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Posts Tagged ‘Good Shepherd’

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Text: St. John 10: 14-15

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 “You know he owns you now.” It means a  person has something over you, something you really want from him and you want to get from him at all costs.  But when it is said of the Good Shepherd, you know He owns you now, there is only grace and peace, at the cost of His blood, the treasures of His grace..  He has bought you by laying down His life.  We are His own. There is nothing we can do to obtain what we want out of the Good Shepherd, and in particular, His love and salvation.  He gives it, the kingdom, the power and the glory by His sheer grace and mercy. He leadeth us.  He does not lead from behind, but in front of us,  His rod and His staff comfort us.   He forgives our debt when we confess our debt as we forgive our debtors.  He has found us.  When the disciples were hiding for the fear of their lives after the Good Shepherd’s crucifixion, after the sheep went astray everyone to his own way, running away, the Good Shepherd sought them out in their locked room to bring them again in His own fold, lambs of His own redeeming, sheep of His own flock. Is it any wonder that the Apostle Peter, who heard Jesus teach John 10, would write to the churches in his first letter:  

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.  

Here the Apostle cited and allude to two passages from Isaiah 53, by His wounds you are healed, and we all like sheep have gone astray, everyone to his own way, the wounded and crucified and now risen Good Shepherd seeks His own.  He finds us, we do not find Him. I found Jesus, if that is true it means the Good Shepherd was lost.  Just the opposite we are. AS the hymn writer got it right of the human condition, 

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above. 

If He owns us, we are His own.  This means we are not the devil’s, nor sin nor death nor any power and principality. Rome, at the time of Jesus, had more slaves than freeman. Slavery is evil. A costly Civil War was waged in our nation for the freedom of slaves.  But there is a greater slavery, over the hearts and minds of men and women.  In a sense, in Rome, there was not one actual freeman or free woman.  Tyranny over the soul is wanting more and more, and enjoying it less and less. The idols are tyrants, demonic tyrants.  Sometimes they are quite human and yet all powerful, seemingly so:  from Napolean to Hitler to the Islamist overlords. Once giving into our desires and lusts, then I  know someone owns me. You are free to live as His own, but not free to sin as we please.  Inside the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is inscribed this noble sentiment by our third President:  “…I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” I dare say that Mr. Jefferson had in mind only political tyranny, but before there is political tyranny there is spiritual tyranny.  Political tyranny is hard to be rid of as we know with ISIS.  But tyranny of sin and the devil is pernicious and no political movement or party can free the heart, soul and mind.  No ruler nor lord on earth, of nations or culture, can free us spiritually, not even God’s Law, but God’s Son, Lord of lords, who walked upon the earth, born into our life and world, crucified and risen can free us, has and keeps us free. The Good Shepherd showed them His crucified hands, His lanced side from which came water and blood.  Christ Jesus protects us from the wolves of false doctrine, heretics, even man’s immorality we lust in.  His rod and His staff they comfort me. The Good Shepherd, 

“… has under-shepherds, which consist of all faithful teachers and preachers. In keeping with Christ’s example, they are to faithfully graze the flock, direct them to the right Door, and guide the little lambs to Christ. Those who do otherwise, says Christ, are thieves and murderers, for they take away Christ’s glory; and they kill the souls of men through false doctrine, just as death devours little lambs in a poisoned pasture.” (Pr. Johann Gerhard)

The hired hands are regularly on TV, sell many books

“Sheep don’t need self-help gurus.  Sheep don’t need false praise or self-affirming flattery from hired hands who are really out to fleece the sheep.  Sheep need a shepherd, a Good Shepherd, one who loves the Sheep.  Sheep need Jesus.  You need Jesus (Pr. Tony Sikora)

He makes us lie down and feed on the green pastures of His Word, the still water of our Baptism, in right pathways for His Name’s sake. The Good Shepherd calls us by name for the glory of His Name, which the Apostles began preaching after His resurrection. 

The Divine Service is nothing less nor more than the Good Shepherd calling us at least once a week into His sheep pen so that He may protect us and feed us directly.  So many say these days that worship is all about us praising God.  

