The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 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. Psalm 23:1-4 (ESV)
The Lord as the Good Shepherd
Psalm 23 is one of the most well known psalms in the Bible. It is often used in funeral services even though it has no connection with death, outside of one verse. However, it is very comforting psalm. This psalm was written by David fairly late in his life as he is reflecting back on all the things that God has done for him in his life. In the first four verses David uses the imaginary of the shepherd watching over his flock and in the last two verses (vv. 5-6) David shifts to using the imaginary of the good host. We are going to be focusing on the first four verses today.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
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.-23:1-4 (ESV)
David’s God leads him like a shepherd. When we have everything God has given us, we have everything we need. Green pastures and quiet waters represent nourishment, rest and peace. God also teaches David his law so that David lives righteously. When David obeys and rules the people according to God’s law, God’s name is glorified. Even when pastures and brooks give way to dangerous valleys, the rod of God’s discipline and the staff of his protection conquer David’s fears. His shepherd will not let him stray. Throughout the Bible, God is called a shepherd of his people (Psalm 80:1 and Genesis 48:15). He assigned human shepherds to lead Israel, but they were greedy and neglectful (Ezekiel 34). So God sent his Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, to lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). Christ then assigned human shepherds-elders or pastors in a local church-to care for God’s blood-bought flock until Christ returns (Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2-4).
Now let’s look at six keys things that are found in these first four verses of Psalm 23.
- “I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1)-To “not be in want” or “not want” means (1) that those who follow God will not lack anything necessary for God’s purpose to be accomplished in their lives and (2) that they will be content with how the Good Shepherd cares and provides for them, even in times of personal hardship, because they trust his love and commitment to them.
- “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2a)-Because of the presence and nearness of the Shepherd, God’s sheep (his people) can “lie down” in peace and be free from all fear. Jesus, as the Son of God, came to bring this same promise to those who would follow him. The Holy Spirit as the Comforter, Counselor and Helper communicates Christ’s care and presence to each believer (John 14:16-18 and 2 Timothy 1:7). This confidence and peaceful rest will be “in green pastures,” which is a figure of speech for what makes a person grow and thrive in life. What we must remember is that true growth and life come from a personal relationship with Jesus and the Word of God, which are necessary for a truly fulfilling life.
- “He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2b)-These “quiet” or “still waters” represent the peace, life and refreshment of the Holy Spirit.
- “He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3a)-When we as God’s children become discouraged (Psalm 42:11), the Good Shepherd revives and re-energizes our souls through his power and goodness (Proverbs 25:13).
- “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b)-We are guided or led by the Spirit of God in his chosen paths, which put us as God’s children on a course to fulfill his perfect purposes for our lives. We must remember that obedience is the response of the sheep: we follow the Shepherd and listen to his voice (John 10:3-4). We will not follow “a stranger’s voice” (John 10:5).
- “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” (Psalm 23:4)-In times of danger, difficulty and even death, those who follow God fear no evil. Why? “For you are with me” in every situation of life. The “rod” (a short club) is both a weapon of defense against predators and an instrument of discipline for the sheep. It symbolizes God’s strength, power and authority. The “staff” (a long slender stick with a hook on one end) is used to bring a sheep close to the shepherd, guide it in the right way or rescue it from trouble. God’s rod and staff reassure us of God’s love and guidance in our lives.
Today’s Bible Readings:
Jeremiah 39-41, 2 Timothy 1, Psalm 90:1-91:16 and Proverbs 26:1-2
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