Failing Bodies and Truth for Shepherds and Sheep
This short blog: Failing Bodies and Truth for Shepherds and Sheep addresses an issue that is here to stay until Christ returns. I was at the nursing home today. There were many people with failing bodies including the brain. How would I minister to them? What truth did they need first and most? The question is easy in and of itself. But it has far reaching ramifications for God’s people and the residents. How is the Church and individuals believers going to get victory In this problem?
God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) and the truth – a Person – sets you free (John 8:31-32). Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). But I asked myself: what was the best way to reach them? How would I spell freedom? What truth would be most beneficial? All of God’s Word is conducive to bringing blessings. But how about this group and in what format?
We sang and we prayed. Song and music are commanded and are a privilege. They have been used to strengthen and comfort the troubled. David used it quite well as did Elisha (1 Samuel 16:16,23; see 2 Kings 3:15). I picked Psalm 23 and presented to them the Lord Who is the Shepherd of the sheep. He is the believer’s Shepherd, their Shepherd is they were believers.
You may know the psalm. It opens in verse 1: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want (lacking anything) and closes in verse 6: Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The psalm was written by David emphasizing joyful trust in the Lord Who in the Psalm is presented as Shepherd-King. Times had not been easy for David as Psalms 1-41 attest. David is the author of all the Psalms in book I except Psalms 1-2. Although God’s man and agent, David was on the run. Confrontation and conflict are the themes of book I. Yet David had learned joyful trust. In contrast to happiness which looks at happenings, joy is God-dependent and God-focused and looks at the God of circumstances and what He is doing.
Palestine was a country noted for its sheep and shepherds. David was shepherd as a young man; he was familiar with the function of the shepherd and sheep. The psalm depicts two groups of people: shepherds and sheep. The shepherd-sheep motif was a widely used metaphor for kings in the Near East and Israel. It was a familiar term. It conveyed work and care by the shepherd because sheep wandered and were easily (mis)-led here and there. The sheep had a hard time fending for themselves. Left to their own resources, they would head off in the wrong direction and die for lack of resources out of the sight of the watchful eye of the shepherd.
David stated that the Lord was his shepherd. He recognized two facts: he was not God but a sheep and God was the True Shepherd. The word Lord in v.1 is the name Yahweh. It is used some 6000 times in the Old Testament. It is a self-revelation of Who God is and what He does. The term emphasizes God’s unchangeableness especially in the area of promise making and promise keeping. David’s Shepherd was his Rock Who protected and provided safety for David and other sheep. David knew that he would never be out of the watchful eye of his Shepherd.
As a result of David’s knew and experienced Who God was – the Shepherd King – and what He did – He made and kept promises. David ended the psalm with the assurance that God was ever-present and was faithful to His promises. We recognize that faithfulness in the sending of His Son, forming a union with His people by putting them in Christ, and providing the Holy Spirit. David was motivated to think and desire differently about himself and God. He closes the psalm looking forward to being in the presence of God forever. He had tasted God’s goodness (Psalm 34:8) – a growing, intimate union and fellowship with God in Christ. He looked forward to being in God’s eternal presence.
What do the above truths have to do with these people and anyone with failing bodies including the brain? As I watched the people you could see eye and head movements when they heard certain words such as Jesus, King, rest, comfort, and care. Eternity is bound up in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11)). The moral law is written on every heart and there is a sense (of moral consciousness and God’s presence in every heart (Romans 1:18-23; 2:14-15). When truth is given and the heart has been changed by the Holy Spirit people react. God tells us that His truth/Word never goes out without fulfilling God’s purpose – it never returns to Him void – it always accomplishes God’s purpose (Isaiah 55:10). I doubt that progressive sanctification is suspended because of body and brain problems. My plea is that churches and believers will discover ways to minister God’s truth via the Word to all people – including those with failing bodies!
1. Set your thoughts on sheep farming. Consider the shepherd who leads and guides his sheep always moving them in the right direction. They are totally dependent on him.
2. Read Isaiah 40:10-11 and John 10:1-18. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. What did Jesus do as the Good Shepherd? See John 10:11-14.
3. As the Good Shepherd, Christ does what?
4. What significance does that fact have for you?