The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. (Psalms 23:1-3 NIV)
This is undoubtedly the most famous psalm. The analogy of the LORD being our shepherd was taken up by the Jesus in John chapter 10. When He said, “I am the shepherd of the sheep”, He was declaring Himself to be the LORD God. It is an analogy upon which many a book has been written. In this short devotional we can only touch upon a few of the points.
Sheep are dumb stinky creatures. I hope you don’t feel offended, but I can say that because I am one. Without a shepherd to watch over and guide them, they would be easy prey for predators. They can’t seem to find pasture for themselves, and when they try to, they often end up in precarious situations from which they need to be rescued.
The Eternal God is our shepherd. Could it be any better? When you realize just how needy we are as sheep, it is a very comforting thought to know the Almighty God is our shepherd. We will never have a need He will not meet. He will guide us to places rich in pasture so that we will have plenty to nourish our souls. He will guide us to places of rest with plenty to eat and drink. And when we are discouraged and feel as if everything is against us, He restores our very soul. He lifts us out of the pit of despair and encourages us with the loving smile from His face.
And why does He do all this for these stinky dumb sheep? It is all for His name’s sake. His name is the sum of His marvelous attributes. Would He be good, merciful, gracious, just, loving, holy, and righteous if He just let such dumb creatures as us wander to our doom? To show the excellence of His character, the greatness of His heart, He is our shepherd. You could not find another that comes close in comparison. Why would you try to wander off, going your own way, when you realize your condition and the wonderful offer to us from the LORD, to be our shepherd? Follow closely and the promises in this psalm will be yours.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NIV)
Paul returns to one of the main reasons for writing this letter, quarrels and divisions. He told the Corinthians that when they take sides on issues and set themselves against one another that they are acting like the world and not like Christians. Jesus’ command was that we love one another. That does not mean that we never correct or instruct, in fact, that may be the hardest expression of love.
This church had formed a number of factions based on who they admired most as a teacher. It is not an evil thing to admire one teacher over another, but they had taken it another step and formed opposing groups that quarreled over which speaker was best. We have the same thing today with denominations. The fact that one group prefers Wesley’s teaching over Calvin’s or Luther’s is not bad. It is when we divide up the church into arguing factions that we are acting like the world. It can happen within an individual church. One group starts preferring one teacher over the preacher, or the preacher over an old timer who has kept the church going though tough times in the past.
Paul brings them back to the central issue. The leaders are merely servants. We all play a part, but it is God that makes things happen. We are nothing in and of ourselves. Any good you see in man is the presence of the Savior. Let us all focus on Him and His command to love one another. Without Him, the teacher, the preacher, the old faithful deacon and elder are nothing. Refuse quarreling and insist on loving. Give and receive correction in love. We can all learn from one another. Consider others better than yourself. Politics and factions have no place in the church of Jesus Christ. Leave that treachery to the world. If we cannot love one another, we need to examine our relationship with Jesus Christ.
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