He was a big man with the physical shape of Santa Claus which included quite a large waist line. He spoke with authority and was a Hebrew scholar who taught at a Lutheran seminary in Ohio, For some reason he was in Birmingham, Alabama. It just so happened that he had time to meet with the local Lutheran pastors there for a bible study on Psalm 23. I still remember some of his key points which he taught from this psalm which focus on the words shepherd, lie down, and follow me.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The Hebrew word for shepherd is derived from the Hebrew word for military commander. This gives us the image of the Lord who is strong and brave and who will protect us as we face the struggles and evils in this world. The Lord fights on our side. Saint Paul wrote in Romans 8, “If God is for us, who is against us?”
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” The Hebrew word for lie down is one of complete rest and peace, It makes us think of a baby sleeping peacefully on his back with outstretched legs and arms with not a care in this world. In the fourth century Saint Augustine said our souls are restless until they rest in Thee. It is the Lord who gives us the peace which the world cannot give.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” The Hebrew word for follow me really means to run after or chase after. So it is the Lord who does not lazily walk behind us. It is the Lord who loves us so much and who wants to shower us with goodness and mercy that He runs after us, embraces us, and won’t let us go. This image of running after someone reminds me of Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son where the loving and forgiving father runs out to greet and embrace his long lost son. So, too, the Lord runs out to us to give us his love.
In today’s gospel reading from John 10, Jesus said that we are his sheep who hear his voice and follow him. Therefore we will never perish and no one will be able to snatch us out of the hand of Jesus our Shepherd. What peace and assurance we have believing that Jesus is our Good Shepherd!
Even after all of these years, the teachings from that seminary professor on Psalm 23 have remained with me, They are implanted on my mind and heart and speak boldly of the gospel.
Thank God for that.