What Bugs You?

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5).

Sheep are terribly sensitive animals. In “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller, he writes:

Sheep are especially troubled by the nose fly. These little flies buzz about the sheep’s head, attempting to deposit their eggs on the damp, mucous membranes of the sheep’s nose. If they are successful the eggs will hatch in a few days to form small, slender, worm-like larvae. They work their way up the nasal passages into the sheep’s head; they burrow into the flesh and there set up an intense irritation accompanied by severe inflamation. For relief from this agonizing annoyance sheep will deliberately beat their heads against trees, rocks, posts, or brush. They will rub them in the soil and thrash around against woody growth. In extreme cases of intense infestation a sheep may even kill itself in a frenzied endeavor to gain respite from the aggravation. Often advanced stages of infection these flies will lead to blindness.

A wise shepherd applies oil and ointment to keep flies away. But this isn’t a one time application. The shepherd applies oil and ointments to the heads of his sheep throughout summer.

What bugs you? There are irritants in life that keep us from living fully into God’s grace. Our wise shepherd gives us his Holy Spirit to keep irritants at bay. Just as with sheep, the application of the Holy Spirit is to be a daily exercise. We are to apply the Holy Spirit through God’s word and prayer so that we don’t allow irritants to drive us batty!

When we apply the Holy Spirit daily, our cup overflows. The reason why God doesn’t just fill the cup to the brim is because we are selfish. But because God fills our cups to overflowing all those around people who’s cups are overflowing benefit from the blessings of the Holy Spirit.

The key is the daily application of God’s Holy Spirit through the reading of God’s word and prayer. This is a daily exercise. And when we do, our cups overflow with the blessings of God and all those around us are blessed as a result.

You’re off to a great start! Get in God’s word and be a blessing to those around you!!!

In the Presence of My Enemies

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5).

When I picture the 23rd psalm I picture an Eden-esque scene:

  • green pastures on a bright and sunny day
  • a stream of calming, cool waters

It’s so calm. So pleasant.

That’s nice. But that’s not life.

We certainly have our moments where life is Eden-esque. But there are also plenty of moments when life feels like hell. Life can be really hard. Thank goodness that most of life is experienced somewhere in between.

As you look at the structure of the 23rd psalm, it starts out with a faith declaration: The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

And then there are three settings and descriptions of when life is good and pleasant:

  • He makes me lie down in green pastures
  • He leads me beside still waters
  • He guides me along the right paths

Then, there are three settings and descriptions of when life is hard:

  • Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
  • I will fear no evil
  • You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

From highest of the highs in life to the lowest of the lows, the LORD is our shepherd. We shall not be in want.

There is never a “there” where the LORD is not there. There is never a “there” where the LORD is not our Shepherd.

I am grateful that God is present in good times. But when I need God the most is when life is hard and I am surrounded by the enemies of faith.

Even there, the LORD is there to prepare a table for you and me in the very midst of the presence of our enemies. There is nothing the enemy can do to take us away from the presence of God. He is, after all, our LORD and Shepherd.

Thanks be to God!

The Good Shepherd

“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me…”

That sounds so nice, so comforting.

First and foremost, the shepherd’s rod and staff were used to protect the shepherd and the sheep from predators.

Sometimes in the Bible, rod and staff are interchangeable for the same Hebrew word – shebet, pronounced shevet. The most common use for the rod and staff for the shepherd was as a walking stick. However, when the shepherd or his sheep were in danger from predators, it was used by shepherds as a weapon against predators

The Jews had another word – mishenah – that specifically meant staff. This refers to the shepherd’s staff that has a crook at one end, looking like a candy cane. The end with the crook was used by shepherds to draw to the herd sheep that were wandering off. And, of course, the staff was used as a weapon to ward off predators.

Our passage uses both these terms. Therefore, “Your rod and staff…”

The shepherd’s rod and staff are comforting to the sheep because the shepherd used them to protect the sheep from predators, and from wandering off and getting lost. That’s the most obvious understanding of the rod and staff being a source of comfort.

But, there’s another way the shepherd used the rod and staff that may be surprising. We already discussed previously that the sheep are by nature followers. When a particular sheep wanders from the flock, other sheep follow the wanderer. When the shepherd had a sheep that was a constant wanderer, that wandering sheep threatened the entire flock because other sheep would follow the wanderer. In such extreme cases, the shepherd would use his rod and staff to break the leg of the wandering sheep.

Ouch! How is that comforting?

That doesn’t sound at all comforting. But, you’d be wrong. A lost sheep would die from starvation, thirst, or from predators. A lost sheep on its own was as good as dead. The well-being of any sheep is completely dependent upon its shepherd. It was essential to the well-being of the sheep that it stayed in the herd. The act of breaking the leg of a wanderer is an act of mercy for the wandering sheep, and for the herd.

The shepherd loves his sheep so much that he will go to the extremes to protect the wellness of his sheep and his herd. He is, after all, the good shepherd.

“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Our shepherd’s rod and staff are a source of comfort because he will protect us from predators, from getting lost, AND loves us enough to discipline us to ensure we stay in his fold.

Thank you, LORD, our Good Shepherd.