In verse 3, the Good Shepherd declared “I will care for you”. And indeed, He does care. At several points throughout last year, I thought to myself “Our government does not care for us”. And I am all the more convinced that they do not.
Perhaps you have felt the same – uncared for, unloved, unwanted. Maybe you have been through various crises in the past year and are facing even greater ones in this New Year, and you have felt isolated in your struggles.
Perhaps the people you expected to be there for you did not turn up. Your family, your friends, we as your elders and pastors. You are hurt, broken and tired. This thing called life has beaten you one too many times and has worn you out. So even though it’s a New Year, you are just your old, weary self, dreading the weeks and months that lie ahead.
But you are not alone.
The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, cares for you. David knew this and declared in that beautiful psalm, Psalm 23 that “the Lord is my Shepherd”. He is the Good Shepherd who will lead you to a place of peace. In the midst of absolute chaos and turmoil, Jesus is able to lead you to quiet, still waters. He will lead you to a place where you lack nothing.
Paul, in Philippians 4:11-12, said that he had learnt to be content in whatever circumstance he found himself, where it was in extreme poverty or in excess prosperity. That is a place where God alone can lead you, through the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
The fact that it is the Lord who is your Shepherd does not mean that your life will be rosy and trouble free. In fact, for the Christian, I have often observed that it means you will endure even more suffering. But David continues in verse 4 of Psalm 23 and says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”. The Lord will often take you into the most difficult of trials, whose darkness will envelope you like a shadow of death itself.
Many of us here will have numerous such trials in the coming year. For some, those trials will simply be a continuation of your troubles from last year. But just as the Good Shepherd will lead you into trials, He will also lead you out them. And in the midst of them, He will neither leave your side nor forsake you, but will endure with you until your sanctification is complete.
David again declares of the Good Shepherd in verse 3 of Psalm 23 “He leads me in paths of righteousness, for the sake of His name”. Earthly leaders, no matter how excellently they lead, can only take us to a place of temporary happiness and prosperity. But Christ leads to a more permanent destination with more lasting promises. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16 onwards
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to things seen, but to things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal”
Christ leads us through temporary afflictions, in order that we may gain an eternal glory, in a place where suffering and tears and death and sin are no more. As He leads, He cleanses us from sin and from the world, preparing us for His wedding. As His bride, there, we shall be united with Him for all eternity.
Where the shepherds of Israel led them into sin and rebellion, Christ your Good Shepherd guides you into holiness and obedience.
If you follow His ways, your final destination is eternity in heaven. This world cannot offer you anything better.
In one of his most well-known declarations, Jesus said in John 10:27
“My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me”
The problem that the Israelites had, was that even when their shepherds were leading them astray, the still followed them. They made idols and raised for themselves, false prophets and they listened to their voices.
For us today, there are many voices that will speak throughout the year, but we must be diligent to listen and to be obedient to the one voice only– that of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Which leads us to our second point for this morning, Listen to Him.