IS THE LORD YOUR SHEPHERD?
PSALM 78: 70 -72
I woke up this morning and turned my Bible to Psalms 78. It was a place I had written in the margins quite a bit. I read:
“He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him to shepherd Jacob His people and Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart and guided them with his skillful hands.
I had written 16 years ago, in 1998, Good Shepherd, Help me follow closely. Who on earth is a shepherd to me?
I meditated on those words and my mind went back to the evening before. Bill and I had gone to a meeting at church to vote on a pastoral candidate for our church. We had been without a pastor for 2 years. The vote was a 250 to 10 vote. Yes, we are calling a new shepherd for the flock. There was loud music playing, people jumping up and down, literally dancing…celebrating. I said to my friend next to me. “Looks like people need a shepherd.’
I was curious about my own quietness. I was clapping, but…
Of course, we do long for a leader with skin on. Be it a husband, a boss, or a pastor. Someone we can touch, a face to look into, someone who knows our name, who looks for the wounds and anoints them with oil. Someone who will sit around the table and fellowships with us.
In The Old Testament is the story of the Israelites longing for a king they can see. God chose leaders, men like Moses, and David. Men who were shepherds and were thrust into a huge job of leading a nation… Good men …. and they failed and things did not end so well.
Our shepherds do fail us. Have you experienced church pain yet? How many of you have church pain as part of your personal story? I have experienced great pain at betrayal of men I have loved and served under.
Bill and I have sat under 6 pastors in the past 50 years. 4 were moral failures: pedophiles, and adulterers. That is enough to make us walk away from the church.
But God has a bigger story of redemption than what happens in some local churches. He has said that:
Psalm 27: 9 -10
“Do not abandon me or forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.”
When spiritual leaders fail, we can believe God will take us up and we can say and believe:
The Lord is my Shepherd: We can turn our eyes to Jesus when others fail us
I shall not want: He is more than enough
He makes me lie down in green pastures. Eat and rest in a quiet safe place
He leads me beside the quiet waters. Still waters are safe and refreshing.
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou are with me.
Thy rod and Thy staff. they comfort me.
Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
Thou has anointed my head with oil:
My cup overflows…my cup is not empty. I am not a beggar going around, saying “fill my cup, fill my cup. Love me more, be nice to me, validate me, and affirm me. “ I am not dependent on others.
I am interdependent with others. We need each other. We enjoy each other, but my dependence is on the One who poured out His blood and we are asked to remember that.
Remember our dependence is on the Lord, Interdependent with others: no independence allowed.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Now that is assurance.
I am reminded that the Lord uses the disappointments of life to draw us to Him. In our search for someone to come through for us: mother, father, husband, wife, children, pastor or friend, we will never be fully satisfied. Because, He wants to be the One we trust. He is a jealous God.
And when we fully depend on Him, we can be interdependent on others. We can work together with fallen people like ourselves, those who disappoint us. We can find the resources in Him to overcome bitterness, anger, and contempt. And then love from a broken heart.
As I go back in my mind to the celebratory scene at our church, I can now thank God for His presence through many seasons of church pain. He drew me to Himself and taught me not to depend on people. But rather love them. So as I think about a new pastor coming, I want to help him be the best pastor he can be.
And then as I go back to the Psalm I started with, Psalm 78, and I read again
“So he (David) shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart and guided them with his skillful hands. “ I had written there in 2005 Make me to be like this shepherd.
Heavenly Father, We know the pain of failed leadership and can’t change that. It is out of that pain we come to you with open hearts to ask you to grow us into those who lead with integrity. Forgive the ways each of us has failed. My silence, my fear, my nice girl relational style…. Restore us O great Shepherd, the Lord of Hosts, and cause thy face to shine upon us. Amen