A recent Sunday message from Psalm 23 ended with the question, “Will you make yourself a lamb under God the Shepherd?” It sounds simple enough on the surface, but that is actually a deep question!
The roles of God the Shepherd are described throughout Psalm 23:
- He satisfies His lambs.
- He makes His lambs rest.
- He leads His lambs.
- He restores His lambs.
- He guides His lambs.
- He is with His lambs.
- He disciplines His lambs.
- He protects His lambs.
- He comforts His lambs.
- He feasts with His lambs.
- He chooses His lambs and sets them apart for His noble purposes.
- He exceeds the needs of His lambs.
- He endures with His lambs.
- He will spend eternity with His lambs.
Of course we want all of those benefits! But the phrase “make yourself a lamb” caught my attention. We cannot experience God’s shepherding unless we are willing to place ourselves under his care and take on the nature of a lamb. What is that nature?
- Lambs listen for their Shepherd’s voice and obey His commands.
- Lambs do not follow other shepherds; they only follow their own.
- Lambs trust their Shepherd completely, they know he will not harm them.
- Lambs flee danger.
- Lambs depend on their Shepherd for protection, they have no natural defenses.
- Lambs understand they are safer in the flock than alone and stick together.
- Lambs only take in what is healthy for them; they don’t consume garbage.
- Lambs do not complain about being in uncomfortable or painful situations.
- Lambs are content to follow and let the Shepherd lead.
Lambs in God’s flock experience far more life. They know the Shepherd will provide all they need for a full, satisfying life. They do not worry. They do not live in regret. They are free to enjoy each day as it comes.
We find it hard to be lambs. We want to determine our own course, be in charge of our own life. This verse too often describes us, just as it described God’s flock in Old Testament times:
The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow? (Hosea 4:16, NIV)
Our stubbornness, pride, and insistence on getting our own way prevent us from experiencing far more life of a lamb under God’s care. God desires to lead us to a place of safety and abundance within His protective boundaries, but we resist. In those moments, we trust ourselves more than we trust our Shepherd. We prefer to blindly forge our own path in search of what we need rather than follow Him to the place He knows will meet our needs.
This reminds me of a friend from college who demonstrated the life of a lamb following her Shepherd. When challenges arose, she recited this Psalm:
My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131)
My friend was an intelligent, independent, capable woman. She was a leader. She did not shirk responsibility or have a low opinion of herself. But she was realistic about her position before God. She recognized He was the perfect Shepherd and found far more life as a lamb in His flock. She trusted Him as her leader and accepted the tasks and opportunities He provided, believing He was always working for her good. She was content to follow Him rather than needing to forge her own path. She understood a lot but also recognized that there was much she did not understand. And in those areas, she was willing to trust her Shepherd and believe He had a plan and purpose to bring her far more life.
Lambs were sacrificed as atonement for sin in the Old Testament. And the Bible refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God because of His sacrifice to atone for our sins. But God has also raised Jesus to the role of Shepherd. This glimpse of our future in Heaven with Him is exciting:
They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ (Revelation 7:17, NIV)
Our Shepherd is leading His lambs to the most wonderful pasture imaginable, Heaven. And we will remain there — safe and satisfied — forever. But we can also experience His presence and provision now. That is far more life: being a lamb in the flock of God the Shepherd.
Have you experienced God the Shepherd as described in Psalm 23?
Are you more often “stubborn as a heifer” or like a lamb in the meadow?
Do you take on responsibilities and concerns that are not meant for you? What makes you hesitant or reluctant to be a lamb in God’s flock?
Will you choose to be a lamb under God the Shepherd today and experience far more life?
Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: David Padfield/FreeBibleimages.org