Good morning my church family. Trust that you are warm and cosy after the much needed rain of yesterday.

Join with me as we find comfort and encouragement from the words of Psalm 23.

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters,
3 He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23 is one of the most loved passages in the Bible, and rightly so. Many Christians are able to memorize this psalm and recite it off by heart. Just saying the first line reminds us of the entire psalm. Many of us focus on the word "shepherd" when we read the first line.

For the people of Israel, the image of the shepherd was also widely used to describe their kings. Therefore, when the writer begins “The Lord is my shepherd,” he may be putting emphasis on the word "my", stating that even though there are many shepherd-kings in the region, the Lord is his shepherd.

One of the poetic methods sometimes used in the psalms is putting the most important line in the exact middle of the psalm. The middle of Psalm 23 is the phrase, "You are with me".

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23 is clearly meant to be what it has been for generations: a psalm of comfort. (verse 4)

Psalm 23 is not the only passage in the Bible that compares the Lord to a shepherd. Our Lord Jesus also said that He was a shepherd—the Good Shepherd. In John 10:11-13 we read,

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Our Lord Jesus explains more about what it means to be a good shepherd in this passage. The shepherd isn’t just some hired hand; he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. The sheep know his voice and follow where he leads.

When we say, "The Lord is my shepherd" we are also saying that we are God’s sheep. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep by name, cares for them, lays down his life for them, and gives them eternal life.

He knows when we are joyful and He knows when we are sad. He knows when we’re having a good day and when we’re not. He also knows that sometimes we need to be quiet, so, like a shepherd, He leads us to places where we can just be still and pay attention to Him. Our Father God knows us and He knows what we need. He will always be with us, caring for us and leading us.

The people of Israel understood the life of a shepherd. Sheep provided them with wool for clothes and meat to eat. Making the connection between God and a shepherd was easy for them because they knew what shepherds were like. We as 21st century city dwellers do not know what shepherds are like.

By learning more about shepherds help us understand what David meant when he wrote "The Lord is my shepherd."

A shepherd doesn’t just watch sheep, he cares for his sheep. He takes them to where food and water are, and he shelters them from storms. Because sheep do not have claws or teeth to protect themselves, he protects them from other animals that want to eat them. Because the shepherd is there, the sheep are protected, comforted, and fed. Without a shepherd, the sheep would not last long in the wilderness. That’s a pretty good picture of how God cares for us, isn’t it?

Even though we’re not sheep or shepherds, we know what it can feel like to be in a dangerous valley. We know what it’s like when we are sick or when a friend or family member dies. We know what it means to feel like the whole world is against us. We are all feeling the effects of the corona virus and being in lockdown, some having lost their jobs. It is not an easy time. Even though there are probably no predators like the big bad wolf waiting to attack us from behind rocks, we all know what it means to be scared. We also know what it means to be comforted.

Have you noticed that the psalm does not say that we will never be in danger or never be scared.

It says that God is with us when we are going through difficult times.

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus knows us and cares for us. He asks us to care for each other too.

So as a challenge to each of us, I would like each of us to look at the Medway Prayer diary. Find your own name. Then look at all the other names. Do you know all those people? Pick out three names and write these names on a slip of paper and put them on your fridge door. Use this list as a reminder to pray for these people each day for the next month during your quiet time with our Good Shepherd. Pick up the phone or message them as tell them that you are praying for them, how are they doing and how can you pray specifically for them each day.

Let us Pray

Our Good Shepherd, Your presence in our lives gives us great comfort. We remember that we are always in your care. When we are afraid, we know that you are there. Your goodness and your love are with us as long as we live. Many of us are struggling with issues at this time and it might feel as if our world is coming down around us, but we thank You Lord that they will not crush me for You are with us and Your rod and Your staff, they comfort us.

Thank You Lord Jesus that we can rest in in You and Your finished work at the cross. Thank you for the blessing of knowing that You care for us and that we will live with You forever. We give You all praise and worship You in the mighty and glorious name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Sending you much love as we give praise to our Lord for each day He gives us to serve Him and one another this side of eternity

Maurice and Margaret