Tag Archives: Jesus Christ – Shepherd

Hymn #6: Redeemer of Israel

Redeemer of Israel,
Our only delight,
On whom for a blessing we call,
Our shadow by day
And our pillar by night,
Our King, our Deliv’rer, our all!

The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is ever before us, showing us the way back to His presence and into eternal life. We see that throughout this hymn with its rich Old Testament imagery. We aren’t simply told that the Lord will watch over us. We are reminded of the cloud that remained over the children of Israel by day during their flight from Egypt, and of the pillar of fire that protected them by night from the soldiers. We don’t simply have to trust that He will be there to aid us in our times of trouble. We’ve seen it in the past, and we know that He is unchanging. Why should today be any different?

We know He is coming, as we sing in the second verse, to gather His sheep and bring them to Zion in love. We’ve seen this. We’ve seen the children of Israel, lost and wandering in the “valley of death” brought to the land that they were promised. We know He will do this because the Lord does not forget His own, and we know we can receive blessings we’ve been promised because we are all His own. We are His sheep, and He knows us by name. He has delivered us in the past, and we know that He is unchanging. Why should today be any different?

We, too, have wandered in the desert “as strangers in sin and cried… for [Him].” We know what it feels like to be separated from Him through our own misdeeds. We know that when we make mistakes, we cannot remain in His presence. We know this because we’ve seen it in the past. The children of Israel made some pretty big mistakes, and they were separated from their Lord as a result. He is unchanging, and we can expect no less. But we know that He will hear our cries, because he heard those of the Israelites. He answered their prayers, and He will answer ours. Our foes may rejoice when they see our sorrows, we sing, but Israel–and we–shall shortly be free. It was so in the past. Why should today be any different?

We know that we can and will be redeemed not only because the Lord is unchanging, but because we have been promised those blessings by that same unchanging Lord. We have been promised that He will come to His own, and we have been given the signs of His coming. He will not come in meekness, but in power and glory. And as we sing in the fourth verse, “good tidings for us. The tokens already appear.” We’ve seen the signs, and we will continue to see them as that day draws near. The Lord will come, and we will know Him when He does, because we know Him know. He is already our shadow by day and our pillar by night. He is our King, our Deliv’rer, our all. We know this, because it was so in the past, and because it is so now.

Why should today, tomorrow, or any other day be any different?

Hymn #221: Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd

My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earthIn this hymn version of the parable of the lost sheep (see Luke 15) we seem to have a few different types of “sheep”. The most frequently mentioned group is “the sheep that have wandered.”

They are also called “lambs that are lost” or “straying”, and I think we can assume that at one point these sheep were with the rest of the flock. They knew their shepherd and followed him…until they didn’t. Something distracted them, or delayed them, or they got bored and wandered off to find some new adventure. It’s a clear metaphor for anyone who was a member of the church but has since left, although it could represent anyone who has broken a commandment and strayed from the path even just a little.

(That’s all of us, in case you had forgotten.)

As verse two says, these sheep were “saved at such infinite cost.” The Atonement and repentance is what enables these lost sheep to return to the Good Shepherd’s presence, and He rejoices when they do so.

The second group is the “‘other’ lost sheep” mentioned in the first verse. Being “other”, they have never been and are not yet part of the fold. But they will be. Rather, they can be if found and “rescued.” These are the people who don’t yet know Jesus Christ or his restored gospel. Once taught and baptized, they are part of the fold, and like their fellow Saints, they follow where their Shepherd leads.

Which leaves us with the third group: the “ninety and nine.” Verse three reminds us that these sheep are also dear to the shepherd. He doesn’t leave his flock to rescue a lost sheep because he doesn’t care about them as much as the one; rather he hastens to rescue it because he knows the remaining flock is going to be okay.

But just because they are safe and happy in their little enclosure doesn’t mean they should stay there and shut everyone else out. If we know the shepherd, we have a responsibility to help him out:

Hark! he is earnestly calling,
Tenderly pleading today:
“Will you not seek for my lost ones,
Off from my shelter astray?”

 

There are so many lost sheep. Those who have strayed need to know they have a place in the fold, no matter where they have been or what they have done. Those who have never seen the green pastures need to be led there, “not,” as Peter teaches us, “by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).

I wrote this a few years ago; it’s definitely relevant here. This is what it doesn’t say in Luke 15:

4) What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not grudgingly leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

5) And when he hath found it, he chastiseth it for having gotten itself lost, then layeth it on his shoulders and bring it back to the fold, where the other sheep turn away from it and judge it as a lesser sheep than they which remained with the shepherd all along.

6) And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice because of what I have done; for I have found my foolish sheep which was lost. Am I not clever and righteous?

Because if that’s what it said in Luke 15, and I happened to be that proverbial sheep, I’d up and get myself lost again. Who wants to hang with a holier-than-thou shepherd and his judgmental herd?

Jesus loves us. All of us. Those of us in the church, those who have left it or struggle to feel they belong there, and those who have never even heard of it. We all belong to him. And so when he calls us, we should answer him gladly: “Yes, blessed Master, we will!”

Hymn #261: Thy Servants Are Prepared

Image Credit:  "Men Missionaries Mormon Man", More Good Foundation, 2007, via Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/moregoodfoundation/5135123539. CC BY-NC 2.0

Thy Servants Are Prepared is, at first glance, a hymn about young missionaries prepared to go forth and preach the Gospel to the world. Their preaching will fill the world with the light of truth, and build Zion both abroad and at home. It also speaks of the preparation these missionaries must have, for one cannot preach the truth unless he has first received and understood it himself.

