. All through this psalm we see the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my,” teaching us that the Shepherd wants us to know we are significant to him and that the concerns of our lives are important to him.

“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This assurance of an eternal home with the Lord is the reason the psalm opens with the phrase “I shall not be in want.” I shall not want for provision, guidance and care throughout life. I shall not want for the protection and presence of the Good Shepherd in the hour of death. And after death, I shall not want for the comfort and security of a home with the Lord.

I enjoy singing in the choir at church. We are preparing an anthem based upon Psalm 23, “Shepherd Me, O God,” by Marty Haugen and Mark Hayes. It is beautiful and its message is strong: “Shepherd me O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”

One reason this is important to me right now is that just this week I received the unwelcome news from my doctor that I have Parkinson’s Disease. Obviously this means that Connie and I must begin to learn a whole new way to live. To paraphrase Michael J. Fox, I have no choice about whether I have Parkinson’s, but Connie and I have lots of choices about how we respond to it.

I choose to respond by following and trusting my Good Shepherd. His goodness and love have accompanied me for 75 years, and I know he will be a faithful Presence in the major adjustments and limitations that lie ahead. I shall not be in want.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


A Prayer for Peace

O God of love, O king of peace/ make wars throughout the world to cease;

Our greed and violent ways restrain./ Give peace, O God, give peace again.

Remember, Lord, your works of old,/ the wonders that your people told;

Remember not our sins’ deep stain./ Give peace, O God, give peace again.

Whom shall we trust but you, O Lord?/ Where rest but on your faithful word?

None ever called on you in vain./ Give peace, O God, give peace again.

Where saints and angels dwell above/ all hearts are joined in holy love;

Oh, bind us in that heavenly chain, / Give peace, O God, give peace again.

— H.W. Baker (1861)