The Lord is my shepherd, but I still want. I want whatever my heart desires. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, but I spy grass that is greener on the other side of the fence. He leadeth me beside the still waters, but I know of still more exciting places where I’d love to drink my fill.
He restoreth my soul when I want to live life the way I see fit. He maketh me to walk in the paths of righteousness when I want to run in the open fields of the world—eating where I want, sleeping with whomever I want, living like the beast I am.
He leads me for His name’s sake, but I want to make a name for myself. I want others to envy me, to speak ill of me if they wish, but secretly to covet who I am and what I’ve done.
Oh the shepherd’s rod is restrictive and His staff is stifling to my animalistic heart! Come valleys of the shadow of death, come storm and wind, hail and rain, I shall not fear, for I know the lay of the land, I’ve been around the block, and I’m not sheepish about telling you so.
Such is our version of Psalm 23. So our untamed hearts sing. We don't want a Good Shepherd; we want a hireling, one who does not own us. We crave our freedoms: freedom to walk in unrighteousness paths if the end justifies the means; freedom to lie down in the Greens’ bed, or the Joneses’ bed, or whatever bed our lower appetites choose; freedom to pull the wool over men’s eyes, to twist every story to paint ourselves in the best light, to lie when we ought to confess, and to confess other men’s lies to make our own wool seem that much whiter than theirs.
We are all sheep going astray. Return to the shepherd and overseer of your souls. For the freedoms you crave are slaveries in disguise, chains that hell’s butchers cast around your neck to pull you under the slaughterhouse blade.
The Lord is your Shepherd, your Good Shepherd. And all He wants is you.
I who so often turn my back on the fold and its shepherd? Yes, you.
I who have cursed His staff, ignored His call, gone my own way? Yes, you.
I who have been more like a wolf than a sheep, angrily tearing away at those around me? Yes, the Good Shepherd wants only you.
Consider the heavens, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, which He has made. What is man, that He is mindful of him? All of us, that He cares for us? Yet for us, who are but dust of dust, He who is God of God came down, was beaten down, and beat down Satan under our feet. For us, who are the sheep that love to wander, the Lamb of God is bound to the altar in order to bind us to Himself. For us, whose mouths are open far too often, He did not open His mouth, like a Lamb that is led to the slaughter.
The hireling saw the wolf coming, left the sheep, and fled. But our David went after the wolf, attacked him, and rescued us from his jaws. When the lion of hell rose up against Him, our David seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him.
No, more than that. He rescued you, but not as the shepherd David did. He laid down His life for you. He laid down His body between you and the satanic wolf, between you and the lion of hell, and gave Himself over to be devoured. The beast of Hades licked up the blood of the slain shepherd, chewed His flesh, and gulped Him down.
But that which the beast wolfed down could not be digested in the tomb of his stomach. And when He who laid down His life took it back again, that tomb could not contain Him. The Good Shepherd vacated the stomach that had entombed Him, leaving behind Him a predator that you, O little flock, need fear no more.
Shall you fear the wolf of hell with his burst belly, his broken teeth, and his howls of his own defeat? Shall you fear what mere mortals think of you when God Himself calls you His child, His friend, His beloved? Shall you fear that your rebellious ways have separated you from God when He makes you bone of His bone and flesh and flesh?
Have no fear, little flock, for He who is known by the Father knows you, calls you by name, and has made you His own. He gives you eternal life. You shall never perish. No one will snatch you out of the hands of the shepherd whose hands were bound to the cross.
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord for by the humiliation of His Son, God raised up our fallen world. He raised you up from the pit into which you have fallen. He placed you upon His shoulders and rejoiced to carry you home. He washed you in cleansing waters, bound up that which was broken, and healed all your wounds. He prepared an altar before you and anointed your head with oil. His cup continually runs over—over your lips, over your sins, quenching your thirst while making you yearn for more.
All this He does for you. And because He is the Good Shepherd, you are His good sheep. He gives His life for you. He makes your life His own and His life your own. He became what you are in order to make you what He is.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you, shall precede you, shall be on your right and on your left, above you and below you, all the days of your life, and you shall dwell in the flock of the Lord forever.