As a kid, I memorized Psalm 23 and it has been a blessing to my life ever since. It is a very recognized portion of Scripture and almost as famous as verses like John 3:16. These short six verses bring comfort as they describe God as our Shepherd. David used the relationship of a shepherd and his sheep to relay the love and care between God and His people. David was very qualified to write about this since he had tended sheep as a shepherd since his childhood. So what does this classic chapter in the Bible say to us today? LOTS!
First, verse 1 says “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” This means, “Because the Lord is my Shepherd I won’t need a thing and will have all I need.” While this doesn’t guarantee a life void of problems it does mean the answers are found in the Good Shepherd. He will “make us lie down in green pastures and beside still waters” (v. 2). “Green pastures” and “quiet waters” mean refreshment and rest for the sheep. Are you in need of refreshment and rest? God offers that to you. Verse 3 says, “He restores my soul and leads me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake. His reputation (His Good Name) is on the line here and He provides restoration and rescuing to the weary. A good shepherd leads his sheep down the right path past harm and through difficult terrain and hard territory. Are you surrounded by difficulties? God can lead you out of it.
Verse 4 says, “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.” Have you ever felt like you were walking through the valley of death? Me too! Scripture tells us Jesus brings life (John 14:6). Even in the worst of times God is for us – so who can be against us (Romans 8:31)! A good shepherd carries tools to help his sheep. The rod, although used for harm, brings comfort because it beats back the enemies that attack the sheep. The staff wasn’t just an aid to help the shepherd walk. The crooked top of the staff would pull the sheep back from harm. While God will beat back the enemy from your life it’s not all our enemy’s fault at times. God wants to pull us back with His staff (His Bible, Godly counsel, a pastor’s sermon, etc.) from sin and a destructive lifestyle. A good shepherd and a good parent bring good protection as well as good discipline to those they are responsible for. God’s protection and discipline are meant to shape you into the image of Christ – into the very person He has purposed you to be!
Verse 5 continues with, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil and my cup runs over.” A shepherd could clear the feeding ground of the sheep and make it safe. Dangerous creatures and poisonous plants were in the way of nourishment. Sometimes these would attach themselves to the sheep and harm them. The shepherd would use his ointment for healing for the weary flock. God is getting a good table full of blessings ready for your life but you have to be willing to sit at it and feast on His bounty. He desires to bring healing to your life and anoint your wounds. This sustenance and healing is more than we deserve or can imagine – to the point of overflow in our lives. This overflow is meant to give away to others.
The last verse says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God is the Good Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, the Great Shepherd who can bless this temporary life and the eternal life to come. Don’t be a dumb sheep but stay close to wise Shepherd who can bless your life!