The Lord, My Shepherd
Psalm 23 from the daily reading in the One year Bible
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Jesus, who Himself never actually worked as a shepherd says: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:11-18) He also used the illustration of the lost sheep in yesterday’s text, Matthew 18:12-14: “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” Some of these analogies and illustrations are lost to us today because of our unfamiliarity with the caring relationship of shepherds for their sheep.
Surely though, it was not lost to David, who wrote the 23rd Psalm some one thousand years before Jesus lived. David worked as a shepherd from the time he was a young boy. It was there, watching over, caring for and protecting his flock, that David received much of his preparation and training to become a great future leader. It was also there, during the many hours spent alone, that David forged his deep relationship with the Lord his God. David describes the security he has in the Lord, through his understanding of the dedication a shepherd has for his sheep.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. The shepherd cares for every aspect of his sheep. The sheep is fully dependent on the shepherd. There is nothing at all the sheep need to be concerned with, they lack or want nothing. So too, is it for the one who trusts in and depends wholly on the Lord. He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. The shepherd guides the sheep to lush and abundant pastures, where they can eat until they are satisfied then rest under the watchful eye of the shepherd. Fast moving rivers and streams are dangerous for sheep, they can easily be swept away and drown, so the shepherd carefully chooses clean, clear but quiet water for the sheep to drink. In Matthew 6, Jesus describes the way God provides for all of His creation. In verses 31-33 He says: Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. God will supply all that we need. Like sheep to their shepherd our concern is to be attentive Him, to seek to remain in His presence. As Jesus quieted the turbulent waters during the storm, (Matthew 8:23-27) so too will He quiet the storms in our lives.
He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. It is important to the shepherd that he loses none of his sheep. He wants to have the reputation of perfectly caring for his sheep. God wants no one to be lost or perish. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He does it though for love, not the sake of His reputation, but because He is loving, merciful and gracious. The name of Jesus, the only name by which we are saved.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. When we walk with the Lord, even death is merely a shadow. It has no eternal power over us. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul says: We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. The rod and the staff of the shepherd are used to protect, guide and to discipline the sheep. That correction though is not something to fear, God is not watching over us with His rod of correction, waiting to strike us when we fall. Rather, The LORD disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one he accepts as His child. (Hebrews 12:6) Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (Revelation 3:19) God’s discipline is for our good, to keep us on the right path. We should find comfort in the rod and staff of the Lord.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Jesus established the New Covenant, at the Last Passover table with His disciples, a table shared with the very one who would betray Him. We too are to love our enemies, to offer them the love and grace of the New Covenant. We have been anointed, not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. The cup Jesus offered, the cup of blessing, the New Covenant in His blood will never run dry, it overflows and is sufficient for every need.
If we would know the Lord as David did. If we would indeed know the Good Shepherd, hear and follow His voice, then we like the psalmist would confidently say:
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Thank You Lord. Amen.