A father is called to shepherd his family in the same way God shepherds His family.
We see a beautiful picture of how God shepherds us in Psalm 23. I imagine David looking over his flock and thinking, “I wish I was a sheep.” The sheep doesn’t have a care in the world. The shepherd does everything for them and as long as they stay close to the shepherd, they have everything they need.
This is why he begins Psalm 23 with “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” (v. 1). He’s saying, literally, “I don’t need a thing.” You could say, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I want Him”, because with Him comes everything I need. In Him, I lack nothing. My Shepherd knows better than me what I need. I only know what I want.
Notice the role of the shepherd. The Good Shepherd brings, primarily, two things to His flock: provision and protection. In the same way, every father is a provider and protector of his family. Provision means, “to see ahead of time or beforehand” and protection means, “to cover over the front”. Every father serves the duel role of seeing what his family needs ahead of time and protecting his family, by leading the way in front of them. From the front he provides and protects.
- Provision (Psalm 23:1-4)
- Dad provides himself. A father knows that his presence is what his family needs the most. My singular message to dads is, “Be there“. Error increases with distance and you must stay close to your family if you are to guide them well. This requires your best time and energy.
- Dad provides rest.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” 23:2 Notice: “He makes me lie down.” This is not as much forcing one to lie down (though I do think that God does to us sometimes), but this is more like one makes a bed. The father creates a scenario in which lying down is all you want do. The shepherd takes us to safe places. He brings us to a place of soulful rest and peace. Dad brings this kind of peace into the home.
- Dad provides restoration.
“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (v. 2-3) He restores us. He recharges our souls. He helps us recalibrate our lives. He revives us, brings recovery, renewal. He brings us back to life. He resets our hearts in Him. Dads bring life to the family because of the way his life is being constantly renewed by God’s Spirit, his Good Shepherd.
- Dad provides direction.
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (v. 3) God provides next steps. The sheep is not worried about the future because he knows the shepherd will guide him to the next step. God provides the next step in life and in death. He guides us to live for His glory, which is our life’s ultimate purpose. Dad helps guide his spouse and children in paths of righteousness to bring glory to God.
- Dad provides comfort.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (v. 4) There is a long shadow of death over all of our lives. We cannot escape it, at least not for long. The shadow of death can come in many forms. It can show up as illness, loss, discouragement, or grief. Death, in all its forms, is loss. Loss brings grief and fear. Grief helps you move from one season of life to another, but fear can paralyze us. The father reminds his children that they need not fear because he is with them, to walk through every challenging season of the soul. Notice David is not running or crawling, but confidently walking through this valley. Notice too that it is a shadow. Shadows can’t hurt us. And the shadow is always bigger than the source. When you fear the shadow, it seems bigger than it is. But wherever there’s a shadow, there’s always a light. Turn your back on the shadow, your fear, and turn to the light. Fathers guide their families to turn to Jesus who is the Light of the world.
- Protection. (Psalm 23:5-6)
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (v. 5) Fathers bring protection and confidence to their children by lovingly encouraging them to let God be their Defender. Fathers teach their children that some people will not like them, even criticize them or seek to do harm to them. Godly men know that God is our ultimate Defender. Dads teach their kids that, if we trust the Good Shepherd, we don’t need to promote ourselves or defend ourselves. God will be our Defender and our Safe Refuge, even in times of trouble.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (v. 6) God protects us in life and in death. Notice that the ultimate destination is the Shepherd Himself. We end up in His House forever, with Him. Again, a father knows that the best gift he can bring his family is his presence.
God provides for us and He protects us. You can trust Him because of His provision and His protection. This is a beautiful picture of the Good Shepherd. But there’s a better one. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11 Jesus has already laid down His life for us, to provide eternal life and to protect us from the wrath of God, and an eternity in hell apart from Him. Isaiah 53:6 says, “We are all like sheep and have gone astray, each one to His own way. But the Lord laid on Him the sins of all.”
“For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:25
Dads, you can trust Him. Let the Good Shepherd provide and protect you as you shepherd your family in the same way God shepherds us.