If the Divine Service is viewed primarily as our praising God, then you can do that just as well from home. In fact, once we have looked at the topic of vocation, you will see that we can serve God better in the world than in the church building. But if the service is understood as God giving us the forgiveness of sins, then you’ve got to be there. It is very possible that the low attendance at Sunday services seen in so many churches today is a reflection of how we define the service. If I am acting, then I can do it another time.  But if it is God who acting, then I better be there.” (Pr. Klemet Preus) 

He owns us, as He has bought us back and brought us back, He knows us and we know Him.  He has called us by name.  And “knowing” is not some head knowledge alone, like knowing how to ride a bike, or swimming, knitting, etc. we know how to do that not only in the head but body and soul and the Lord as well!  Body and soul, true Man and true God, His wounds by which we are healed.   He knows us as His own. 

The Good Shepherd promised there will be one flock, one shepherd, and yet we see such a fracturing of the Church, many flocks indeed!  Yet, whoever has heard the voice of the Good Shepherd which is the call of repentance and the forgiveness of sins, knowing His wounds heal us, then throughout the many folds, there is one flock, one shepherd.  As it is confessed in the Lutheran confessions:

 “…thank God, a seven-year old child knows what the Church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.  So children pray, ‘I believe in one holy Christian Church.’” 

O little flock, taste and see the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. 

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13)  

 

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On Good Shepherd Sunday, I ask one of the philosophical questions of the ages that have stumped many:  Do sheep have free will?  We usually understand “free” as in “free will” meaning free to do anything one wants.  Then yes, sheep seem to have free will:  on their own, they will do whatever they want and so they easily get lost, upset, terrified, wanting luscious green grass until overgrazing and the like kills them, prone to the thief and the robber. Yes, sheep, if not guided, led, called, cared for, do whatever they want and that means injury and death.  That definition of “free will”, doing whatever one wants, does not seem so free, does it?  There seems to be a willful stubbornness on the sheep’s part to do it my way and that is not free, but bondage, bondage of the will.  Do sheep have free will?  Answer:  No.  The sheep will go off on their own.  We all like sheep have gone astray, everyone to his own way, the inspired prophet Isaiah preached centuries before Christ. They knew sheep. Do we?    Yet, the will, the heart can be set free in the sight and care of the shepherd, trusting in Him alone:  to feed, to give drink, to be cared for, to be protected from enemies, from wolves to the weather. 

 Augustine: What is the voice of the shepherd? “And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name throughout all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24: 47) There is the voice of the shepherd. Recognize it and follow if you are a sheep.

 There is only way to enter the sheepfold, that is the Church:  going through the Good Shepherd.  He invites, guides and lets us in, night after night, day after day.  Sheepfolds were low stonewall enclosures which did not have wooden gates, they would probably rot too quickly exposed to the elements, but the shepherd himself was the gate, the door, as you can see an illustration of the same in the bulletin (see above). The shepherd night after night, laid his body on the line for his charge.  He would not flee the sheep when they were attacked.  A shepherd’s voice would reassure them in the storm raging in the night.  The Good Shepherd does not flee the sheep, nor fleece them, like the hawkers of false doctrines who smile pretty and talk about your best life now, that is your own life, not the Lord’s indestructible life He gives freely to His sheep. Jesus promises the abundant life, His life, His flesh and His blood, not our flesh getting everything I ever wanted. The Good Shepherd’s hand is imprinted with the mark of the nails.  This shepherd laid down His life for the sheep, for you. King David was first a shepherd as a lad. I do not think even King David would not have laid down his life by being crucified for his bleating, needy sheep.  The Good Shepherd has.  Like a sheep on a shepherd’s shoulder, you do not have to lug your sins around or pretend they do not exist or minimize their infection.  They are on the Good shepherd’s shoulders as He was nailed to the Cross. Jesus is quite clear, He is not any shepherd.  He and His Father are one, one God. He alone has carried the full brunt of the just Law of God and it’s punishment for our sake.

Jesus is saying this is what His Church is like:  a sheepfold.  Not grand and glorious is it?  People may think the magnificent church buildings of  Europe  and our nation are great to sight see, but will complain about the people who actual worship there are not a sight to see, “a bunch of hypocrites”.  Yes, that’s right, sinners, sheep. Kind of like a cop at a crime, nothing much to see here, move on…but don’t move on, taste and see the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever..   Isaiah and Jesus knew a lot about sheep, do we?  Sheep today think they smell pretty good, look good and think, yeah, I’m pretty good with this or that peccadillo to fix up. As Jesus said, there are wolves in sheeps clothing…but I think sheep in 3 piece business suits.   The Lord does not only forgives and bore our sins, but forgives sinners.  I like the icon on the front cover of the bulletin (see header above). He has bourne you into His sheepfold, the sin of the world is the weight of one man, Adam, a sinner

In the parable of today’s Gospel, the Lord Christ compares it [the Christian Church] to a sheep-fold. He compares the Holy Spirit to the Gate-guard, and Himself to the Door into this sheep pen, [as well as] to the Shepherd of the sheep. It is precisely for these reasons that these two items are placed side by side in the Third Article of our Christian faith, where we say: I believe in the Holy Spirit, one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.

