The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Let none disdain the office of shepherd, for shepherds are appointed by You.
Did not Israel keep flocks? Did he not claim the spotted and ringstraked as his own? You became his shepherd all the days of his life. How then shall You not claim us lambs, spotted though we might be?
Were Israel’s sons not shepherds? To the Egyptians every shepherd is an abomination. Thus, those who despise shepherds take the side of Egypt, but we Your sheep shall sojourn in the pastures of Goshen.
When You chose a king for Your people, You called a shepherd. As he protected his lambs from bear and lion, so he defended Your lambs with sword and spear. As he led his sheep in green pastures, so he fed Your sheep with psalms and prayers.
When You chose men to serve Your churches, You did not elevate them as kings, judges, or princes. You conferred upon them neither dominion, nor lordship, nor principality. Instead, You called them as shepherds and appointed them to pastor Your sheep.
Who is sufficient for these things? Who can love as he ought to love, lead as he ought to lead, feed as he ought to feed, tend with the tenderness of Your heart? Yet You told a Stone to feed Your lambs, so surely You can command us whose hearts are stone. If You could call him and reshape him to oversee Your flock, not by constraint but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; not as a lord over Your heritage, but as an example to the flock—if You could do this in him, then You are the one who can make us shepherds still.
For You are a shepherd. You claim this name Yourself, and Your people as the sheep of Your pasture. You are our Maker, our Guide, our Provider, our Comforter. You gather Your lambs in Your arms. You carry them in Your bosom. You gently lead us when we are frail or beset with cares. Oh, let us enter into Your gates with thanksgiving and into Your courts with praise!
Like a shepherd, You will gather Your scattered sheep. You will deliver them from dark places. You will feed them in rich pastures upon the high mountains. You will bind up the broken, strengthen the feeble, and give rest to Your flock, for You are the Shepherd of Shepherds.
You, our Shepherd, claimed us as lost sheep. When we needed rescue, You trusted no shepherd but Your own Son. Not a hireling, not one who would flee when the wolf drew near, He laid down His life as a shepherd does for the sheep, that He through death might destroy him who held the power of death and deliver us—miserable sheep!—who through fear of death were held in bondage. He is our Good Shepherd whose voice we know. Him alone will we follow, and He will lead us. He has brought together sheep who were once in the fold with sheep who never knew the fold, thus to make of twain one new flock. He is the One Shepherd whom You love.
You are the great Shepherd-King. You sent Your Son through a daughter of Your chosen shepherd-king, into the household of the son of Your chosen shepherd-king, that You might give Him the throne of His father David. You sent Him to be a Shepherd and a King. Born to the majesty of the manger and the pageantry of the pasture, the order of His office reflected the honor of Your own.
No wonder, then, that You would send Your messengers to announce His birth to shepherds. Who better? Who more fitting? For every shepherd is a metaphor of You: a shadow or type of Your own true Shepherd’s heart. You are the True Shepherd from whom every shepherd in heaven and earth is named. Every shepherd bears this celestial dignity as he reflects the splendor of Your office.
Shepherds abiding in the field by night—humble shepherds? Not they! To whom else should the angels rejoice? To Herod, that fox? To those wolves, the Pharisees? To the generation of vipers? May it never be! To none but the practitioners of this ancient and honored craft, of this vocation that reveals, should they—could they—proclaim the birth of Your Shepherd-King.
Of our Shepherd-King, for in Him we trust. He will give us rest in green pastures; He will lead us beside still waters; He will restore our soul. For He is the Shepherd who is also a Lamb. And the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them, and shall lead them unto living fountains waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In the name of the Good Shepherd,
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
My Soul, With Joy Attend
Philip Doddridge (1702–1751)
My soul, with joy attend
While Jesus silence breaks;
No angel’s harp such music yields,
As what my Shepherd speaks.
I know My sheep, He cries,
“My soul approves them well;
Vain is the treacherous world’s disguise,
And vain the rage of hell.
“I freely feed them now
With tokens of My love,
But richer pastures I prepare
And sweeter streams above.
“Unnumbered years of bliss
I to My sheep will give;
And, while My throne unshaken stands,
Shall all My chosen live.”
This tried almighty hand
Is raised for their defense:
Where is the power shall reach them there?
Or what shall force them thence?
Enough, my gracious Lord,
Let faith triumphant cry;
My heart can on this promise live,
Can on this promise die.