January 3, 2016 • Life for Leaders
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Our psalm for today is one of the most beloved and familiar of all. For centuries, millions of people have read, meditated upon, and memorized Psalm 23, and for good reason. It captures, in relatively few evocative words, God’s care for us, care like that of an attentive shepherd for his sheep.
In this devotion, I would like to point out something that is so obvious it almost seems as if it needn’t be stated. Yet, I expect it is often overlooked. I know I never saw this truth in Psalm 23 until I began reading Scripture from the perspective of work.
So, here it is: Psalm 23 pictures God as a worker. I told you it was obvious, but, then again, maybe not so obvious. In ancient Israel, a shepherd did not watch sheep as a hobby or because he loved his sheep as pets. Rather, the shepherd was a worker, a hard worker, at that. Shepherding in the mode of ancient Israel was demanding, difficult work, for which the shepherd received little in the way of compensation or social status.
Why does it matter that Psalm 23 pictures God as a worker? Because, among other things, this raises up the importance of work. It reminds us that the first picture we see of God in Scripture is of God at work. Moreover, it underscores the fact that work, even common, difficult work, is at the heart of our calling as people created in the image of God the worker, God the shepherd.
The fact that Psalm 23 speaks of God as a working shepherd can help us to relate this psalm to our own work. Let me encourage you to read through the psalm, reflecting on what you read in light of your own work. There is so much good news here. The Lord is your shepherd who helps you rest, who restores you when you’re exhausted, who leads you in the right directions, who is with you so that you don’t have to be afraid, who comforts you and provides for your needs. Because God is the shepherd who is working on your behalf, goodness and mercy will fill your life.
Finally, no matter where you are, no matter what you’re facing at work, no matter how alone you might feel, the Lord is with you and you can be at home with him. Always.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How does it change your reading of Psalm 23 to think of God as working?
How have you experienced God as your shepherd?
How do you need God to be your shepherd right now in your work?
Gracious God, thank you for this beloved psalm. Thank you for its stirring picture of your care for us. Thank you for being our shepherd. Thank you for being my shepherd.
Thank you, as well, for being at work on my behalf. Thank you for doing in my life things shepherds do for their sheep: guiding, feeding, resting, protecting.
Help me, Lord, to live with the confidence that comes from knowing you are my shepherd. May I receive all the good gifts you have for me. May I follow you faithfully at all times, relying on you, enjoying your goodness and mercy. And, at the end of the day, may I dwell in your house my whole life long. Amen.
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.