May 21, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture: Psalm 23:1-2 (NRSV)
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.
I need to remember that the same God who spoke the Milky Way into existence is the God who is my shepherd, who cares about me personally and who actually works for my benefit. This glorious God is also your shepherd, the one who is with you in the darkest valley, who protects you and provides for you. Now that is truly a wonder, don’t you think?
When I speak or write about faith and work, I often start with the biblical image of God as a worker. We find this image at “the beginning” in Genesis. The biblical creation accounts portray God as a master worker. God created the heavens, the earth, and all that they contain. After making everything “very good,” God “rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done” (Genesis 2:2). (If you’re interested in the De Pree Center resources on work, you can find more info here. Note especially the extraordinary COVID-19 “deal” on Fuller Formation digital resources—free through the end of June!)
Psalm 23 also pictures God as a worker—a particular kind of worker, a shepherd. As a shepherd, the Lord provides food and rest (23:1); leads graciously and wisely (23:2-3); protects and comforts (23:4); honors and lavishes (23:5); and gives good things to those entrusted to his care (23:6). As the Theology of Work commentary on this passage observes, “Psalm 23 is first of all an accurate representation of the shepherd’s work.” God the good shepherd is actively working to care for us and to help us flourish in life.
Psalm 23 offers a marvelous complement to Genesis. In the creation narrative, God is the all-powerful worker, the maker of everything that exists. By implication, God is giant and awesome. But in Psalm 23 God’s work is intimate, personal, and tender. God is not just “the shepherd” but “my shepherd,” the God who cares for us, not from afar, but from right here with us (Psalm 23:4).
When I think about God’s work, I tend to think big. I think of the vast stretch of the universe. I think of God’s majestic sovereignty over all history. That’s just where my mind tends to go. Now, I’m not wrong to think in these grand ways, not at all. Sometimes we make God way too small. But I need to remember that the same God who spoke the Milky Way into existence is the God who is my shepherd, who cares about me personally and who actually works for my benefit. This glorious God is also your shepherd who is with you in the darkest valley, who protects you and provides for you.
Now that is truly a wonder, don’t you think?
Do you think of God as a worker? If so, what kind of work do you envision God doing?
Have you ever experienced God as being your shepherd in a personal way? When? What happened? How did you respond?
In what ways would you like God to be your shepherd today? What do you need God to do for you?
Talk with your small group or with a Christian friend about your experiences of God as your shepherd.
O Lord, you are not just a shepherd or the shepherd, but my shepherd. You care for me in a personal, intimate way. You know my needs and provide for me so graciously. Thank you.
Lord, in these days it seems like the whole earth is walking through the darkest valley, through what older translations called “the valley of the shadow of death.” I know I’m in that valley as I try to survive the threat of the coronavirus physically, socially, and economically. How reassuring to know that you are with me, that you are protecting and comforting me.
Of course I don’t know exactly where my life will or how it will end. But I do know this: your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. Thank you! And when my physical life is over, I will dwell in your house forever. Thank you for your wonderful provision and promise, my Shepherd! Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God’s Presence in our Struggles at Work (Psalm 23)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.