Psalm 23:1

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 23.  Such a familiar passage.  Comforting. Encouraging.  Instructing.

The Good Shepherd is always at work on our behalf, in "a thousand ways we cannot see", as John Piper likes to say.  He owns all good things and has already promised them to us, underserving as we are.  That's grace.

But, like sheep, we are often stubborn and resistant to His care.  Sometimes we insist on our way, foolishly believing that we know what pastures and waters are good.  As if we could somehow know better than He.  And, just like the wanderings of an obstinate sheep can get it into difficult and dangerous places, so do we often suffer injury or experience hardship as a result of going our own way.  When a shepherd finds his wayward sheep stuck in a hillside's crag or sick from the wrong kind of food, he doesn't beat it or scream at it in hopes of changing its ways.  Instead, he gathers it up in his arms and nurtures it back to health.  He keeps it close beside him so he can carefully tend it. Most likely, that once errant sheep becomes so accustomed to the gentle proximity of the shepherd that it doesn't want to stray again.

Reminds me of Isaiah 42:3 - "A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish".  That's mercy.

One last thought on contrary sheep.  In my research, I learned that sometimes there will be a sheep that is stubborn on steroids.  He (or she!) repeatedly runs into danger and risks injury.  The bigger problem, though, is what such behavior does to the rest of the flock.  Remember the "mob psychology" tendency of sheep? They get all stirred up by the "black sheep"'s actions and join right along.  In these cases, the shepherd has no choice but to remove the offending sheep from the others.  Often permanently. 

That reminds me of chapter 5 in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.  Particularly verse 6 - "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?"

Til next time -