THE GREAT I AM

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD

When David wrote ‘the LORD is my Shepherd’ he used God’s personal, self-identifying name ‘I AM’ which he revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Jehovah/Yahweh is my Shepherd.

We are so familiar with this ‘the LORD is my Shepherd’ that it is easy for us to miss the immensity of it.

The LORD – the self-existent One, the eternal One, the ever-present One, the all sufficient One – is my Shepherd. Here in this statement the Eternal connects personally with those who are locked in time. Here in this statement the Infinite connects with those who are limited by physical space. Here the Omnipotent connects with the powerless. Here the Almighty connects with the weak. This same God, who under this name, ‘I AM’, did that mighty, unparalleled, physical work of redeeming the Israelites from Egypt, is revealed here to be also my Shepherd.

This all-powerful Shepherd is the One who takes the responsibility for my well-being. It is no wonder that David’s Psalm is full of confidence – ‘I shall not be in want … I will fear no evil …surely goodness and mercy will follow me … I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever’. This confidence is not based in David’s own piety or righteousness. Nor is his confidence based on any denial or ignorance of the stark and sordid realities of human life and human sinfulness. Rather it is grounded in his knowledge of his Shepherd. Because his Shepherd is the LORD this joyful, peaceful assurance and security is possible irrespective of one’s situation. Indeed, it is more than possible. It is the only valid option with such a God as our Shepherd.

When we move from Psalm 23 to the New Testament we find there some additional information that is present, but hidden, in Psalm 23. In John 10 Jesus teaches us that he is good Shepherd. In a revealing statement he says ‘I am the good shepherd’ [10:11,14]. In this he identifies himself firstly with the ‘I AM’ of Exodus 3:14, and secondly with the divine ‘Shepherd’ concept of Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34.

When Jesus describes what he as ‘the good shepherd’ is and does he states:

That he lays down his life for the sheep.
That, in contrast to hired ‘shepherds’, he does not abandon his sheep to danger, because, unlike them, he cares for the sheep.
He knows his sheep.
He gives his sheep eternal life.
His sheep will never perish.
No one can snatch his sheep out of his hand.

Jesus based all of this on the fact that he and the Father are one [John 10:30]. We are in the hand of the Son: we are in the hand of the Father. The Father is the Shepherd: the Son is the Shepherd. The Father is the I AM: the Son is the I AM.  

Our Shepherd is not only more powerful than we can ever imagine and has more authority than we can ever imagine; he is also more understanding, more compassionate, more loving than we will ever realize.

Paul endeavoured to express the overwhelming greatness of this power and this love in Romans 8. Having acknowledged the ever-present reality of human agony in verses 17 to 27, Paul then confidently affirms that there is no power or authority greater than the power and authority of God, and therefore nothing in the entire universe, seen or unseen, that has either power and authority to undo our salvation and to separate us from the love of God manifested, demonstrated and affirmed in Jesus Christ our Lord.

This powerful Shepherd, in whose hand we rest, in who hand we trust, has done everything necessary to save us and to keep us saved.

In him every spiritual blessing is already ours [Ephesians 1:3], and we are ‘complete in him’ [Colossians 2:10], therefore we can say ‘I shall not be in want’.

In him we have already crossed over from death to life, and even now have eternal life [John 5:24], therefore we can say ‘he restores my soul’.

In him we have a redemption and forgiveness as unlimited and as immeasurable as his grace that has been lavished upon us [Ephesians 1:7; 2:7], therefore we can say ‘my cup overflows’.

In him we have been delivered from Satan, the ultimate and powerful enemy [Colossians 1:13, Hebrews 2:14], therefore we can live with confidence ‘in the presence of’ our enemies.

In him we are secure [Philippians 1:6; 2Timothy 1:12], therefore we can say ‘I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever’.

The LORD is our Shepherd: may we rest in the joy, peace and confidence of this simple but exceedingly powerful truth.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013