Our Strong Shepherd
Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.
• Martin Luther
• • •
Text: Psalm 23
Normally, we think of Psalm 23 in sweet, sentimental terms. But let me ask you a question.
Have you ever met a shepherd? a rancher? a cowboy? anyone who herds or tends animals for a living?
These are not soft, sweet, and sentimental people!
They are rugged and hardworking people. They have calloused hands and their bodies are muscular and strong. People who do this kind of work clear land and mend fences. They shoo away predators, wrestle with sheep or cattle or whatever livestock they’re tending. They work in all kinds of weather. At birthing time, you’ll find them awake in the middle of the night assisting their animals. When there’s sickness in the herd, they give attention and care, no matter what time of day it might be. These folks will go to great lengths to chase down lost sheep and carry them home.
Shepherds and those who care for flocks or herds are tough people. There is nothing sentimental about them at all. They have a strong and singular focus — they’ll do anything it takes to care for the animals that belong to them.
From what you’ve told me, that’s the kind of guy Pete has been. Strong, hard-working, a good provider, an “old-school” kind of guy who worked hard, played hard, and loved hard, caring deeply for his family.
Now with that in mind, listen to the words of this psalm again: “The Lord is my shepherd.”
The reason this psalm is so comforting is not just because it is beautiful poetry with soothing words. It’s not simply because it paints a calming, serene picture of creation, with its green pastures and quiet waters.
No, it is comforting primarily because it tells us that we are in the care of a rugged, hardworking Shepherd. The ultimate Strong Man is on our side, and he goes to any lengths to take care of us.
- Our whole life through;
- In every conceivable season and circumstance of life;
- When we fall down;
- When we get lost or need direction;
- When we are scared to death;
- When enemies surround us and threaten us.
There is never a moment when your diligent and watchful Shepherd is not thinking about you and working hard for your benefit.
Even today, on this hardest of days, when you are saying goodbye to your loved one, the Shepherd is putting his strong arms around you to support you.
As you leave this place today and continue on your journey, this good Shepherd will be by your side. Every moment. Every day. To the very end. In life and in death.
So today, I commit us all into our strong, faithful Shepherd’s care.
May his goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our life, until we join Pete in the house of the Lord forever.