Our Father is Our Shepherd
Some of the best-known verses in the Bible speak of God as Shepherd and as Father: in Psalm 23:1, the Lord is our Shepherd; in Matthew 6:9, God is our Father. We believers often see God, speak of him, and address him as Father. We often draw many comparisons between earthly fathers and heavenly fathers. Despite some of our fathers being great men, we know they still fall short of the Fatherhood of our God. But how often do we think of our relationship to our Father as our Shepherd? This thought has been in my meditations recently and the realization has been very encouraging.
When I think of my earthly father, I remember him as someone who deeply influenced who I am, who nurtured me, whom I feared, loved, respected and obeyed. I learned from him a lot, imitating him in some areas, while not acting like him in others. As I grew older, I became more independent of him. While I still love and respect him today, our relationship is quite different from when I was five or fifteen. In many aspects, he now listens to me, loves me and respects me in ways he did not when I was just a kid. Many aspects of our father-son relationship have taken other shapes.
Such is not the case in my relationship with my heavenly Father. He still nurtures me every day. I can never outgrow my fear of him and love for him. The more I know him, the more I respect him and desire to obey him. As a matter of fact, unlike my relationship with my earthly father, I can never become independent of my heavenly Father. The older I grow, the more I realize my need for daily dependence on his sovereign grace to sustain me and guide me in my life. I can never have more knowledge than he does, nor ever attain the measure of wisdom he has had since before the foundation of the world.
On the other hand, God does not act like a human father would. He never tires nor ages. He does not give wrong counsel nor does he chastise with irrational anger. He gives good gifts to his children and rejoices as they use them for his glory. He deals tenderly with those he adopts, having shown his great love for them through Christ’s atoning sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross.
Our Father also shows his tender care quite tangibly in shepherding his flock. While human children eventually outgrow their human father’s direct nurture, care and supervision, a sheep never does so. In fact, if a sheep leaves the shepherd’s care, it immediately goes astray, is lost, and enters into unsafe territory. Regardless of how old a sheep is, it always needs to be cared for by its shepherd. A sheep remains safe in the confines of its shepherd and under his authority.
Such is my relationship with my Shepherd. The Lord is my Shepherd, therefore I shall never be in want. I will never lack green pastures nor still waters. He will always direct me in the right path, restoring my soul for his name’s sake. No shadow of death shall hurt me regardless of the number of my days, as he perpetually grants me comfort and peace. He bountifully abounds his steadfast love and providence to me with goodness and mercy while I am in the land of the living until he calls me to live with him eternally.
I am learning that the more I grow as a sheep, the more I depend on my Shepherd. The more I grow in days, the more I desire to be like my Savior. The more I know the Lord, the more I give thanks for his constant care for me as a sheep. The more I meditate on his attribute as a Shepherd and his jealousy for his own flock, the more I understand his saying in Jeremiah 31:3: I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. This faithfulness depends on his unchanging character: he is our loving Father and our good Shepherd. He protects the house from the thief and the sheepfold from the robber. He gives abundant life which no one can snatch away from his children. In fact, no one can snatch the sheep out of his hand. He is faithful to this promise.