 The first Christians on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit gathered them together, baptized into Christ Jesus, the Lord  showed them where to feed and be fed:  they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  Anything else is junk food, a cheat.  Luke tells us they  were joyful. Today is called both Good Shepherd and Jubilate Sunday, Jubilate as in jubilation, joy, the joy of being found, as they had been found out by Lord in His Law, He found them by dying and rising for them and us.  Jubilation and Good Shepherd do go together as when Jesus concludes the parable of the lost sheep, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Mothers and fathers give oversight to their children but they can not over look them and their actions.  The price of parenting is eternal vigilance.  Getting children from point A to  point B day after day safely, with much prayer so they won’t be lost is so akin to shepherding.  Keeping them away from the enemy, Satan, who has done quite a number on a culture astray.  Sheep going astray is not some prosaic, pastoral scene, sheep going astray means only thing:  death.  Parents bringing children to the Lord’s House, His sheepfold, not keeping them away from Jesus, their Good Shepherd, as parents were likewise brought to the Lord.  In my cynical moments, it seems that these days it is not 1 sheep who is lost, but 99, yet I do not know the ways the Lord is working, and He is working still.  With the Good Shepherd we need to rejoice in Him over one sinner who repents. There are parents in households and parents in the Church, pastors.

 …the Chief Shepherd. He, in turn, has under-shepherds, which consist of all faithful teachers and preachers. In keeping with Christ’s example, they are to faithfully graze the flock, direct them to the right Door, and guide the little lambs to Christ. Those who do otherwise, says Christ, are thieves and murderers, for they take away Christ’s glory; and they kill the souls of men through false doctrine, just as death devours little lambs in a poisoned pasture. (Pr. Johann Gerhard)

 When I was pastor in Union City, NJ (second exit outside the Lincoln Tunnel), a congregation of Guatemalan Pentecostalists worshiped in the church’s basement.  The parsonage was next door, nevertheless, through thick masonry walls (ca.’30s), we could hear them singing but especially the preacher in our kitchen.  I became friends with Victor from his congregation.  One day I showed him the Sanctuary.  Victor asked, “Where’s the microphone?  The PA system?”  “We don’t have one.”  He was in incredulous.  We don’t have to yell at the flock,  except when there is danger. The voice of the Shepherd is peace for it is the Word of our forgiveness and peace. 

 My sheep here My voice He says, and I know them and they follow Me, and I give them eternal Life. Just as Christ  teachings are a complete rule of faith, so also is His life a clear, complete mirror for every good work. Learn from Me, He says in Matt, 11-29, as if to say: You have enough to learn about My love, about My patience, My humility, meekness, friendliness to do you for the rest of your lives. As a result, you will well forget about the commandments of men with which you serve God fruitlessly and in vain, Matt. 15:9. 0 God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, highly praised in all eternity: Give us all such an obedient, willing heart for following the voice of Christ in doctrine and life. (Pr. Johann Gerhard)

 The Good Shepherd has the wounds of the Cross and His sheep have wounds, but He has branded His sheep with His Cross, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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Intro:  These quotes are for busy pastors, looking for good quotes for tomorrow’s sermon and for laity who may be fed a thin gruel of me centered legalisms  instead of Christ centered Gospel.

The Holy Spirit creates and works all this through the divine Word, which He allows to be echoed in the Christian Church. It [the Christian Church] is His work place, where He, through the preaching-office (office of the ministry)—which is called the office of the Spirit in 2 Cor. 3:8—desires to be effectual and bring to completion this gracious work in the hearts of mankind.

Accordingly, since we heard about the Person and Office of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost, so now follows the doctrine of the Christian Church in appropriate order. In the parable of today’s Gospel, the Lord Christ compares it [the Christian Church] to a sheep-fold. He compares the Holy Spirit to the Gate-guard, and Himself to the Door into this sheep pen, [as well as] to the Shepherd of the sheep. It is precisely for these reasons that these two items are placed side by side in the Third Article of our Christian faith, where we say: I believe in the Holy Spirit, one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. 