The preparation and service of our young missionary force is an exciting and important topic, one that is more prominent than ever in context of the recent surge in departing missionaries. But this is not the topic I want to discuss here.

The truth is that 18- and 19-year old missionaries are not the only servants of God. We are all servants of God, all called from the moment of our baptism to carry forward his work and proclaim his Gospel. While we may not all be called to serve in foreign lands, the recent instructions to “Hasten the Work of Salvation” make it clear that we are all part of this work, whether called as full-time missionaries or not.

Just as full-time missionaries, we all must be prepared to share the Gospel. We should be studying the scriptures daily, “feasting upon the words of Christ.” We should be praying often. More importantly, we should be developing a real and meaningful relationship with our Heavenly Father, and should be growing ever more able to understand and act upon the promptings of the Spirit.

Preparation to share the Gospel of Christ is not completed simply by memorizing Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision and a few Scripture Mastery scriptures. The Gospel is not simply about learning scriptural facts—in fact, Christ often rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes for doing just that. Rather, we must learn to listen to our Father directly, to follow the guidance he sends through the Holy Spirit.

We must learn to receive revelation.

This should not be a surprising statement. Missionaries invite people  in their very first meetings to pray about the Book of Mormon, to receive an answer from God himself whether it is true or not. When we are baptized we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, a gift that does us no good unless we actually learn to listen to the Spirit. Prophets throughout the Book of Mormon taught this same lesson: we must learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Inasmuch as we preach that “God speaks, not spake,” we must learn to listen.

I believe we all understand this, and yet our day-to-day tasks can so easily distract us from this preparation. Learning to accurately recognize the Spirit is not a simple task; it takes practice and effort. When we brush aside frequent scripture study, or when our prayers start fading into rote repetitions, we lose the opportunity to commune with the Holy Spirit in the very settings most conducive to his presence.

Sharing the light of the Gospel with the world is God’s work. He can and will direct us as we carry it out, but only if we are capable of listening to his instructions and following his direction. As we do so, we will truly see “the darkness draw away from [His] revealing light.”

So when we sing “Thy Servants Are Prepared,” let’s remember that it’s us we’re singing about. Let’s make sure that we’re always ready.


Image Credit:
“Men Missionaries Mormon Man”, More Good Foundation, 2007, via Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/moregoodfoundation/5135123539. CC BY-NC 2.0

Hymn #108: The Lord Is My Shepherd

seek that which is gone astray

Despite Hollywood’s prolific use of Psalm 23 in funeral scenes and the fact that this hymn is categorized under “funeral” in the LDS hymnal, it wasn’t until the 20th century that “the valley of the shadow of death” began to be associated with actual death. And honestly, the psalm upon which “The Lord Is My Shepherd” is based doesn’t really talk about death, the resurrection, or even the afterlife. It does, however, talk about our daily need for our Savior’s goodness and love.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23)

“The valley of the shadow of death” is a reference to mortality, a time when death is a looming eventuality for all of us; we don’t know when we will die, but we do know it will happen at some time. And we know that, in the meantime, Jesus Christ will guide and protect us “all the days of [our] life”.

But how? What does The Good Shepherd do to keep us, his little flock, safe during our time here on earth? The words of the hymn give us some answers.

“I feed in green pastures.” The Savior calls himself the “bread of life”, and says that “he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) As we read…no, feast on his words, we are filled with understanding, joy, inspiration, hope, love, and more. The pastures of his doctrine are not only green but vast and full of delicious morsels if we take time to discover them.

“He leadeth my soul where the still waters flow.” We speak often of how narrow the way to eternal life is. That sometimes makes it seem difficult and even dangerous, as if there are cliffs and chasms on either side waiting to swallow us up if we take one wrong step. We neglect to remember, however, that the strait and narrow path is a peaceful one. The imagery of still waters–undoubtedly flowing from the purest source–is a reminder that keeping his commandments brings us peace in our homes, minds, and hearts.

“Restores me when wand’ring.” Even if we stray from the well-marked path of righteousness–whether by ignorance or rebellion or something else entirely–we always have the option of repenting and returning to the fold. Jesus suffered for our sins so that we could be “restored”.

“Redeems when oppressed.” Again, when we are oppressed by guilt and sin and our own unworthiness, the Atonement is available to us. The price of our sins has been paid; we need only accept that redemption and repent.

On a more practical note, when we are literally oppressed in this life by other people or organizations or illness or whatever the case may be, we can still have hope for redemption. When our burdens are heavy and suffering seems never-ending, “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalms 9:9) Even when our situation is not immediately improved, we can take comfort in his love and have hope for eventual relief.

“Since thou art my Guardian, no evil I fear.” Faith in Jesus Christ makes us unafraid. Not that we don’t have our personal phobias (I’m looking at you, spiders) but we trust that no matter what, all will be well. This recent post from Sam discusses this point further; I highly recommend reading his take on why we don’t need to fear.

“With blessings unmeasured, my cup runneth o’er.” Have you ever attempted to honestly count all your blessings? Try it some time. I start losing track once I begin to name all the wonderful people who have influenced my life or all the ways my body is a miracle. And then I realize how ungrateful I am never to have acknowledged just how cool opposable thumbs are. Blessings unmeasured, indeed.

“With perfume and oil thou anointest my head.” This line references the consecrated oil used in certain priesthood blessings, such as those for the sick. It also brings to my mind initiatory ordinances in the temple. To me, this line is symbolic of Christ’s ability to provide for needs that are both immediate and temporal, as well as eternal and spiritual in nature. No matter what we lack, he has us covered.

With all the ways our Shepherd cares for us, truly what can we ask of His providence more?