Listening to the Voice of the Good Shepherd

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Do you feel overworked, and too busy? I was recently reminded how our society used to have one parent stay home to raise kids while the other parent held down a job. Today that is a rare luxury. People sacrifice time with family to work harder and longer. Individuals push themselves to work more, to have their children involved in more activities, and to have more things. Sometimes people will continue to push until they get sick or just can’t go on anymore.   

Psalm 23 is the Psalm of the Good Shepherd. It describes some of the methods the good shepherd takes care of, and nurtures his sheep. Psalm 23:1-3 describes it this way:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.”

            The Good Shepherd of our souls, just like the good shepherd caring for their sheep will not only lead and tend to the sheep, but he will “make” the sheep lie down in green pastures. The sheep will desire to keep wandering instead of resting in the green pasture. The shepherd compels the sheep to stop and relax in the green pastures. The Good Shepherd of our Souls observes Christians pushing themselves to the limit. The Good Shepherd, as described in Psalm 23, will make them stop and take a rest if they determine not to stop.

            Psalm 119:65, 67 says, “You have dealt well with your servant,
    O Lord, according to your word.” “Before I was afflicted I went astray,
    but now I keep your word.”

            Mrs. Charles Cowman wrote two very popular daily devotionals in the 1920s. She and her husband were missionaries around the turn of the 20th century in the Orient, going to Japan and Korea. She writes in the introduction to her first devotional, “Streams in the Desert” about the source of writing this book. She writes, “It was our privilege to spend a number of years in the mission fields of the Orient-Japan and Korea, but the trying climate and overstrain of heavy work caused my dear husband’s health to fail, and we were compelled to return to the homeland where for six years a battle was waged between life and death.”   

There is a particular devotion from Lottie Cowman’s book, Streams in the Desert, that really speaks to these times when God “makes us lie down in green pastures.” This devotion is titled “Into a Desert Place Apart.” This daily devotion from 1925 is so eloquent I want to include the whole thing here. It reads:

“There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it.” In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by “rests,” and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives; and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator. How does the musician read the “rest”? See him beat the time with unvarying count, and catch up the next note true and steady as if no breaking place had come between.

Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the tune, and not be dismayed at the “rests.” They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we look up, God Himself will beat the time for us. With the eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear. If we sadly say to ourselves, “There is no music in a rest,” let us not forget “There is the making of music in it.” Making of music is often a slow and painful process in this life. How patiently God works to teach us! How long He waits for us to learn the lesson!

            I once heard a legend about the Apostle John. The legend tells how John the Beloved says that John had a pet partridge. He loved caring for this little bird, feeding it, pampering, and playing with it.  One day a hunter happened by the Apostle John’s home and saw the aged Saint with the bird. He was amazed. He stopped and asked John about why this man with so many ministry gifts, would waste so much time caring for this partridge. The Apostle asked the hunter if he always kept his wooden bow strung and bent, ready to be shot at any time. The hunter explained “No” because if he kept the wooden bow bent all the time, it would eventually become warped and useless as a bow. John told the hunter, “You unbend your bow to prevent it from becoming useless, so why should I not unbend my mind for the same reason?”  The point is we must have rest, or we will become useless just like a wooden bow that is never unbent will become warped and unusable.

                Lord, help us to unbend our bow. We are wayward like sheep, every lusting to wander, and ever looking for something more when you can satisfy us. You know what is best for us. Cause us to lay down and take our rest. Help us to be satisfied with you and with what you offer. Help us to follow you and hear your voice. In Jesus’ name.

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