Dr John Senyonyi, Vice Chancellor
The year 2016 is behind us with its blessings and challenges. You have probably heard people condemn the previous year and look to the New Year to erase the accursed yesteryear. Yet each year comes with its own ups and downs. There just doesn’t seem to be a year when the good so shrouds the bad that our overall assessment is adjudged great.
I look back and remember when there was more uncertainty about tomorrow than the today we had. A month’s salary was like a pair of trousers too short! We would leave our ‘8 to 5’ jobs at 3 pm to make it home before dark. We slept in houses unsure if we would be violently visited by the very people mandated by the country’s constitution to protect us. How did we stretch those days to survive to the end of the month and the year up to today?
I doubt there are any survivors of those days who can give a neat scientific explanation to these questions. But we pulled through; we saw a new day and lived through it all. My faith exclaims, “My God took us through.” Hence David confidently proclaimed, “The LORD is my shepherd.”
Many of us can reel off our tongues the entire psalm, as we memorized it. Yet we must distinguish between head knowledge of those words, and a heart and life experience of the psalm. What we memorized in our heads needs to find room in our hearts.
When David said, “The LORD is my shepherd,” he was reflecting on his own experiences as a shepherd. Earlier, he testified to King Saul how he had killed lions and bears with his bare hands, all that to protect the hapless sheep from these merciless predators.
He counted his life of no consequence to save the sheep under his care. He would rather be the lion’s meal than the sheep! That is what he means when he calls God his shepherd.
In this psalm and by that designation, David defines the believer’s relationship with God, the nature of that relationship, and the benefits of the relationship.
It is a title and relationship that Jesus applied to himself more profoundly when he called himself “the Good Shepherd.”
Jesus cares for the sheep enough to lay down his life for them. He knows each of his sheep personally. He gathers and unites his sheep.
The security of the sheep depends on the kind of shepherd they have. Similarly, David knew God was this kind of shepherd.
You and I are going to face some good times in 2017. But we cannot rule out hardships in this year. This may be contrary to the popular falsehoods parroted by a host of superlative pastors and bishops and apostles. At the turn of the year they prophesied, as they always do, good things only.
They preach neither repentance nor endurance!
In this psalm, David takes our eyes away from determining or judging our relationship with God by our circumstances. Rather, that our divine shepherd is the one constant we must not lose sight of.
He is our Good Shepherd when the going is good and when we face the gravest situations. He lays down his life for us.
In summary, the LORD knows WHERE he will lead us in the New Year. As one saint said, “If thorns be good for us, he will take us there.” But we know that He will enter fire and floods with us and for us.
The Good Shepherd knows HOW he will lead us in the New Year. When we go through “the valley of the shadow of death,” he will use his rod and his staff to keep us on the straight and narrow. Sometimes it may be spanking us into line; other times he will gently take us out of harm’s way.
Finally, the Shepherd knows WHAT he will give us in the New Year. We know however that he will not give us a serpent or stones for food. We are tempted to fish in murky ponds. Remember, some ponds have fish, others have sharks! But we cannot go hungry or lack at the LORD’s banquet. Surely our shepherd will give us goodness and mercy unceasingly. And what he gives lasts; it is for ETERNITY.
A little girl was trying to recite this psalm. The negative in the first verse puzzled her. Consequently she gave the words new force by misquoting them, “The LORD is my shepherd; that’s all I want!” Let him be your shepherd throughout 2017. Amen.