I fear that many of us, when we consider the 23rd Psalm, believe that the Christian life is depicted only as a lovely pastoral landscape – featuring a flock of gentle, white, woolly sheep grazing contentedly in a lush green pasture, or resting beside a bubbling stream, while the fluffy clouds float by in a beautiful blue sky. In this idyllic painting there are no fearful storms, no harsh changes of weather, no ravenous wolves, no lurking thieves, and no apparent dangers. Unfortunately, this is not a true depiction of the Christian life. Even under the care of the Shepherd, there will be storms, harsh weather, ravenous wolves, thieves, and a thousand other dangers. This is exactly why we need to stay on the heels of the Shepherd in “the paths of righteousness.”
The life of a flock of sheep was an active life. The shepherd could not leave them forever in one green pasture. He would have to lead them down the right paths to the next place of safety and nourishment. Even so, the Lord our Shepherd will lead us day by day in the paths of righteousness. We cannot spend our lives lying around in the pasture; we have to get up, follow Christ, and do the will of God. We have lives to live. The only safe and happy place for the child of God is on the heels of the Good Shepherd.
Sheep could not be kept year-round in one location. The wise shepherd would cycle his flock through several different pastures throughout the year. For one thing, the flock had to be moved seasonally. In the lovely Spring weather, the sheep would be lead out into the pastures closest to the fold, where they could be brought back in if the weather changed. In the summer time, they might be taken to high meadows, where the weather would be cooler, but which would be under snow when winter came. In the Fall they would be brought back down into the lower pastures. In the harsh Winter season, they would be brought into the fold.
The seasons change for the child of God as well. The Springtime of youth gives way to the Summer of adulthood, the Fall of later years and the Winter of old age – yet the Good Shepherd will faithfully lead us forward and care for us through all the seasons of life.
We cannot stay children forever, or teenagers, or young adults. Life stops for no man. Every year brings a new birthday. Ignore it if you want to, but it is reality. We have to move forward, but we must stay on the heels of the Shepherd. There are so many dangers when the seasons of life change! So many wander during the transition times of life!
As you go from childhood to the teen years, draw nigh to God. The teenage years can be very difficult, with all of their changes. Many a happy, joyful child, who loved God and His church, has transformed into a morose, worldly, rebellious teenager, far from the Shepherd. It need not be so. The Shepherd will lead you through the twisting paths of the teenage years.
As you go through the teen years into young adulthood, draw nigh to the Shepherd. Again, here lies a great danger. Many teenage commitments are forgotten once the young adult is out of the house, in college or the military, and no longer under the authority of his parents or the pastor of his youth. Perhaps the greatest “falling away” is found among Christians in their early twenties, who have gotten preoccupied with other things and lost sight of the Shepherd they followed in their teenage days.
As you go enter into family life and children, bring your little lambs to His care. You will be busy with your career. You will be perhaps purchasing your first house. You will be trying to get established. But do not let this seasonal change cause you to wander down the wrong path away from the Lord your Shepherd. Build your family on Bible principles. Make Christ the center of your home.
As you enter the middle season of life, and your children become teenagers themselves, the Shepherd will still lead you in the paths of righteousness. How much wisdom do parents need in those years! Sadly, many go astray. The old rules that seemed so right when the children were four or five do not seem so important when those same children are fourteen or fifteen. Well, if it was right then it is right now. Too many parents let rebellious teenagers take the whole family down the wrong path. Stay in the paths of righteousness.
The Good Shepherd will be there when you reach what the world calls “the mid-life crisis.” This time frame has been described as being almost like being a teenager all over again – questioning everything we believe, everything we are, everything we do, wondering about ourselves, our lives, our purpose, and our future. In times like that, the Shepherd still moves unchanging down the paths of righteousness.
And as you enter the cold, harsh wintery years of old age, be comforted by the fact that the Good Shepherd will not leave you at the end. He will see you through, all the way through, to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
(Excerpted from THOU ART WITH ME by Dr. James Rasbeary. To download this book in it’s entirety, click on the title).