“The sheep of his pasture.”
It’s a five verse psalm, and that’s about it’s only metaphor.
It catches the three observations about God on which the action of the psalm hangs: He made us – we’re his; He’s good, and He’s faithful – His love endures forever.
The action is: being glad to worship him, singing joyfully, being in his presence with an attitude of gratitude. And the whole earth shouting to him.
Like sheep we will never not be in the pasture of a caring shepherd. Eternal safety and provision.
Sheep don’t express gratitude, but they feel it by not being stressed. There the metaphor breaks down, because we can express our praise and gratitude, but we do experience knots of stress even though we have a faithful shepherd.
I think I always subconsciously read this sort of thing as a series of absolute and impossible commands: Shout to the lord. All the earth. Always be praising him and having grateful thoughts. I said always, mister eye roller!
Or a sweet but impossible dream: forever on a high about God. As if.
But it’s more like a party Psalm – how we’re spending these moments together. It’s not a future objective, it’s an inclusive now. The experience will become a memory, a mental balm to take with us into the contradictions.
The only shouting in our house last night was me shouting at our daughter. I was frustrated with her negativity. She has some good reasons to feel negative, but I was frustrated with it anyway, and saying that it is a dead end to be all about nursing your bitterness. She objected to that characterisation.
It was either – best scenario – a tough lovin’ slap of reality or – worst case – kicking someone while they are down.
And I do love her, I pray for her and want good things for her. I know she loves me. We are both sheep in god’s pasture.
But our now for now includes shouting at each other. Shouting to the lord is a factual backdrop, we’ve actually done it together, many a time. May he keep us safe.