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Who is your shepherd?

Most people have at least heard of Dungeons & Dragons.  It began in 1974 and was a popular role-playing game throughout the 1980’s, which my mom tells me also became a Saturday morning cartoon series for a short time. (I had no idea!) In recent years, the game has made a come-back, and there is even a movie in the works for next year. My dad got me interested in the game a couple of years ago, and I have several guidebooks, that I like to read.

A quote from one of the guidebooks recently caught my attention:

“Devils look at mortals as sheep…[and] see themselves not as wolves but as shepherds. Shepherds fleece sheep by the season and slaughter them as needed. A shepherd likely kills the wolves that threaten his sheep. But then again, shepherds always expect to lose a few sheep.  If you were a sheep, would you trust your shepherd?”

I have to wonder, does Satan think the same way as the devils mentioned in this series?  Satan definitely makes himself look like the good guy on a daily basis!  Why else would he have so many followers, and why else would it be so easy for Christians to stray?

Who is my Shepherd, and how do I know I can really trust him?  Taking a look at “The Lord My Shepherd Is” can help guide our thinking.  It’s a song written by Isaac Watts in 1719.  We don’t sing very often, but it has a great message.

Verse one says, “The Lord my Shepherd is.  I shall be well supplied; since He is mine and I am His, what can I want beside?” Obviously, the main idea of this song comes from Psalm 23, but there are many places in the Bible, where we can find our Shepherd leading us to whatever we need.  The Israelites were like sheep while wandering for 40 years. They did not know where they were going, didn’t know how to find food or water, and didn’t have any way to protect themselves without a trained army.  God led them away from danger day and night by pillars of cloud and fire. He rained manna from the sky and brought water from dry rocks. In the latter verses of Matthew 6, Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, that we have no reason to worry about not having our needs met, because God protects things much less valuable to Him than we are.

Verse two of the song says, “He leads me to the place where heavenly pasture grows, where living waters gently pass, and full salvation flows.” In Psalm 23, the idea being conveyed is that the shepherd was leading his sheep to drink by “still” water, or water that would keep them hydrated without scaring them away. Sheep do not like to drink from running water.  They don’t swim well, and their heavy wool can cause them to be swept away in rushing water.  In the song, the “living waters” refers to the conversation that Jesus had with the woman at the well. He told her that those who drink from the well will be thirsty again and again, but those who drink of the “water” (or salvation) that Jesus offers would never be thirsty again. They would have eternal life.  Our Shepherd doesn’t lead us to water like what was flowing from a rock in the wilderness, but to a living hope and peaceful assurance.

Verse three says, “If e’er I go astray, He doth my soul reclaim, and guides me in His own right way, for His most Holy Name.”  We all know that sheep will wander off and get lost.  To put it politely, they are among the “least intelligent” animals on the planet.  The shepherd must sometimes go out and find them, as Jesus explained:

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”  Matthew 18:12-14

Our Shepherd loves us fiercely with an undying love.  If my brother and I go out at night and don’t come home on time, I know my parents would start looking for us. Even when I am in trouble for something, I know that my parents love me, and that they will always love me no matter what.  God is the same for His sheep:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39

Are we allowing ourselves to be led astray by a false shepherd or by a wolf in sheep’s clothing? As sheep in the Lord’s kingdom, we aren’t always the smartest creatures either.  Perhaps we don’t even know that we are wandering away at times.  Like the lost sheep, we must cry out to the Shepherd, knowing that He loves us and is actively seeking good for us day and night.  By submitting ourselves to THE Shepherd, we can be assured of salvation and peace.