People Who Say Such Things: Know How to Receive Guidance from the Shepherd



February 26, 2020

Psalm 23:1-6 (NIV)

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord


He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

There’s an old story about a tour group in the Holy Land you may have heard. After hearing a teaching on the 23rd Psalm and how the shepherd always goes ahead of the sheep to lead, guide and protect them, they went out the countryside in search of such a demonstration. The guide sent them to a familiar pasture where they noticed a flock of frazzled sheep coming over the hillside with no shepherd out in front. Instead the shepherd came behind the flock. A bit bewildered, one of the women approached the shepherd and asked him about the apparently suspect teaching they had just received. He replied, “Oh no. I am not the shepherd. I am the butcher!” 

It reminds me of one of the most oft cited and proof-texted scripture verses in the Bible: John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

It should be noted that this text comes from the larger passage where Jesus speaks of himself as both the Gate for the sheep and the Good Shepherd. 

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:3-5)

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)

Now consider today’s text in that light:

He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

We follow Jesus. He leads us. He speaks. We listen. It can seem so ethereal and nebulous and inaccessible. How do we know the voice in our head from the voice of Jesus? Let me suggest a three step process whereby we grow in perceiving and pursuing the guidance of the Good Shepherd along the right paths. Inspiration. Imitation. Impartation.

Inspiration comes from the Inspired text– the Bible. We must keep these inspired texts before us, ever in the foreground of our vision. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the premiere guides for discipleship. I am convicted as I write of my own present lack of immersion in these miraculous Gospel accounts. Am I paying attention to these ancient texts and being inspired by the whole story at ever increasing levels of detail? 

Imitation comes from inspiration. It means doing the kinds of things Jesus does in the Gospels. It means obeying his teaching and imaginatively putting into practice his words and deeds. When Jesus tells Martha she is anxious about many things but only one thing is necessary and Mary has found it by sitting at his feet, am I engaging this text at the level of practice in my own life? Am I practicing the story?

Impartation comes as the fruit of inspiration and imitation. If inspiration and imitation are practice. Impartation is playing the game itself. It is improvisational. We know the kinds of things Jesus did. We have practiced them. By the power of the Spirit, we have his mind. Now he can impart guidance to us along right paths for his name’s sake. By the power of the Word and Spirit, He is “in” us and we are “in” Him. We learn to “run in the path of his commands,” as the Psalmist puts it. (119:32)

He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

People who say such things are learning to live freely and lightly, improvising along the path as the Shepherd guides. 


Father, I want to be a person who says such things. Bring me into direct discipleship with you. Let inspiration become imitation become impartation. I am weary of more and more information that doesn’t take me anywhere. And I’m weary of just trying to behave myself. I want to become like you, Jesus. Impart your mind, heart, will and ways to me. Come Holy Spirit, and train me to be such a person of faith. I pray in Jesus name, Amen. 


How might inspiration, imitation and impartation become a growing and flourishing movement in your life? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.