Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Thankful For My Shepherd

It’s no secret I have a particular fondness for biblical passages on shepherding.

For over twenty years I’ve kept goats and sheep in varying numbers and every day discover one more way I am a sheep in need of a Shepherd.

I wander, I’m afraid when I don’t have to be, I do foolish and self-harmful things, I push and shove to get that certain bit of food or space or whatever when all the while there is an abundance, and I often make it hard for the One who loves me best to guide me to the safety and rest of His fold.

That’s one reason the Twenty-third Psalm is especially beautiful to me.

But there’s another reason-hidden inside the original Hebrew-that makes it a favorite Bible passage and a very appropriate one for these frightening times: within the verses are references to seven names of God.

And unlike we who are named according to our parents’ whimsy, God IS His name.

“The Lord is my Shepherd”

Jehovah Rohi (The Lord is my Shepherd and my Guide) – “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will GUIDE you into all truth” ~John 16:13

My goats and sheep will follow me anywhere. Why?

Because they know I won’t lead them into danger and if we happen to stumble upon it, I will protect them and fight for them.

My Shepherd King is so much more trustworthy than I am.

He knows the end from the beginning and loves me more than I love myself. If I will only follow closely behind Him, I can rest assured that wherever He leads, I am in His loving care.

“I shall not want”

Jehovah Jireh (The Lord is my Provider) “My God shall supply all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:19

My critters are utterly dependent upon me to make sure they have the basic necessities-food, water and a safe and dry place to sleep at night. They can’t run to the grocery store if I forget to toss them grain or hay.

But they don’t pace back and forth afraid I won’t do what I’ve always done.

I waste so much energy and time worrying that somehow God will forget to provide what I need.

He won’t.

It’s that simple. I am not promised everything I WANT. I’m not even guaranteed everything I think I need. But I am absolutely certain that in Christ I have the most needful thing-forgiveness of my sins and right standing with the Father.

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“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters”

Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is my Peace — my calm in the midst of a storm) – “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely” ~1 Thessalonians 5:23

Shalom is a big word.

According to Strong’s Concordance (7965) Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

Peace isn’t a place or only a promiseit’s a Person.

And that Person is Jesus, my Shepherd King.

When my little flock hears something that frightens them, they run straight toward me and wait to see if I am frightened too. My presence brings them peace.

I am often more foolish than my dumb animals! I run to so many people and things of the world hoping one or the other can bring me the peace I so desperately crave. But I can only really rest when I place my full confidence in Jehovah-Shalom-the One who IS Peace.

“He restores my soul”


Jehovah Rapha (The Lord my Healer) – “And by His stripes we are healed” ~1 Peter 2:24 (and Isaiah 53:5)

Anyone who has spent time with me here knows I’m no fan of “sunshine” Christianity. I’m no “name it and claim it” crusader. So I do not believe that God my Healer means I won’t ever suffer.

That’s why I really love the phrase “He restores my soul”.

Because isn’t that really what we ALL want? Restoration of the very core of who we are? Rest in the center of our being?

Jesus has restored my soul more than once.

When I reach out and touch the hem of His garment, He heals the most broken places in my soul.

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”

Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord is my Righteousness; in Him I have
right standing with God
) “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin
for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” ~2
Corinthians 5:21

Let’s be honest, I can always find somebody that makes me look good. There’s always someone whose a little badder than I am.

Problem is, that’s not how God does things. He doesn’t use a sliding scale or a grading curve to determine who meets the mark and who misses it.

God is holy, set apart, completely righteous, pure and good.

I am none of those things.

And there is absolutely no way I can make myself those things.

But He has provided righteousness for me through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice if I choose to believe.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me”

Jehovah Shammah (The Lord is There; He is our Ever-Present God) – “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” ~Hebrews 13:5

This may actually be my very favorite name of God. “The Lord is There” is an amazing concept!

“Immanuel”-God with us! The Lord Himself come down to dwell with men.

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The God who made the universe, made me. The God who counts the stars and sets them in their place, counts the hairs on my head and set me in this place at this time.

This virus crisis FEELS like the shadow of death.

It feels like some creeping thing slinking around the edges of my family, waiting to devour us. I can’t see it and I can’t stop it.

But I am not alone. Jesus is here.

HE is here.

Right HERE.

RIGHT NOW.

And I can rest in His promise that whatever I may face, I will never, ever face alone.

“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”

Jehovah Nissi (The Lord is my Banner, my standard, He covers me) – “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him” ~Isaiah 59:19

In the Song of Solomon His banner over me is love.

