Trusting Christ as Shepherd

December 19th 2023

Trusting Christ as Shepherd

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (Ps 23:1).

From Manger to Throne

As I write, we are all being carried along through another Christmas season. There is a bittersweetness to it as we remember our Savior; our Lord, being born humbly because of the Father’s love for us. Born into flesh from above. But this incarnation was the first stretch of the temple curtain—the first movement in God’s divine concert that would soon violently tear that curtain in two, as Christ himself was torn on the tree—all in love, and all to bring us into a right standing before a holy God. That too is Christmas, the bittersweetness of the cross. In fact, the joy of Christmas, the sufferings of the cross, and the hope of Easter are all wrapped together in that manger; something we cannot forget. And so too is this infant our Good Shepherd, taking on flesh to dwell among us for all those purposes.

And what did God do with this babe? This Son? This Shepherd? He “highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9–11).

Let’s now turn our attention to trusting Christ in one of his most powerful, yet humble, roles…that of our Good Shepherd. This will begin a series of articles exploring the attributes of Christlike shepherding and how we can model him to the world around us.

Oh, to be His Sheep!

We start by turning our attention to perhaps the most well-known chapter in all of Scripture, Psalm 23. As Spurgeon would call it, “the pearl of Psalms.”[1] It is here that we can capture the essential attributes of Christ as Shepherd. In verse one, David writes, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” On these words, Spurgeon would say, “Give me a spiritual hold on the divine assurance [of Psalm 23:1], and I am set for life. I cannot go broke with this stock in my hand. I can never be bankrupt with this security.”[2]

So true that is. As Christians, we have that assurance, that security. The Lord of Psalm 23 is YHWH, which literally means “I am who I say I am,” which we see in Exodus 3, as God communicates to Moses. This is Jehovah, or “the existing One.” The fullness of God, the fullness of the Trinity. The attributes of shepherding are found throughout the Godhead. But taking on flesh, we see Christ Jesus manifesting these attributes in profoundly remarkable ways, and frankly, Jesus owns the identity again and again.

In John 10:11, Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And again, in verses 14–15, that “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The writer of Hebrews identifies Christ as “the great shepherd of the sheep” (Heb 13:20), a moniker that continues into Revelation as we see the beauty of our Shepherd reigning—"For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:17).

Oh, to be his sheep! Psalm 100:3 tells us that “we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” As believers, we are fundamentally his sheep. In that, we should be a portrait of humility and submission…something our cultural leaders don’t understand. Today, as in Old and New Testament times, the culture diminishes and even destroys attributes of humility and submission. You don’t have to look far to see this is true! This should humble us, reminding us of our dependance on him alone to lead, feed, guard, heal, and be near. Keep this in mind…all earthly shepherds have a greater Shepherd, a truth we’ll explore in the future as we look at these attributes.

Weak Trust in a Strong Shepherd

H.A. Ironside once recounted someone saying, “I believe Psalm 23 is the most loved Psalm of them all, and yet it is the one least believed.”[3] Is this us? Can we see Christ as Shepherd and yet not believe such promises of his character? Sadly, yes. It can be us. It is us!

As we move through Psalm 23, we are going to see the attributes of a strong Shepherd, but we must humbly admit, with each step, that we are weak in our trust. As this Shepherd leads, do we trust him with where he takes us, or asks us to go? As he feeds us (or teaches us his Word), do we trust the power and truth of his Word? Under his protection, are we comforted in seeing him as sovereign and trustworthy, even in hardship? And perhaps, as a centerpiece question, do we really consider him able to restore and rescue our very soul (Ps 23:3)?

The truth is that we all fall short of perfect trust. Our weakness here is profound! We can all cry out with the man in Mark 9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” This is not a point of confusion; it is a reality that we can believe, we can know, but still see the weakness and frailty of that belief. And humbly, we should.

Brother or sister, be quick to confess unbelief and the ever-present weakness of your belief. Abiding in Christ. Dwelling in Christ. This is the foundation for strengthening your trust in a Shepherd who knows you and loves you. Engage with the Word of God (Deut 6:4–9, Ps 1:1–3, Heb 4:12). Commune with God in prayer (Rom 8:26–27, Eph 6:18, James 5:16, 1 Jn 1:9). Participate in the body of Christ (Rom 12:4–5, Heb 10:24–25). Pursuing an obedience to be in the Word, in prayer, and with God’s people. These are the means of grace we are afforded, to grow in sanctification and trust. Believer, echoing the words of the Apostle Paul, this is my prayer for you this Christmas: “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—” (Eph 3:16–17).

[1] Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Vol 1a: Psalm 1-26 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1968), 353. [2] Charles Spurgeon, Beside Still Waters (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1999), 60. [3] H.A. Ironside, Studies on Book One of the Psalms (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1952), 148.

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Author: David Mataya

David serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is a trained biblical counselor (CCEF @ Westminster Theological Seminary) and oversees counseling and small group ministries at Redeemer. David has served in a variety of ministries in previous churches, as well as having an earlier career in technology. He and his wife, Colleen are now empty nesters with two adult children, Morgan, Riley, daughter-in-law Bailey and grandson Owen.