This is a remarkable statement by the Psalmist, especially since, in the same breath, he spoke of “the valley of the shadow of death” and “the presence of mine enemies.” That he had real enemies and that he was prone to the same dangers as others who did not know his Shepherd was undeniable. But he took comfort from the fact that his life was in the competent hands of His omnipotent Shepherd. Long years as a shepherd had taught David that there was a tender bond between the true shepherd and his own sheep. He had risked his life, facing a lion and a bear, to rescue his sheep. Was his Divine Shepherd less competent, less compassionate, or less courageous? David knew the answer to those questions, as should each of us.
The 21st century has brought to us new fears and forebodings. We are facing perils we never thought our children would have to cope with. Those who thought the end of the Cold War would bring a millennium-like peace to the earth have been rudely awakened by the avalanche of violence and terrorism. Chemical and biological warfare, “dirty” bombs, nuclear weapons in the hands of unscrupulous leaders, suicide bombings – there is much evil to fear in today’s world, particularly for a Christian. While we will not be here to face the apocalyptic tribulation days, we are witnessing previews all around us of that time when men’s hearts will “[fail] them for fear” (Luke 21:26).
The Psalmist admitted that he was no stranger to fear. What is so instructive about his experience is the way he chose to deal with it. He wrote, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee… In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (Psalms 56:3, 11). Surprisingly, many Scriptures contrast fear, rather than unbelief, with faith. This implies that with a God, a Shepherd, such as we have, we can be quick to bring Him our fears and to “trust, and not be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2).
A large part of this issue of T&T looks at the relationship between the Shepherd, the shepherds, and the sheep. How gracious of God, and how prescient, to raise up shepherds for His people as they make their way home to “the fold whence none can stray”! The more that these shepherds take character from the Great Shepherd, the more they will be divinely suited for any task or situation they and the flock may face. The more we learn to pray for, submit to, and follow these under-shepherds, the easier it will be for them to fulfill their responsibilities without “sighing” (Hebrews 13:17).
Above all, thank God our lives, our souls, our times are in His hand! What was true for His ancient people is true for us today: “He that keepeth thee will not slumber… nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper… The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil… The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Psalms 121:3-8).