Psalm 23: The Holy Hunter

Shepherd, a Sheep, and many WolvesA chapter about the Lord and His sheep.  Such a poor reputation comes with these wool-covered creatures.  For they are gamey to the nose and stupid of mind, too quick to roam and become lost.  Such poor eyesight, but they do recognize their shepherd’s voice!  For sheep to thrive, they must learn to live by their ears, not by their eyes.

So, perhaps they are not so much different from us, we who must live by faith and not by sight.  Such wandering-eyed people we are, preferring to go by what we can witness with our eyes, what we experience, not what our Divine Guardian tells us is so.  For us, seeing is believing, with our eyesight overriding our ears.

So, we crave what our eyes take in, not being content with the content of Scripture.  “The Lord is my shepherd, and nothing I lack.”  In the lush pastures, He lets me lie down, but I spy a greener grass beyond the rails of the fence.  To the still and quiet waters, He leads me, but the flash and glitter of excitement dazzle me, where I prefer to drink my fill.

Oh, and He still does more.  For He refreshes my soul, suppressing the wanderlust within me, which moves me to live in so many unseemly ways.  Along the right paths, He leads me.  Tempted to eat the toxic weeds, living like the creature I am, He still does not disown me.  For the Shepherd does what He does, based on who He is, revealed by His name.

The rod He bears is too restrictive, and His staff stifles the brute inside me!  Come, O dark ravine, storm and tempest, and black of night, you do not frighten me.  No, the layout of the land is as familiar to me as the back of my hand—and I am not too sheepish to boast as much.

So, we sing from our wild and untamed souls.  To speak the truth of your fallen heart is to admit, “I don’t want a Shepherd.”  A hireling will do.  For He will do what we want, not what may be best.  The cry for this false freedom shrieks from our lips, with a license to travel on unrighteousness roads.

Do I harm another if I choose to feed the beast inside me?  Ah, so we learn we are not like sheep, but worse.  Unlike us, those docile animals do not speak of others to make their wool gleam all the brighter, to distract from the stench they bring.

To this quagmire of a sinner and saint, our Rescuer comes.  The depravity inside us does not frighten Him.  For He faced down such ugliness long ago and, unlike us, He does not flee the scene of the crime.  Though we can leave Him, He will not leave us.

“Only goodness and gracious love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will remain in the Lord’s House forever.”  Now, when we remember this psalm, “follow” comes to mind.  “For goodness and mercy shall follow me.”  The Hebrew is radap.

A hunting term, where one chases after and pursues a prey, not follow.  So, we find our Protector turning the Table.  Though He does track and hunt us down, he doesn’t do so with us as the quarry, but as His family.  For He is devoted and will not abandon us when we need an intervention.

Among the crags, we may stray and meander, break an ankle, and become food for the wolf.  So, our Shepherd outfoxes the predator to keep us from becoming the prey.

The chesed of the Almighty, His undeserved, enduring love in action does not grow faint or weary but always seeking.  For God is the Hunter, and He chases to save.  Over and again, we find ourselves lifted in the arms of a faithful and merciful God.

With God, we lack nothing, who provides for us, sheltering us with His love, feeding us with His Word.  In the prayer He passed down to us, we call out to Him.  “Give us this day our daily bread,” and He provides us with what we need for our bodies and life.

In times of trouble, He is present with His peace, vigilant with forgiveness, His nail-scarred hands healing and reviving our souls.  Such is the God who chases after us, for our well-being.  In grace, He gives, unchanging in love, care, and forgiveness.

The compassionate Hunter finds us to slay our sin and to lead us in the right paths, to be true to who He is, which His name reveals.  For Jesus means, “He saves.”  So, being true to His name, He does, saving us.

Oh, the dark times, which beset us—and one day, we will walk through the shadowed gloom of death.  Should we be alarmed?  No!  Though a hireling will flee when death comes calling, Jesus will not.  So, when the lion of hell revolted against Him, He seized Satan by the scruff, striking him down with His protecting rod.

In a demonic frenzy, the evil lashes back.  This time, the Shepherd gives Himself over to be devoured, knowing He needs to do so to save us, staying true to His name.  The monster of Hades licks up His blood, swallowing our Savior whole.

Down, down the Devil gulps, but the tomb of his distended belly cannot contain Him.  The bowels of death are too weak to hold Him.  The fiend of hell is dead—his stomach now burst open.

So, should you fear when your crucified-and-risen One unites with you in Baptism and makes you the bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh?  No!  Do not be afraid, little flock.  For the Savior calls you by name and makes you His own.

The Redeemer rises from death, rescuing His sheep.  The Devil, our evil, and death’s long shadow are now defanged, hounded down like a pack of beaten wolves!  Buried and raised with Jesus in Baptism, we walk in new life, guarded and guided by our Savior’s hand.  The rod He holds is His Word, breaking the dominion of death.  The staff of His Word restores, breathing life into corpses, guiding us to the right paths.

Too many times, we wander from the fold.  From our lips, we curse our Savior’s staff, ignore His call, each going his way.  In our selfish folly, we sometimes act more like wolves than our Savior’s sheep.  At those around us, we snarl, tear, and snap.

To deal with this problem as old as sin, our Shepherd comes.  So precious are you to Him, He will chase you down.  Consider the heavens, the work of the Creator’s fingers, the moon and the stars, which He brought into being.  Now, who are you for such a Rescuer to track you down?  All this He does because you are part of His flock.

Though you are but made from dust, the One from all eternity came to be born, to be beaten down, all to trample the Devil under our feet.  For us, sheep too prone to stray, the Lamb of sacrifice comes to be bound to the altar, to bind Himself to us.  For us, whose mouths gape open with piercing words of spite, He remained silent, led to slaughter like a Lamb.

By the sacrifice of His Son, the heavenly Father raises you up, all to take place in its fullness on the Last Day.  From the pit into which you fell, your Redeemer will raise you, set you on His shoulders, and rejoice to carry you home.

In the cleansing, refreshing waters, He washes you.  What we broke, He now binds, as He brings healing to your wounds.  Now, He prepares an altar before you, anointing your head with oil.  The chalice runs over, over your lips and failings, all to quench your thirst so you may full for all eternity.

All this He does for you—He the Shepherd, you His sheep.  For you, He offers His life, making your life His own, and His life your own.  Yes, He became what you are, to make you what He is.  So all is now clear.  Such kindness and loyal love will pursue you all your days so you can remain a part of His blessed fold.

Though death will come to claim you, remember this—He walked the way before you.  With His goodness and grace in pursuit, you cannot but come out well on the other side.  For you are sheltered and surrounded by His saving love.

Yes, Jesus, our Shepherd, arose from death.  By grace, through faith, so will you, following Him all your days, as He also trails you, through the valley of the death’s shadow.  Yes, God can, and does, do both.

Now, nothing exists to cause you to fear.  Not because of what you do, but because of what Your saving Lord did and does.  Such is the entire story of our lives of faith.

So, when you find yourself surrounded by the scowling shadow of death, your rescuing Lord is with you.  Those footsteps approaching you will not be those of the Devil coming to enslave you.  No, they belong to the Holy Hunter.  In the bleakest hour and time of need, the goodness and mercy of your God are still pursuing you.

Yes, you will live in the flock of the Lord for all eternity.  On the Last Day, when your Shepherd returns, He will call your new, perfect, and sinless body to Himself.  Like Jesus, you too will rise from your grave to live in God’s eternal presence.  By His doing, you delight in your Savior, and He delights in you.  Yes, kindness and unfailing love will pursue you, which is why you will live in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.

 

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