...We should not be overcome with wonder that Christ is likened simultaneously to the Door of the sheepfold and to the Shepherd, for that occurs because of the differing benefits and works of grace which Christ accomplishes in those who are His. In the same way that He on the timber-trunk of the cross (as He was offering Himself up to His heavenly Father) was at the same time the High-Priest, the Sacrifice, and the Altar, so also is He Himself the Door to the sheepfold and the Shepherd simultaneously.

This faithful Shepherd calls His sheep by name. He knows each one and leads all of them out to salutary meadows, as David extols in Ps. 23:1-3—The Lord is My Shepherd; I lack for nothing. He grazes me upon rich, green pasture and leads me to fresh water. He renews my soul; He leads me onto the right paths.

This Shepherd also goes before His sheep both with His holy teaching and with His holy life. He directs them on the right way through His Word and by His example. That’s why He also states in Matt. 16:24—Whoever would be My disciple (and My little sheep), let such one follow behind Me.

This same shepherd fidelity of the Lord Christ is prefigured for us by the fact that the holy Patriarchs often times were shepherds, as we, in particular, read about Jacob in Gen. 31:40 char he languished in Frost at night and in heat during the day, and no sleep came into his eyes.

To this point, everything has been about the Chief Shepherd. He, in turn, has under-shepherds, which consist of all faithful teachers and preachers. In keeping with Christ’s example, they are to faithfully graze the flock, direct them to the right Door, and guide the little lambs to Christ. Those who do otherwise, says Christ, are thieves and murderers, for they take away Christ’s glory; and they kill the souls of men through false doctrine, just as death devours little lambs in a poisoned pasture.

And since the Pharisees and Sadducees in particular falsified the doctrines, Christ consequently says of them: All who came before Me—that is, who came without Me and My deeds, who had not directed men to Me—were thieves and murderers. Here a shepherd must apply good caution and faithful zeal and not follow them, lest he poison the pasture for the perishing of souls. Instead, he should go to school with the Holy Spirit, the heavenly Doorkeeper, and take his word from the mouth of the Chief Shepherd, Christ. As Sr. Peter says in his first epistle, 4:11—If anyone speaks, that he speak the words of God.

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The Pharisees, as all Pharisees, are those who trust in their works to save.  Thy are the ‘good’ people.  They will tell you as much  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (Luke 18:  9-14, Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector).  Sounds so much of what goes for Christianity, sadly enough.  As a pastor I would want a congregation of fasters and especially tithers, that is, a congregation of Pharisees, but thank the Lord He does not grant that prayer.

I cannot imagine after being blind since birth and then seeing again to be so investigated by so many good people. I saw in a meme this past week which shows a man with a real quizzical, sarcastic face with the statement:  “Not going to church because of the ‘hypocrites’ is like not going to the gym because of “out of shape people”. I have heard folks say that I do not like to go church because of all the good people.  Sounds like too much like Christianity and that’s wrong.  Pharisees did not want to be forgiven people in Jesus Christ.  We are by His grace alone, a congregation of forgiven sinners.  We were darkness, not merely doing a dark thing or two, wrote the Apostle; and so walk as children of the light, that is, children of God baptized into Christ (Ephesians 5:8-14).  How can we walk as children of light?  Because in Baptism we are “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).  Only He can raise the dead, give light to the darkened, see the man born blind, see Saul of Tarsus, Peter, James, John, Lydia, the Philippians Jailer…you, me.  We need His light, the light of the Word:  preached, taught, administered, prayed, served in order  to so walk, protected by the Lord according to His Word, against all enemies, even our flesh.  His Word is the light of the world.  At the end of the Gospel the seeing man is at the feet of Jesus worshiping Him, the glory and truth of the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus speaks with the Pharisees, protected by the Lord.

