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Tuesday, October 11, 2016
My shepherd will supply my need;
Jehovah is his name.
In pastures fresh he makes me feed,
beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
when I forsake his ways
and leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
in paths of truth and grace.
When I walk through the shades of death
your presence is my stay;
one word of supporting breath
drives all my fears away.
Your hand, in sight of all my foes,
does still my table spread;
my cup with blessings overflows;
your oil anoints my head.
Isaac Watts’s “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” (tune: Resignation)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” or in the words of this hymn by Isaac Watts, “My shepherd will supply my need.” As a child, I would stare at a print of Jesus holding a lamb in his arms, and I would think, “That little lamb must know he is loved. I mean, how lucky could you get to have Jesus as your shepherd?”
These images imply to me that the sheep knows and appreciates all that the shepherd does for it. But really, am I giving the sheep more credit than it is due? Sheep are simply wired with a strong instinct to follow the herd. They become very agitated if separated. A shepherd need only guide one and the rest will follow. This is not a relationship where the sheep experiences love and gratitude; it is just a system that works. Sheep are creatures that instinctively know two things: stay with the pack and run from perceived danger. The trouble with this is that they perceive everything as danger! They do not do well without a shepherd.
The psalmist doesn’t write of the sheep’s desire to be led and nurtured by the shepherd, just that the shepherd provides for it. Our needing God is not the reason God is there for us—God simply is. Like the shepherd leading the herd, it is a system that works. I am the sheep in this psalm—a fearful, fleeing creature that sometimes cannot even recognize the life-saving protection of my Shepherd.
Dear God, the system is in place. You protect me. Thank you for the beauty of your Word. Help me see the message and rest in your protection. Amen.
Written by Katy Sinclair, Associate Director of Music for Children and Youth
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