In Ruth, His banner is Kinsman-Redeemer, covering my weakness with His strength.

In the gospels, His banner is victory over sin, death and the grave.

You may be hunkered down in your home, wondering how we all got here- questioning whether this may be a work of evil men or the evil one and when or if we might be rescued.

I can’t answer the why or when.

But I can point you to the Who-the One who wants to love you, to give you strength and to assure you that even death doesn’t have the last word.

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

My Shepherd King cares for me when I’m distressed and He fills me with Himself until my soul overflows.

His goodness and mercy pursues and overtakes me!

I have spent many, many hours hunting down a lost sheep or goat. I’ve had some wander off so far in the woods we couldn’t even hear them, much less see them.

But I do not give up. I do not stop looking. I do not go to bed and say, “I’ll find them tomorrow”.

No!

I pursue them until I can bring them back in the fold. There they dwell in safety, fully cared for as long as they live.

I am worth so much more than a sheep. God will not forget me or dismiss me or allow me to wander forever.

He will come find me and bring me home to His heart and His path.

And one day-one glorious day-He will take me to my forever Home.

QUESTIONS:

  • Does the image of Jesus as Shepherd help your heart find hope? Why or why not?
  • Psalms 22, 23 and 24 are considered by most biblical scholars to represent three images of Christ (22-Suffering Savior, 23-Shepherd, 24-Victorious King). Read them together and see if you agree.
  • Is there one of the names of God included in this study that is particularly precious to you?
  • Write out each name of God and see if you can find one other verse not previously mentioned that deepens your understanding of what the name means.
  • What does it mean to say God IS His name? If you have access to an online concordance, find one or two other names of God that might encourage you right now.

PRAYER:

Father God,

You are a good, perfect and loving Father. You are my Shepherd, my Provider, my Healer, my Righteousness, my Banner and YOU ARE HERE.

Help my heart lean into this truth.

Provide the most needful thing-Yourself-as I walk fearfully through this Valley. Restore my soul and flood it with Your peace.

Thank You that You are my righteousness-I am not left in my sins to receive the punishment they deserve. Thank You for Jesus.

Spread Your banner of love over my heart. Spread your banner of strength over my weakness. Spread Your banner of victory over my feeble attempt to ward off worry.

Let me feel Your Presence and help me trust Your heart.

Amen

Lost and Found

Yesterday I had to find a lost goat.  

I had shepherded the rest into their pen, each one safely home but noticed one was missing.

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I left the rest secure and went out searching for Carmelita.

She’s old, half blind and has a hard time following the herd.  I knew she would never find her way back if left to herself.  

So I retraced the steps they usually make when foraging in the afternoons. Down by the hayshed, up by the woods behind the donkey pen.  Made sure she hadn’t followed the lane to the road (like she did one day ending up a half mile away).

I called and called and called.  

Her fellow goats bellowed loud and long, the hounds joined in and every now and then the horses and donkeys added their voices.

img_3416Nothing.

I walked to the back of the house, called again and heard a faint, plaintive answer.

She was deeper in the woods and more lost than I could have imagined. Way past where the goats go to eat and blocked by a thicket of privet and tangle of vines from getting home.

She was desperate-I could hear it in her pitiful “BAAAAA”.

Blind and lost and tired and frightened-but she knew if she headed toward my voice, she would be safe.

She trusted me.

Because I had proven faithful.

So I made my way in her direction and she made her way toward mine.

I clapped and called and encouraged until I could see her.  She stumbled along until she was right next to a fallen log that blocked her way.  We were close enough to touch, but she was forced to walk down and around before she felt my reassuring hand on her horn, guiding her the rest of the way to the security of the pen.

Immediately she was calm.  Her shepherd was with her.  No fear now.

In this life it is so very easy for me to get lost.  

It’s easy for me to get separated from the security of fellowship with other believers. My vision is limited-obscured by grief and dimmed by tears.  I can find myself deep in the woods and tangled in vines before I know it, with absolutely no idea how to make it back to open ground.

Sometimes I don’t even have the strength to cry out in hopes of being found.

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But Jesus calls out to me.  He doesn’t let me stay lost and afraid.  

He finds me.  

And He patiently leads me back to the fold.

No rebuke.  No chastisement.  Only love and grace.  

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep in His care.

I give them a life that is unceasing, and death will not have the last word. Nothing or no one can steal them from My hand. My Father has given the flock to Me, and He is superior to all beings and things. No one is powerful enough to snatch the flock from My Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.

John 10:11,28-30 VOICE