At the end of John 9, the seeing man is worshiping at the feet of Jesus and the Pharisees are still taking pot shots.  Jesus is protecting him.  We are told that Jesus went in search of the formerly blind beggar.  Jesus teaches, I am the Good Shepherd, I go search of the lost (John 10).  Jesus found the now seeing man.  He protects him from the barbs of the self-righteous and all the wolves seeking to devour the flock. Jesus and the worshiping and seeing man is the icon, the  picture of the Church.  “For, thank God, today a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. For the children pray thus: I believe in one holy Christian Church.”(Book of Concord, Smalcald Articles)

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 The following is from Dr. Luther’s Sermon on Christ the  Good Shepherd, St. John 10:  1-18: 

      This is fundamental: Christ knows his sheep and, in turn, the sheep know Christ. It, therefore, follows that for the sake of faith, Christ alone should be preached to his little sheep, that he has given his life for the sheep and they are to emulate his example with works of love. A faithful preacher, therefore, should present nothing other to his people than Christ only, so that people learn to know him, who he is, and what he gives, and do not wander away from his word of promise, “I am the good shepherd, and give my life for the sheep,” but believe that he alone is to be esteemed as the true Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. That is what should be preached to the people, so that they may learn to know their Shepherd. Thereafter, then, we must emphasize the example of how Christ for our sake did all and suffered all, so that we, in turn, for the sake of the Word might willingly do and suffer all. Even as he carried his cross, we, too, should carry our cross. These two topics need to be preached in Christ’s kingdom. Whoever hears, understands, believes, and embraces it is a sheep in Christ’s fold and affirms: I hear and know the voice of my Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who declares: I died for you and rescued you from the wolf with my blood and death. Thus Christ speaks, and this I believe, and I know of no other shepherd. Moreover, and as a result, I do for my neighbor as Christ has done, and, if necessary, I will suffer for his sake, and if I am beaten for this, I remember that he also was beaten. His is the voice I hear, and I follow it.

             But if a wolf, the devil or a false teacher, comes and alleges that it isn’t enough that you believe in Christ and faithfully perform the routine, your vocation and station, but must run to St. James, become a monk, and so on, this is the ongoing pitch of the pope[1], that Christ’s words, “I am the good shepherd, I lay down my life for the sheep” are not sufficient; but people must be taught to perform their own good works like indulgences, alms, pilgrimages, the monastic life, and be careful to become their own shepherds and thus protect themselves. The little sheep replies: I do not know that voice; I hear a wolf, a devil, and a false teacher, each of whom wants to tear me from my Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and devour me; from them I flee away and refuse to listen to them.

 


[1] Luther’s examples here are in some ways dated. Yet, the pope has gained new prominence in the media age that trumps personality over character as quasi-divine. Pope is a man-made office. It has no divine institution behind it. His pitch is still works-righteousness to the point that the current pope has said about non-believers, “If they just do good, then they will go to heaven”. If that is so, then the Lord Jesus was crucified for no good reason.   And there are other “popes”:  televangelists,  mega-church pastors and the like who all have an “ongoing pitch”: if you just buy into my  theology, buy my book, do what it says, then God will be with you.  Never trust “If, then” statements when it comes salvation. Beloved in the Lord, don’t run to your rosary, your spirituality“your best life now”, “your purpose driven life” and all the false prophets:  they will not cover your sin with the blood of Jesus.  Run to your Good Shepherd. As Luther preached above:  you do not have to become your own shepherd.  As Jesus preached and His preacher Luther reiterated, The Good Shepherd has called you.

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“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Because God has done all for us in Christ, faith is nothing. It is holding onto something. It is holding onto Christ for dear life. We must rebuke human reason, which attempts to shame us out of our faith: “Come on, do something really worthwhile! Don’t focus on this nothing of faith. How could God accept nothing? At least show God your commitment to Him by the obedience of your life and your holiness. Most people don’t believe that faith alone saves anyway.” Well, yes. But whom are you going to believe: the erring multitudes or a gracious God who saves us so that we will never perish? We should not follow the crowd, but Christ, who is the shepherd of His little flock (Luke12:32).

This is why the Christian Church can never be identified with mass movements. The idea that “bigger is better” is intellectually and theologically bankrupt nonsense. Christ tells us that it is the little flock, hidden under the shadow of the cross, that inherits the kingdom. In almost every case in the New Testament, little is better not because there is merit in size but because the Lord lifts up those whom the world despises. He makes great through faith the little. In fact, the Church sounds risible when she touts her bigness, her power, and her success. She places herself under the mockery of the world that can always counter the Church’s little bigness with the size of Exxon, the Pentagon, the Pistons, andPittsburgh. She sounds like the youngest child in a large family who is always shouting, “Hey, look at me! Hey, don’t forget about me!” No manner of counting will give us the ability to compete with the world. The Church’s only message is the cross, its shame, and the preaching of the nothing of faith. More than that? Perish the thought. We have a little kingdom, which is great because it is Christ’s flock.

