Psalm 23: My Good Shepherd
A psalm of David
(1)The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
(2)He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
(3)he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake.
(4)Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will 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 anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(6)Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
We all know these words; we've heard these words. Maybe we have these words memorized. Psalm 23 is familiar, but did you read psalm 22?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
"The position of this psalm is worthy of notice. It follows the twenty-second, which is peculiarly the Psalm of the Cross. There are no green pastures, no still waters on the other side of the twenty-second psalm. It is only after we have read, 'My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?' that we come to 'The LORD is my Shepherd.' We must by experience know the value of blood-shedding, and see the sword awakened against the Shepherd, before we shall be able truly to know the sweetness of the Good Shepherd's care."
In psalm 22, David cried out in fear of abandonment in the beginning and by the end of the psalm once again remembered God's faithfulness to him. But we also know that Jesus spoke these words to the Father as he hung on the cross.
And about the ninth house Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46
Jesus spoke David's words from psalm 22.
Psalm 22 is the "Psalm of the Cross," and psalm 23 is very clearly the "Psalm of the Good Shepherd."
We have all seen pictures of Jesus depicted as a shepherd carrying a lamb or reaching for one that has fallen just over the edge of a cliff. We all have heard of Jesus as the saver of the lost, the one we run to when we're afraid, the who can shield and protect us... the Good Shepherd.
And Jesus's sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate act of a Good Shepherd.
To know psalm 22 just prior adds to our understanding of psalm 23. Doesn't it? David's fear of being abandoned and then his acknowledgement of the Good Shepherd who never leaves nor abandons His sheep.
Psalm 23 is probably the most well known set of verses in the Bible.
James Montgomery Boice, a 20th century Bible teacher and theologian, said this about psalm 23,
"Millions of people have memorized this psalm, even those who have learned few other Scripture portions. Ministers have used it to comfort people who are going through severe personal trials, suffering illness, or dying. For some, the words of this psalm are the last they have ever uttered in life."
Have you ever stop to think about what it means to call God, the Creator of the universe, a Good Shepherd? And not only the Good Shepherd...but my Good Shepherd?
"In Israel, as well as other ancient societies, a shepherd's work was consider the lowest of all works. If a family needed a shepherd, it was always the youngest son, like David, who got this unpleasant assignment...Jehovah has chosen to be our shepherd, David says. The great God of the universe has stooped to take just such care of you and me."
I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths...
Translation: God is all that I need. He knows when I need rest and peace, and He gives it to me. He sets me feet on the best path for me, and He cares for my soul.
A Good Shepherd.
Does your soul long for those "green pastures" and "quiet waters" sometimes? Right now? Are they elusive? Never here or around long enough for any refreshing to happen?
David Guzik says this, and I think this is so true and so very wonderful...
"The sheep don't need to know where the green pastures or the still waters are; all they need to know is where the Shepherd is."
My friends, if you can't find the green pastures and quiet waters, you are looking for the wrong thing. Look for the Good Shepherd, and He will take you there and refresh your soul.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me
The "valley of the shadow of death" or some translations say the "valley of deep darkness" or the "darkest valley." Whatever the words used, the point is the Shepherd will lead His sheep THROUGH the valley. The verse does not say "as I sit and wait for help in the valley" or "as I'm alone and afraid and stuck in the valley of death!"
No, the statement is clear that we will walk through the valley with the Shepherd. Such a beautiful, refreshing, reassuring thought. There is a valley that we will walk through, but when we walk with the Shepherd, He knows the way and will lead us to the other side.
Interestingly, the psalm switches from the Good Shepherd as "He" in third person to "You" in second person. David no longer speaks of the Shepherd to others, but now speaks to the Shepherd Himself.
You are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
David cannot help himself but switch to overwhelming thankfulness for God's constant faithfulness in his life and for his people. He feels the Lord's presence and feels safe there, and he knows the Lord blesses his future and the future of those who love him. That is what this psalm is all about, and what the psalms of David constantly remind us...
God is faithful. When you feel lost and afraid or that He is not listening or present, remember God's faithfulness. Rest in the promise that He was, is, and always will be faithful.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23
One more fun thought:
Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever. (verse 6 ASV)
"We are well escorted, with a Shepherd in front and these twin angels behind!"
--FB Meyer (1847-1929)
"These twin guardian angels will always be with me at my back and my beck. Just as when great princes go abroad, they must not go unattended, so it is with the believer."
Father in heaven, thank you for being faithful. Thank you that when all else fails in the world around us that you keep your promises and you are faithful to a thousand generations of those who love you. Please lead us through the good times and the bad in our lives. As we walk through dark times in our world right now, thank you for never leaving us. Help us to seek you when we cannot find those green pastures and cool streams on our own. You will lead us there. You will calm our hearts and give our souls peace. Thank you Father for this promise. Heal this world, keep our loved ones safe and healthy, and strengthen your church. We love you. Amen.