Editorial: The Downward Spiral

The Lord describes a world that has grown even worse than the world we know. No wonder He speaks of “men’s hearts failing them for fear” (Luke 21:26). “Failing” suggests that their forebodings figuratively take their breath away. That does not seem very far removed from the present. How wonderful to face that future confidently, able to say, “I will fear no evil”! Those who belong to the Shepherd live with unchanging security: “I shall not want.” As far as the future reaches, this security is unchanging.

Could that truth have been in the mind of the Lord Jesus when He told about the prodigal who began “to be in want” (Luke 15:14)? In the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, which the Lord apparently read and cited, “I shall not want” is the same word. At the beginning of Luke 15, the lost sheep has a caring shepherd. But the prodigal has “gone astray like a lost sheep” (Psalm 119:176), willfully turning from such divine care. The three stories in that chapter are united in many ways.

The prodigal illustrates the inevitable course of lives, families, and societies who turn from the tender, shepherd heart of the Lord. That course is a downward spiral. Had the prodigal not “returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls” (1 Peter 2:25), he would certainly have perished. Have we lost that perspective? No matter who it may be, those without the Lord will inevitably begin to be in want, whether in life or in eternity. Steve Green’s hymn puts it this way:

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize – people need the Lord?

This is not religious triviality; it is eternal reality. As people face “the things that are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26), as they face the emptiness and meaninglessness of life without Christ, people need the Lord. We must pay more than lip service to this. We must find them; we must tell them; we must win them.

How different for us! We belong to the Shepherd. For us, the future is “an upward spiral.” David traces the circumstances of the sheep from the bucolic calm of green pastures and still waters, through the deep valley of shadows, into the presence of enemies. It would seem like a downward spiral, except that the Shepherd draws nearer and His care becomes more personal and lavish. The surrounding conditions may become darker and darker, but with each step the path grows brighter and brighter (Proverbs 4:18). Our eternal future will take us into an even greater intimacy with the Shepherd. We will be “at home” with Him. What an eternal difference, all because He is “my Shepherd”!