What does it mean to have a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus Christ? One thing it does not mean is ‘customized’. In this excerpt from When the Lord is My Shepherd: Finding Hope in a Hard Time, we go deeper into the pastoral connections that we are promised.
Believing that the Lord is a shepherd is a pastoral idea. The functions and activities of our heavenly God are easier understood using a metaphor. But David takes it one step further. He says that the Lord is his shepherd. Now it’s personal.
In the ancient world, ‘the gods’ were ‘out there.’ They inhabited the heavens or places beyond our view. They looked down from above. They were not personal at all. In fact, they were thought to ignore humans unless they were amused or until they were called upon. There was not just one God. There were many gods.
So, when the God of the Bible is declared to be the only God, it was a shock to the polytheistic nations around them. Further, the God of the Bible was declared not only to be the God of Israel, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was the God not only of a people (Israel) but of all persons. He is a personal God.
When David declares that the Lord is his Shepherd, he is saying that He is a personal God. He is also saying that He is personally knowable. The God of the Universe is not just the cosmic force that exists over and above all things. He is a personal God who knows our every thought and our every move.
We talk today about someone having a ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ.’ When we hear that or say it ourselves, we should remember that personal does not mean customized. A personal relationship with Jesus does not mean that we get to pick only those directions or aspects of the Christian life that make us feel comfortable. No. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a matter of the heart. It is a matter of knowing, deep within, that there is a God who loves you, who came to save you, and who now lives beside you, and this God wants to direct and guide you.
Can you say out loud what David says here? The Lord is my Shepherd. These words are the beginning of fellowship with the God of the Universe. By saying “The Lord is my Shepherd,” you have opened up your heart and your life to the influence, guidance, friendship, and protection of a loving God.
This simple early phrase in the Psalm is one of the most profound statements of faith and conviction that we can ever utter. It is a window into David’s heart. He wanted his day-to-day life to reflect this. He did not always live up to this declaration. Neither do we. But it was his hope, as it is ours.
When the Lord is my Shepherd, I will trust Him for everything.