New Living Translation

The Right Paths of the Shepherd

Article from the Swindoll Study Bible

If you could choose any shepherd for your life, who would you pick?

Most of us wouldn’t want a shepherd at all. We want to choose our own path, call our own shots, choose our own life’s partner . . . and then expect God to come along and bless us. Many of us live constantly under the threat of failure. Why? We are sheep—and sheep, by nature, fail. But being a sheep has an upside: When you have nothing to prove, you have nothing to lose. It’s the shepherd’s reputation and success that are at stake. And the good news is that the Lord, as our Shepherd, does not lose His sheep. He leads us on the right paths. Psalm 23 lists several ways God leads us.

First, He leads us to rest. He provides all the rest we need. He does this by leading us alongside still waters. If I relax myself under the control of His marvelous Spirit, my life will be a resting, obedient life. God has a wonderful way of taking us by the ears, slowing us down, showing us green pastures and quiet waters, and calming our anxious thoughts. He’s a master at that. He knows just how to do it.

Second, He leads us through discipline to restoration. Alas, there are stubborn sheep who are determined to go their own way. “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own” (Isa. 53:6). In a flock, some sheep are so stubborn that their shepherd has to break one of their legs to keep them from wandering off. Then he splints the leg and carries the sheep until it can walk. It learns to stay close and trust the shepherd to lead. God does something similar with us. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful!” (Heb. 12:11). But through the experience, God restores our souls. He changes our inward bent. He administers His rod as an instrument of His love. He does it to guide us in the right paths.

Third, He leads us through darkness. In springtime in the barren Judean Wilderness, the shepherd leads his sheep to areas of new grass. That journey is often treacherous, the path winding through deep ravines with unsure footing and gloomy shadows. The Christian life, too, is filled with pits and deep valleys as we journey toward the life God calls us to. In The Hiding Place, when Betsie ten Boom is dying, she utters to her sister Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” The Christian life includes deep shadows. But the sheep can walk with confidence, knowing that the Shepherd has not yet made His first mistake, and He never will.

Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16). He told His followers, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ, who died to pay the complete price for our sins on the cross, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He Himself is the right path. Is He your Shepherd? Do you know Him? Only you can answer.

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