He Leadeth Me

In our busy lives we need pauses and parentheses . . . The busyness of our lives has taken its toll on our spiritual lives . . . but we will not rest until we are drawn into God’s shady, green glen of refreshment . . .

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He guideth me in the paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake. – Psalm 23:2,3

• Child of God, Psalm 23 is the song of our earthly pilgrimage, remember? To us God has said through Jesus Christ, “And ye my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord Jehovah” (Ezekiel 34:31). Sheep of His pasture that’s what He calls us! We are the sheep, and oh, how God cares for us!

One of the ways that He cares for us is expressed in that hymn we love to sing:

He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

Every child of Cod has experienced this. Israel was led, led from Egypt, through the wilderness to the promised land. Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, before them, was led from Ur to Canaan. David’s testimony in this beautiful song is the same.

Can you whisper these words in peace? Or, do you say, “I know that what the Bible says is true: He led Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, Paul But as for me, there is not that assurance.” Then listen carefully to what David says; for, through God’s Word, our faith is strengthened.

• If we have any need in life as Christians, it is certain that we need spiritual peace and refreshment. This very need our Good Shepherd provides. In this need we are seen to be just like sheep.

Would you know how our Good Shepherd provides peace for us? Let’s go join a modem shepherd in Palestine. We can learn something from him. It is early in the morning when we join him. The silent burst of the Oriental day is not yet come. It is dark—very dark, but the shepherd is already busy making ready for his daily journey. When all things are ready, he gives the familiar call which brings his sheep to an attitude of ready obedience. As the day bursts in all its splendor the last sheep has left its place of rest. Forth from the fold to the very best grazing lands, the shepherd leads them. These white furry animals entrusted to his care follow him confidently. Ahead there will be fields of luscious, green grass still moist with the morning dampness. Because he loves his sheep he will never lead them to places where the tall grass grows, There the sunlight would be filtered or even hidden and the sheep would not see clearly, and they would quake with fear.

But we cannot linger in the fields of green grass, for the morning is fast departing and soon it will be noon when the scorching sun will beat down unmercifully on us and the sheep. The air will be stifling with fever heat and the landscape will bake in its awful glare. We had best follow the shepherd for he follows just where to go.

Sure enough, ahead we see a green glen. The sun through the trees makes unique pictures on the grass along the banks of a quiet brook The glassy surfaced brook is just what the sheep need. From rapidly moving water they will not drink. You see, their woolly coat acts as a sponge; and, after it is thoroughly soaked, it would be only too easy for the rushing water to tear them from the bank and speed them down to certain death. So important is the quiet water we are told that, if no quiet stream is available, the shepherd will make a little dam thus silencing the busy water and from this they will drink. But here in this peaceful glen with its quiet brook is the respite for the day. What peace there is beside the waters of stillness, so clean and so pure. And, soon after the provision of rest, the sheep are ready to move on.

• Now, we are His sheep; and, even as the shepherd leads his flock to waters of peace, so our God leads us to spiritual peace and refreshment. And this we need!

In our busy lives we need pauses and parentheses. We, in this hurried pace in which we live, need rest. The busyness of our lives has taken its toll on our spiritual lives, The heat of everyday life sometimes grows so oppressive that the blessing of being children of God is forgotten. We need rest, but we will not rest until we are drawn into God’s shady, green glen of refreshment, so to speak.

There is rest and refreshment when we are conscious of our safety. The roar of a lion, the bark of a dog, the presence of a child will spoil the rest of the sheep, driving them to fright. But need we be frightened? We are safe. Christ has triumphed over Satan; and, as He now lives, He guarantees our safety. There is rest because Jesus has said, “My sheep shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

Yes, in the green glen of God’s peace and truth there is refreshment for He provides abundantly. The hungry sheep will not lie down—you can’t force him to lie down. But Jesus has said, “Him that cometh unto me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Could it be that we are restless because we have not made use of God’s green pasture for us: the Word of God? On our earthly journey He beckons us aside to rest with Him that we may eat spiritually. And we have pasture in abundance! Don’t forget, man does not live by bread alone. We must be fed on the promises; we must drink of the water of life.

