In the Presence of My Enemies

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Psalm 23 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. (v. 5) In his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller observes that sheep are such anxious and temperamental creatures that if there is a hint of danger, they cannot rest, sleep, or even eat. The presence of enemies—real or imagined—is enough to prevent life-sustaining practices or provoke life-threatening panic. A skillful shepherd anticipates every potential danger, guiding the flock to safe …

Rod and Staff

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Psalm 23 I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (v. 4) In his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller notes that shepherds in antiquity carried two tools: a rod and a staff. The staff was a long stick used to redirect or pull close a wayward sheep. The rod was a short club used at times as a weapon to fend off predators. It …

Don’t Shepherd Us!

Ben Van Arragon

Read: 1 Kings 22:1-18 There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD . . . but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil. (v. 8) My first movie experience was Walt Disney’s Pinocchio. Its narrator, Jiminy Cricket, is the puppet’s appointed conscience. Pinocchio is perfectly willing to obey his conscience—until Jiminy says something the puppet doesn’t want to hear. God, in his grace, appointed prophets to be the conscience of …

The Shepherd-Leader

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Numbers 27:12-23 . . . that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd. (v. 17 NIV) I was a first-year Hebrew student. My fellow students and I were in over our heads: trying to master a new alphabet and vocabulary as well as the art of reading right to left. After a demoralizing quiz, several students accused our professor of not doing enough to prepare them. He patiently pointed out the instruction …

The Heart of the Shepherd

Ben Van Arragon

Read: 1 Samuel 16:1-12 The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. (v. 7) God called his people “sheep” because, like sheep, they did not always know what was best for them, as when the Israelites demanded a king. They did so wanting not to be godly but great—“like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). God granted the request, but on the condition that he would choose the …

The Original Shepherd

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Genesis 49:22-25 God of your father . . . will help you. (v. 25) I once had a coworker who enjoyed skydiving. On a Monday morning he came to work shaken. He had slept in the previous morning and missed an opportunity to skydive. The person who took his place on the plane experienced an equipment malfunction that could have killed him. My friend concluded that some invisible hand had steered him from disaster. Jacob, patriarch of Israel, looked …