Thoughts on Pastoral Ministry from Psalm 23:
Being Satisfied with Our Shepherd and Pleased with Our Pastor (Part 2 of 4)
by Doug Smith
Note: This article is adapted from a message delivered at the first graduation for the Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply (an extension of Bancroft Gospel Ministry in Kingsport, Tennessee), Phase 1 Training, on April 14, 2007.
Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (KJV)
1. We need to be satisfied our Shepherd’s PERSON. This refers to God’s character.
Verse one reveals Him as “the LORD.” When we see “LORD” in all capital letters in the Old Testament, this means that the Hebrew text (from which our English is translated) contains the most sacred name of God: Jehovah, or Yahweh. This is related to God’s self-disclosure as I AM THAT I AM to Moses in Exodus 3. It is a reminder of God’s self-existence; He needs nothing, because He has the power of life in Himself. He depends on nothing outside Himself for His being. God’s sacred name is also a reminder of His faithfulness. Jehovah, or Yahweh, is God’s covenant name. It is the name of the One who is faithful to remember and perform all His promises. The God who made the world by His Word has authority, responsibility, and ownership. He is the sovereign Lord. This God is the Shepherd spoken of here, and we need to learn of His character.
God’s character is revealed throughout the Psalm as our Provider, Corrector, Leader, and Protector. He is good and merciful. He is eternal, for his children have the promise of dwelling with Him forever. Men, we need to be students of God’s character.
Note the little word “my.” This makes a tremendous difference. It does not say “The LORD is a shepherd” or “the shepherd,” but my Shepherd. The word “my” indicates a personal relationship. The psalmist knew the shepherd personally. This is a good reminder to us as pastors that the Lord is not everyone’s shepherd not even all pastors. We would do well to heed Richard Baxter’s warning about ministers who do not know Christ and make sure that this does not describe us! In his book, The Reformed (which means in his title, revived) Pastor, “Many a tailor goes in rags, that maketh costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he hath dressed for others the most costly dishes.”
Who is this Shepherd we must know? Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11), the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20) and the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4). He is the One who laid down His life for His sheep disobedient, hell-deserving sheep who had gone astray but had their sin laid upon the Shepherd. He was the Lamb of God slain as a substitute for sinners, who rose from the dead, and commands us to repent of our sin and trust in Him, bidding us to come and follow Him.
Let us not be preachers who, as Baxter put it, “worship an unknown God,” “preach an unknown Christ,” “pray through an unknown Spirit,” “recommend a state of holiness and communion with God, and a glory and a happiness which are all unknown, and like to be unknown to them for ever.” What a horrible condition a condition that should make us tremble. Let us make sure we know this God personally and can say in truth, “The LORD is my Shepherd.”
We should also realize that God’s Person, or Name is supremely important to Him in how He shepherds us. Therefore, God’s glory, not our recognition, should be the goal of our pastoral ministry. His reputation is at stake in how He cares for us and how we care for His sheep. As we begin to look at how we should be satisfied not only with His person but His provision, let us not forget the reason He does what He does: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.