• But as He leads He must restore us, too. This is the ever present task of the shepherd. At every moment he must be ready to restore in tender care that wandering member of the flock. See the shepherd with his sheep in the green beside the still waters. There is a calmness as we hear him playing on the dual-piped reed flute. The atmosphere is one of utter relaxation. Suddenly the music stops; one of the sheep has left the group. The shepherd calls him back and he comes. Rubbing his nose, ears, scratching his chin and patting his head, the shepherd assures his sheep of restoration.

But there are other restorations that are not as easy because sheep being strong willed, stray often. For instance, as the flock and shepherd are making their way down the road from the village to the tufts of succulent grass ahead, one, unnoticed by the shepherd, strays into a private field. Later, when it is time to count noses, one is missing. Back along the dusty road the weary shepherd goes seeking his charge. Then he learns that his sheep has trespassed; and, to regain him for his flock, he must pay a ransom. Without grudge he ransoms that sheep or lamb.

Others wander away unnoticed until the darkness of night has fallen. Then, off into the night the shepherd goes—a night filled with all manner of sounds: the bark of dogs, the hyena’s blood-curdling scream, the jackal howl. Yet, the shepherd hears the bleating sheep and rescues him. Back home the shepherd carefully and lovingly inspects the wool for thorns or cuts or wounds. The “one-hundredth” has been brought back.

• Sometimes, we arc told, that sheep insist on being a wanderer again and again. When the shepherd finds the wanderer at last, he will take his crook and strike one of the front legs so it will break. Then he prepares a splint for the leg. Now the stiff-legged sheep must keep close to the shepherd since he must he carried over the rough spots and the mountain streams. But he has been restored, indeed!

And how we need restoration. From time to time our spirits are exhausted and our Good Shepherd must speak peace to our soul. He bathes us in the precious promises of His Word.

Sometimes we need restoration, however, because we stray. How? Perhaps we have failed to use the Bible as we ought. am prayers may be uttered so coldly and mechanically that we are really much like the Pharisee. Or, perhaps there is an unconfessed sin which makes the very thought of fellowship so hollow. Or, again, we neglect doing as God has said. Perhaps we fall before the temptation of the world. How do we spend our time? How do we talk? What do we allow to fill our minds?

And you and I know what happens as we stray. There is restlessness. We complain bitterly. There is lack of interest in the things of God, and our lives become dull. Yet, He seeks out His own. None shall perish. How often haven’t we confessed:

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me.
And all His shoulders gently laid,
He home rejoicing brought me.

• Yes, Jehovah is my Shepherd; and, as my Shepherd He leads me from day to day in uprightness and truth. That is, He leads me on the path of life which I must take for His glory and praise.

The sheep of the Oriental shepherd may stray; but, being a true shepherd, he will continue to lead them. It was that way in David’s day, and still the shepherd leads. And there is reason for his leading. Palestines’ pasture area is a confusing maze of paths. Through this maze the shepherd must lead the flock. The unconcerned hireling might drive the flock over the maze, but the shepherd leads. He leads because he loves his sheep and knows their failings. Knowing they cannot see well, knowing they easily become confused, knowing they have little sense of proper direction, he leads.

David tells us that as we are on this pilgrimage of life, Jehovah leads His people. He goes before and says: Follow me. By His Word and Spirit we hear Him. There is only one pathway for us to take: the way of obedience to Him. How necessary it is, then, that we learn more from His Word.

When we study the Word, we begin to understand that God’s way, though difficult in itself to comprehend, is the best way. He is ever leading us on for one reason: for His name’s sake.

What undeserved and tender care He lavishes upon us! Consider our sins; consider our wandering; and then consider His grace. In spite of our badness, He is our Good Shepherd and in confidence we can say: “He leadeth me!”

It is for His name’s sake that He cares for us. His pledged and covenanted abiding love cannot change. And He will continue to lead until this life is over and we cross the Jordan forever. We have no need to fear.

And when, at last my race is run,
The Savior’s work in me is done,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.

Jerome M. Julien is pastor of the Faith Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.