This morning in church we thought about Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leading his people along the route that they must travel in order to get to the heavenly fold. The route is called by David ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ because many spiritual dangers are found in it (Psalm 23:4). Yet it is not all darkness because we can only see a shadow if there is light. And the light is with us in the presence of the Shepherd, a reminder that his presence not only gives light but provides his followers with the ability to see the shadows cast by the enemy.
David was confident that he would eventually travel through the valley and reach the destination. Yet he was not self-confident even although he had great natural abilities. Instead his confidence was in the Shepherd who was leading him. Of course, each step along the valley brought him closer to heaven. He knew that if he followed the Shepherd step by step he would eventually reach home despite all the dangers lurking in the valley.
The Shepherd leads millions of people simultaneously through the valley. What can be said about his leading? We recognise that he leads us despite of who we are, sinful people who often take the eyes of our souls of him. At the same time, we realise that he leads us because of who we are – he is the Elder Brother who has the responsibility of leading all his brothers and sisters home to the family inheritance.
Oftentimes the sheep of Jesus imagine that they will not cope with all that the valley will throw at them. When that happens, it is good to remember that the Shepherd has a rod and a staff. The rod was similar to a club and was used by a shepherd to deal with wild animals or robbers who would attack his sheep. Jesus has a rod that only he can lift and use, and when he uses it he always does so effectively and deals with opponents of his people trying to disrupt their journey and to destroy them.
With his staff, which is like a crook, a shepherd counts his sheep ensuring all are present. He also uses the staff to nudge his sheep in certain directions. And with his crook, he picks up any who have fallen into a hole. We are glad to know that the Good Shepherd knows where all his sheep are, that he can nudge them by bringing biblical instructions to their minds, and that he can recover them from any falls they have had.
It is good to follow the Good Shepherd to the good land.