At Thanksgiving, we pause to become pensive and collect our thoughts about the year. Even if the year has been less than stellar, we can somehow find a way to be thankful about something at Thanksgiving.
Last week during my devotion time, I thought about the 23rd Psalm and how David ascribed the tenets of a shepherd to the character of the Creator. He says “The Lord is my shepherd” and as he received shepherding from YHWH, he detailed what He does for him like David did the sheep in his care. These were no ordinary sheep as nearly all the sheep in Bethlehem were set aside for sacrifice in the temple. He knew that this flock needed special care. He knew that too needed special care and that it took an even more special shepherd to provide it.
He knew that feast days called for unblemished sacrifices. Attention to detail was the standard, and this was no menial task he was assigned to. He was entrusted with overseeing the flock the people used in service to God. It may be a stretch to call him a “black sheep”, but he did say that he was a stranger in his own house (Psalm 69:8). It was thought that David was the product of adultery, so he was regularly mistreated as a pariah within the ranks of Jesse’s heirs. He was of Jesse’s house but of no consideration. This they proved when Samuel came to anoint Israel’s next king. He had to ask Jesse, are these all your sons?
To them, David was a forgettable, regrettable mistake, but in truth, he was the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8). In this psalm of praise, David exclaims that the Lord most high is his shepherd, protector, and patron. When forsaken by his own family, he knew that the Lord would avenge every wrong done against him and entrusted his life and soul into the Lord’s care.
He became acclimated to the proclivities of sheep and knew that they were smarter than they get credit for. They are so smart that some sheep had a sole advocate in a shepherd. If they were not careful. some sheep would find themselves outsmarted and without nourishment. Other sheep disregarded sick sheep and, since they constantly graze, they would have very little to feed on once they recovered. This is why the shepherd would set aside a meal for the injured or sick sheep. In their own strength, they would drink only from still waters. They would otherwise be carried away from a flowing stream. In the instance that the meal was prepared, the water provided was in abundance hence, his cup runneth over. This speaks to the superabundance of God’s grace in our lives. A grace that always makes room for more than what is desired.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Of course, the other sheep had to watch this sheep get special treatment as they dined on what would otherwise be consumed by their voracious counterparts. In short, the Lord does for him what he does for the sheep in his care. He guides them with a rod and staff. He anoints their heads with oil so that parasitic insects don’t burrow into their fur, dine on them, and ultimately destroy them.
He has seen sheep in their worst state and thanks God for protecting his sheep as he could protect the sheep in his care. I’ve been writing the second edition of one of my books and as I learned more about shepherding, I got stuck on Psalm 23:5. This led me to write my psalm of praise as I reflected on my life. You know, it’s so easy to feel rushed to do anything. It’s so hard to compare yourself to others and even get despondent about your journey. It’s so easy to feel uncovered and uncared for in this cruel world.
As I reflected on the verse, I found myself thanking God for preserving my portion! I thanked God that no misstep, detour, disobedience, sabotage, or betrayal was a match for the Lord, my shepherd! In fact, He preserved my portion and held back my “enemies” who then had to watch me dine! Now that’s some real shepherding!
This Thanksgiving lesson is two-fold. The Lord showed me that He will always make a way for me and that He’s showing my enemies that nothing they do or throw my way will prevent me from partaking in the portion He has prepared for me! Over the years, I’ve learned that some enemies in my life aren’t human. They’re imposter syndrome, low self-esteem, doubt, faithlessness, condemnation, fear, and a bevy of other demonic and natural forces working against me. None of them are a match for the shepherd who will leave the 99 covered to retrieve the sheep who have lost their way.
Nothing’s missing, nothing is lacking. As one translation puts it, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.” Reflecting on this lesson, I’ll say it this way, “The Lord is my shepherd, I will have everything I need and will possess every blessing assigned to my life.” Why blessings? Don’t you know that what the Lord provides as shepherd is more than we could ever do for ourselves? When we rely on Him, we release ourselves to His blessings, His way! I would never reduce my reliance on God to only demanding blessings. Job refuted his wife’s demand that he curse God and die with this, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Paul told the church at Thessalonica “in everything give thanks” not necessarily for everything. So whether I feel fulfilled or forsaken, I’ve found a way to be thankful! I’ve learned to be content no matter the state of my life. This year has been hard for business but it has also been one of the best. I’ve learned lessons about myself that have strengthened my trust in God and also showed me when I’ve missed his provisions. He was making ways I couldn’t see nor understand but I’m thankful that I learned more about the shepherd I trust with my life and my soul.
As the songwriter penned, “I trust in God wherever I may be. Out on the land or on the sea. Come what may from day to day, my Heavenly father watches over me.” I could be fearful about my future. I could fret about my past. But I shall do neither because I trust in the God. I trust that He is the good shepherd, I believe in Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep. The Lord is my shepherd, and at the appointed time, I shall have my portion prepared for me!
What a lesson! As I reflect on what I’m thankful for this year, I’m thankful to the Lord that He has preserved my portion! It didn’t spoil, it won’t spoil, but it remains as fresh as the day I was chosen for it! There’s so much to be thankful for, this is just one of millions! I will spend the remainder of my life giving thanks to God for what He has done for me!
If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet made the Lord shepherd of your soul, I’m willing to pray with you to guide you through that. If you want to learn more about this shepherding or have questions, I’m open to talk. Simply email me and let’s talk!