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The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures

Intro:  This coming Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Pascha (Easter).  The Gospel lesson is always selected from St. John 10: 1-18 and the Psalm is always the 23rd.  The 23rd Psalm is easily the most memorized, cited and beloved in the Psalter.   Next to the Our Father (the Lord’s Prayer) which is prayed in the English speaking world almost exclusively from the King James Version, so also the 23rd Psalm is most recognizable from the 1611 Version of  Holy Writ.  I think it is good to take a closer look at the 23rd Psalm and this is what I intend to do.  So first the entire 23rd Psalm from the King James Bible:

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil;  my cup runneth over.

 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Verse 1a, “The LORD is my Shepherd”:  Before we even read verse 1 in a Bible, as most of the Psalms, there is for the 23rd an inscription:  “A Psalm of David”.  This already is an interpretative key.

Who was David? He was the greatest king of Israel in the history of monarchy.  But before that his first vocation was a shepherd. (1 Samuel 16: 10-11;  17: 15, 40).  Then David was chosen. David was a conqueror.  He was a musician and his music would calm the ravings of King Saul.  In fact, the founding date of Jerusalem is when he brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city.  In this Psalm, in this first verse he knows “The Lord is my shepherd” which means the great and  powerful  king knew he was  a sheep who could be lost, misguided, in danger without his good Shepherd leading  him as he knew he was prone to wander, to leave the one he loved and loved him:  forsaking the good Shepherd.   David found this out “big time”:  2 Samuel 11.  “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.”-Psalm 119: 176, the last verse

The first sentence of the Psalm is a metaphor and it is an absolute  equivalency:  The LORD = my Shepherd. This is the theme sentence of the entire Psalm, “…these words are brief but impressive and apt. The world glories  and trusts in honor, power, riches, and the favor of men. Our psalm, however, glories in none of these, for they are all uncertain and perishable. It says briefly, “The LORD is my shepherd.” (Luther’s Works, Volume 12, selected Psalms I)

Please note that when in a translation, LORD is so capitalized, this means that the Hebrew word is the Tetragrammaton, the 4 letters, YHWH , or Yahweh.  Rev. Professor James Luther Mays comments on this verse and meaning of Shepherd (emphases my own):

“In the ancient Near East the role and title of shepherd were used for leaders as a designation of their relation to the people in their charge. As a title, “shepherd” came to have specific royal connotation. Gods and kings were called the shepherd of their people. Both are described and portrayed with mace (rod) and shepherd’s crook (staff) as siglia of office. (see my photo above and verse 4-Pr. S.) In narrative, song, and prophecy the LORD is called the shepherd of Israel, his flock (Gen. 49:24; Pss. 28:9; 74:1; 95:7; 100:3; Jer. 31:10; Micah7:14). The LORD made David his undershepherd (Ps. 78:70-72), and the kings of Israel were judged as shepherds (Jer. 23:1-4; 49:20; Micah 5:4). The title had special associations with the LORD’S leading and protecting in the wilderness (Pss. 77:20; 78:52-53; 80:1) and in the return from the exile (Isa. 40:11; 49:9-10).

To say “The LORD is my shepherd” invokes all the richness of this theological and political background as well as the pastoral. The metaphor is not restricted to associations with what actual shepherds did; it is informed by what the LORD has done and what kings were supposed to do. One does not have to shift to images of guide and host to account for the whole poem. “Shepherd” understood against its usage in Israel accounts for the whole. The statement is a confession.  It declares commitment and trust. I t also has a polemical thrust againt human rulers and divine powers. the psalm entrusts the support, guidance, and protection of live only and alone to the one whose name is LORD.” (Interpretation:  Psalms/John Knox Press)”

So when the LORD became flesh and dwelt amongst us  full of grace and truth, He alone could say:  “I am the good Shepherd.”If Christ, your Shepherd, did not seek you and bring you back, you would simply have to fall prey to the wolf.  but now He comes, seeks, and find you.  He takes you into His flock, that is into Christendom, through the Word and Sacraments.”  (Luther, ibid)

Almighty God, merciful Father,  since You have wakened from death the Shepherd of Your sheep, grant us Your Holy Spirit that when we hear the voice of our Shepherd we may know Him who calls us each by name and follow where He leads; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Collect for the 4th Sunday of Easter)

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