The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)
God Is My Shepherd
There is nothing unfamiliar about the 23rd Psalm. It is one of the most recognizable poems in literature, secular and divine. David is known as the “psalmist of Israel” and nothing embodies the character of the shepherd as David’s prose on the relationship of a man and his sheep. When God created the sheep He defined the character of humanity. Sheep are defenseless, unable to care for themselves, and require protection, care, and nurturing by a shepherd. The many aspects of the needs of a sheep are given in David’s description of tending a flock. They are brought to green grass by the knowledge of the one who tends them. Still waters are sought after as sheep are frightened of turbulent rivers. Many dangers are lurking about like lions and bears that will kill and destroy a flock. Sheep are easily distracted and can become lost requiring the love and skills of a devoted shepherd to find them. When injury or disease happens, the soothing oil of relief comes from the gentle hand of a shepherd. There is a close bond between the sheep and the shepherd that cannot be lost as the sheep endear themselves to the protective care of their master.
Examining the psalm closely there are many lessons shown from the needs of the sheep and the care of the shepherd. What can be lost in the reading of the psalm is the most important part of the story: God is the shepherd and there is no other. David begins by establishing there is one shepherd and He is the Lord alone. There will not be more than one shepherd to confuse the sheep. His voice alone will guide the flock to green pastures and still waters. The keen eyes of the diligent shepherd will watch for danger over His flock. Only in the arms of the shepherd will the sheep find protection. David understands the necessity of putting God the Father first in his life and fully gives himself to the will of the Father. There is no other that he will trust.
Sheep for the most part are docile creatures. On occasion, a sheep will be rebellious and stubborn. The story is told that when a sheep becomes unruly the shepherd will break a leg of the sheep and then carry the creature in his arms until he is healed and able to walk on his own. From that time forth the sheep will never wander far from the shepherd. This is a hard thing to consider but the sheep must learn there is only one voice that is commanding and obedience is required. David explains there is one shepherd and as the Father, God has all authority. The man after God’s own heart learned this lesson first-hand when he sinned with Bathsheba. God disciplined David and carried him in His arms while he healed. David never lost his love for the Father.
The 23rd Psalm is known by almost everyone in the world but few know the Shepherd of the psalm. It is easy to quote the words of the psalm. The challenge is to accept the first line that God is the shepherd, the only shepherd, and His word must be obeyed. Obedience is not found in singing a beautiful psalm or memorizing a stanza of Hebrew poetry. Salvation is determined by submitting to the Shepherd of the psalm and His will. Through the grace of God, the divine shepherd of David sent His only begotten Son to die for all men. Like a lamb, Jesus was led to the slaughter for the sins of humanity. Jesus would become the Good Shepherd because He gave His life for the sheep. The words of Jesus are the words of the Father and when one obeys the words of Jesus, they submit to the will of the great Shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd. As a sheep, I must listen to the voice of God alone.